10 Questions With Tao Porchon-Lynch, The World's Oldest Yoga Teacher
December 14, 2017 | BY Erica Fong
At 99 years old, there’s little that Tao Porchon-Lynch hasn’t done. The pint-sized yogi is known as the “real-life Forrest Gump,” whose life story includes marching with Mahatma Ghandi twice and saving people from the Nazis as a French Resistance fighter in World War II.
Add to that her career as a couture model, Hollywood actress, film producer, ballroom dancer, spiritual master, yoga teacher and award-winning author, and it’s no wonder that her mantra is: “There is nothing you cannot do.”
Ahead of her visit to Hong Kong next week from December 19-21 at Pure Yoga Pacific Place, we had a heart-to-heart with Tao about her best life moments, favourite yoga pose and what she's most looking forward to on her Asia trip:
You’ve done so much in your life already. Is there anything left on your bucket list?
I started competitive ballroom dancing at age 87 with the vision of dancing the Tango in Argentina. I would still like to do that and continue to travel the world. For my 100th birthday year, I’ll be hosting retreats in France and Slovenia—two incredibly beautiful places. For January 2019, we’ve already planned a retreat to one of my favourite places—Kerala in South India.
You’re 99 and still practicing yoga. Do you attribute yoga to living a longer life?
When the mind remains calm, the balance of the Life Force is awakened within us. True yoga helps you control and still the mind so you can harness that power. Proper breathing also is the gateway to tranquility, longevity and vitality.
In your opinion, does age equal wisdom?
Age does not necessarily equal wisdom. It depends on how you experience the world and your inner journey. If you remain curious, wisdom will come. Know that there is no such thing as “age.” Tune into the power of the eternal and feel the beauty of life. Revitalise yourself with every breath you take.
What do you think you would you be doing today if you weren’t a yoga teacher?
In the 1950s, I was under contract with MGM as an actress in Hollywood. Then, I started writing screenplays and producing films. If I was not teaching yoga I would probably still be producing films and continuing to raise money for various causes such as animals and the environment. I believe we each have something to contribute.
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Having experienced so much in your lifetime, what was the best moment so far?
The best moment so far was marching with Mahatma Gandhi in the 1930 Salt March in India. I was part of something incredible at a young age. Gandhiji taught me to be more fearless and to face life head on. If you believe in something, you have a purpose. Talk is cheap. Don’t procrastinate. Go out and do. Make a difference in the world.
What is your favourite yoga pose, and why?
I love shoulder stand. It is the Queen of asanas and has so many physical benefits. All day long the blood is going down to our feet. It is good to reverse it and allow the energy to flow. I also like to do shoulder stand when my thoughts get noisy. It clears my mind.
How often do you do yoga, and where?
I teach six to eight classes a week primarily at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Hartsdale, New York and the Jewish Community Center in Mid-Westchester New York. Then, I teach all across the United States and around the world.
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How does it feel to be a celebrity, especially on social media?
I am always surprised when people stop me on the street or say how I have inspired them. What have I done, really? My students show me the pictures and comments online. I’m honoured that people would be interested in me.
When I came out with my autobiography, Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master, even more people were interested in my story. I am certainly honoured.
Is this your first visit to Hong Kong/Asia?
I travelled through Asia with my uncle when I was a girl. He built railroads including the one from Hanoi, which was the capital of French Indochina, to Yan’an in the newly created Republic of China. I also spent time in Singapore and Burma when I was younger.
Throughout my life, I have travelled all around the world. I have many regular students in New York from various places in Asia. My dear student Regina Lee is from Hong Kong and is on this trip with me in addition to Terri Kennedy.
What are you most looking forward to for your HK trip?
I am looking forward to experiencing the people and their interpretation of yoga. I would also like to see the sights and taste the local food. I feel it is important to experience the uniqueness of each place.
Tao will be hosting several talks and a heart-to-heart yoga workshop at Pure Yoga Pacific Place from December 19-21, 2017. For more information, visit pure-yoga.com.For more information on Tao, go to thetaoexperience.com.
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