I don’t know about you, but living to 100 is one of my personal goals. Simply because I want to get a letter from the Queen (does she even still do that?) and also because for some reason in my brain it translates to having lived a full life. The truth is though, you need to actually FILL your life to have it full, and no one knows that better than Tao Porchon-Lynch, who at 99 year's old is the world’s oldest yoga teacher.
The most flexible nonagenarian you’ll ever meet was born in 1918, and seems to have filled every moment of her life to the brim from that day on. She is the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest yoga teacher in the world (which she was granted at the tender age of 93) and watching her in action will seriously inspire you to get off the couch and seize every opportunity the day throws at you.
Tao travelled alot as a child with her family, including to her mother’s homeland of India where she discovered yoga at eight years old. She saw some boys doing it on the beach and was desperate to cut the same shapes, despite her aunt telling her it was only for boys (it was the 1920’s don’t forget!). Tao has never been one to be dissuaded though and said “well if boys can do it, so can I”.
"I wanted to do the amazing things that they were doing with their bodies" - Tao, Guinness World Records
Yoga wouldn’t become her focus until many years later however. First she had to become a successful couture model (during which time she was granted the title of ‘Best Legs in Europe’), actress, film producer, international film distributor, television executive, publisher and a co-founder of the American Wine Society. Oh, and she also met and marched for peace with Mahatma Gandhi TWICE and helped people escape the Nazis as a French Resistance fighter during World War II. ABC World News even gave her the nickname “Real-Life Forrest Gump” because she’d been around so many historic events! Do you see what I’m saying about living a full life not just counting the years?
The 70s is when Tao decided to really pursue her yoga calling. After studying with yogi legends Sri Aurobindo and Indra Dev and giving away free yoga classes on the sets of her movies, she quit acting and took to the mat full time, teaching all who wanted to learn. 70 years and three hip replacements later and Tao is still teaching, running 6 – 8 classes a week in New York that people travel from near and far to attend. She is also one of the founders of the Yoga Teachers Alliance, now known as the Yoga Teachers Association, and has declared nothing will slow her down or stop her from practicing. “I’m going to teach yoga until I can’t breathe anymore,” she once famously said.
Tao has also travelled the world in her younger days (not that you’d know they were far away when you see her bending into a pretzel shape) and spent 45 years sharing her passion and the art of yoga. She says that she believes the mindfulness and health benefits that go along with yoga have contributed to her long life, and thanks the practice for helping her through the challenges life inevitably throws our way. “It’s helped me through everything I wanted to do in my life,” she told Insider Fitness, “When I feel that I can’t face the world, I tune into my inner self and I do some yoga and then the whole world is full of sunshine.”
“I smile at the world and it smiles back” - Tao
If you still weren’t convinced that Tao was a living legend, inside the yoga circles and outside, prepare to have your mind blown with this fact: Deepak Chopra (aka one of the most modern spiritual men and fellow living legend) says Tao is one of HIS mentors.”One of the most acclaimed yoga teachers of our century, Tao Porchon-Lynch… is a mentor to me who embodies the spirit of yoga and is an example of Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. Like yoga, she teaches us to let go and to have exquisite awareness in every moment,” Deepak has said.
Amazing right? We don’t know about you but next time we go to New York, we’re snagging a spot at one of her classes!
If you want more wisdom from Tao, watch her TED Talk here: