Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, Rockland/Westchester Journal News Published 6:30 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2019 | Updated 12:03 p.m. ET Aug. 13, 2019
Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest yoga instructor, talks to lohud’s Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy about yoga and its connection to life on Feb. 5, 2018, at Fred Astaire Studio in Hartsdale. She turns 100 years old in a few months. Ricky Flores/lohud
Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest yoga teacher who turns 101 Tuesday, kicked off her birthday week doing what she loves best — teaching a weekly Sunday class.
Dressed in a white top and printed white-and-gray Athleta yoga pants (she’s a brand ambassador), her long nails painted a bright pink, the unlikely fashion icon arrived at the studio wearing her signature stilettos.
About 60 of her students from around the country gathered at the Fred Astaire studio (about four times her usual class size) in Hartsdale.
They brought fruit salad, champagne and a carrot cake inscribed “101 and fabulous” to toast their guru who was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the “World’s Oldest Yoga Teacher” in 2012.
As the celebratory pictures found their way to Instagram, messages from fans from around the world, including from Norway, Germany, India, Spain and Brazil, flooded the comments section thanking her for inspiring them.
“To me 101 is natural. It doesn’t scare me. I awake with the sun and think of all my many friends and that makes me ready to know that you never put anything off for tomorrow because tomorrow never comes,” Porchon-Lynch, a White Plains resident, told The Journal News on the eve of her birthday.
Earlier this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi awarded her the prestigious Padma Shri Award for exceptional achievement.
But yoga is not the only art form she’s excelled in. Porchon-Lynch, a former Hollywood actress, has more than 750 awards for ballroom dancing to her name, a hobby she picked up at the age of 87.
Here are five things to know about Porchon-Lynch’s life and her beliefs:
Never put off anything you can do today
That includes being featured on the NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” at age 96 after four hip replacements.
“That has always been her philosophy,” said Andrea Lublinski, a longtime student. “And that’s gotten her many careers, travelling all over the world and many friendships with people on many continents. She’s been an inspiration for me for a long time.”
The art of breathing
“So many people asked her what her secret for a long life was, and Tao said it was Pranayama,” said Joyce Pines, of New Rochelle, who has known Tao for 19 years. Pranayama is a yogic practice that involves controlling the breath, which is source of our life force or prana. The breathing exercise is thought to bring harmony between the body, mind and spirit.
Don’t limit yourself
Porchon-Lynch lives by her personal mantra: “There’s nothing that you cannot do.”
“She’s the most positive person I know. She never fills her mind with negativity. She always believes everything is going to be fine,” said Lublinski, who once climbed Machu Picchu with a stiletto-wearing Tao. “And that everything is possible.”
Just last week, Pines said the centenarian joined her on a 51-foot sailboat to help celebrate her 71st birthday.
“She got on a dingy to get on the boat,” she said.
Porchon-Lynch’s positive attitude taught Pines to deal with many of her own health issues, including cancer, diabetes, and a kidney stone.
She’s the only living person to march with Mahatma Gandhi
Porchon-Lynch was born in India to an Indian mother and a French father. At age 12, she joined her uncle, Vital Porchon, who built railroad lines in Asia and Africa, to march alongside Gandhi in the Satyagraha or Salt March of 1930. (She would later take part in the 1963 March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr.).
Empathy and the power of positivity
Porchon-Lynch was raised by her uncle and it was from him that she learned life’s important lessons.
“My uncle would say, never ask anyone to understand you, try and understand them,” she said. “Never look down upon anyone.”
To her, he embodied the power of positivity and mindfulness.
“Every morning he’d say, ‘It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it ?'” Porchon-Lynch said. “Wake up each day thinking it’s going to be a great day, and it will be.”
Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy covers women and power for the USA Today Network Northeast. Write to her at email@example.com
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