Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest yoga teacher who marched with Gandhi, dies at 101 – Lohud

Posted: February 25, 2020 at 1:43 am


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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.

Tao Porchon-Lynch, who was recognized by Guinness World Records as the Worlds Oldest Yoga Teacher in 2012 and who marched with both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., died Friday in White Plains. She was 101.

"Our beloved TAOpassed away this morning, peacefully and without pain. As she would say, she is now dancing her way to the next planet," wrote Joyce Pine, a close friend and student of Porchon-Lynch, in an email to The Journal News.

Known for her indefatigable energy and spirit, the diminutive yoga master continued to teachher students at the Fred Astaire Studio in Hartsdale well into age 101.

Porchon-Lynch livedby her personal mantra: Theres nothing that you cannot do.

She took up ballroom dancing at age 87 and won more than 750 first-place awards as a competitive dancer. At age 96, she appeared on NBC's Americas Got Talent, receiving a standing ovation from the show's judges.

Tao Porchon-Lynch(Photo: Raphael Abada)

Ever thestyle icon, she once scaled Machu Picchu in stilettos. She adored wearing black leather pants with a fur coat draped over. Her nails and lips were alwayspainted in bright colors. At age 100, she was a brand ambassador for Athleta, the line of women's fitness clothes,and once graced the cover of its catalog.

Tao Porchon-Lynch during her Hollywood days.(Photo: Submitted)

The longtime Westchester resident worked earlier in her life as a Hollywood actress. Porchon-Lynch rubbedshoulders withMarilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Elizabeth Taylor, she recalled in various interviews with The Journal News..

Porchon-Lynch's life experiences spanned continents and historical events..

At age 12, she joined her uncle, Vital Porchon, who builtrailroadlines in Asia and Africa, to march alongside Gandhi in theSatyagrahaor Salt March of 1930. She would later take part in the 1963 March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr.

Tao Porchon Lynch, the world's oldest yoga teacher, celebrates her 101st birthday with friends.(Photo: Raphael Abada)

For her 101st birthday last August, greetings came from around the world including from friends in Norway, Germany, India, Spain and Brazil. Dozens of comments on her Instagram account thanked her for her inspirational work as a yoga teacher.

To me 101 is natural. It doesnt 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-Lynchtold The Journal News on the eve of her birthday.

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Born in 1918 in Pondicherry, India, to a French father and Indian mother who died giving birth to her, Porchon-Lynch was raised by her uncle.

It was from him that she learned lifes 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 thinkingit's going to be a great day, and it will be."

Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi awarded her the prestigious Padma Shri Award for exceptional achievement.

Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world's oldest yoga teacher, celebrates her 101st birthday with her students at the Fred Astaire studio in Hartsdale.(Photo: Raphael Abada)

So many people asked her what her secret for a long life was, and Tao said it was Pranayama, said Pines, of New Rochelle, who has known Tao for 20years. 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 harmonybetween the body, mind and spirit.

Andrea Lublinski, a longtime student, told The Journal News in 2019about herbiggest takeaway from Tao: Never put off anything you can do today.

That has always been her philosophy, said Lublinski.And thats gotten her many careers,travelling all over the world and many friendships with people on many continents. Shes been an inspiration for me for a long time.

Tao Porchon-Lynch in Central Park recently.(Photo: Robert Sturman)

Editor's note: What follows is aprofile of Tao Porchon-Lynch, first published Feb. 7, 2018:

At 8:30 a.m. on a recent Monday morning, Tao Porchon-Lynch, recognized by the Guinness World Records as the Worlds Oldest Yoga Teacher in 2012, waltzed into the Fred Astaire Studio in Hartsdale for a yoga class wearing a fur coat and black stilettos.

Tao Porchon-Lynch in Central Park recently.(Photo: Robert Sturman)

A few months shy of turning 100 years old, Porchon-Lynch could easily be the most interesting woman on earth. (SorryDos Equis: she doesnt do beer, only wine).

The founder of the Westchester Institute of Yoga took up ballroom dancing at age 87 and has won more than 750 first-place awards as a competitive dancer. At age 96, she appeared on NBC's Americas Got Talent, receiving a standing ovation from the judges.

She now has a new bucket list item: to perform on the popular ABC show Dancing with the Stars.

Porchon-Lynch lives by her personal mantra: Theres nothing that you cannot do.

In addition to teaching eight classes a week, she hostsyoga retreats and speaksat conferences at more than 20 destinations a year. Some of her planned excursions for this year include Arizona, Singapore, Dubai, Slovenia, France, China and India. In 2016, Porchon-Lynch was recognized onWomen's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.

As impressive as her personal achievements are,herlife experiences spanning continents and historical events are almost fantastical.

Born in 1918 to a French father and Indian mother, who died giving birth to her, Porchon-Lynch was raised by her uncle. Her light green eyes sparkle when she talks about her upbringing in Pondicherry, a coastal city in southern India which was a French colony until 1954.

It was there that she first got a glimpse of yoga. She was eight years old, and young boys, barely older than her, were creating beautifulshapes with their bodies on the beach.

She tried imitating them, but was told by her aunt that it was not a ladylike thing to do.

I said, If boys can do it, I can do it, recalled Porchon-Lynch, who continued to show up at the beach and over the years learned many of theasanasor postures just by watching. "If you believe in something, go ahead and do it."

Lohud's Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy and Tao Porchon-Lynch pose for a selfie after yoga class on Feb. 5, 2018.(Photo: Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy/The Journal News)

Her uncle, Vital Porchon, who builtrailroadlines in Asia and Africa, knew many of the great spiritual thinkers and activists of pre-Independence India, including Mahatma Gandhi. At age 12, Porchon-Lynch accompanied her uncle to march alongside Gandhi in theSatyagrahaor Salt March of 1930. (She would later take part in the 1963 March on Washington with

It was from her unclethat she learned lifes important lessons, she said.

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 thinkingit's going to be a great day, and it will be,"

In 1939, she set sail forFrance from India to live with her aunt, and would eventually participate in the French Resistance. After the war, she worked as a model in France and England before movingto the United States in 1949. Soon she was working as a Hollywood actress under contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, with credits including the films "Show Boat" and "The Last Time I Saw Paris,"and TV shows such as "The Bob Hope Show" and "I Married Joan." She also worked as a writer, producer and international film broker, rubbingshoulders with old Hollywood and Indian cinemacelebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Dev Anand.

In the 1950s she trained under some of the biggest names in yoga such as B.K.S. Iyengar and Indra Devi and taught yoga toactors in Hollywood, including Clark Gable.

To me yoga is in every animal, every blade of grass and its alive with the energy of life, Porchon-Lynchsaid as she taught a class at the Fred Astaire Studio.If I can feel it within me, then Im in touch with everyone in this room.

After marrying Bill Lynch, an insurance salesman, in the 1960s, she moved to Hartsdale and together they founded theAmerican Wine Society. (Her family in France had owned a vineyard in theRhne Valleyfor many generations).

Porchon-Lynch continued her passion for yoga by certifying and training hundreds of teachers and taught at various locations including the Jewish Community Center in Yonkers and the New Age Center in Nyack.

While always well-known in certain Hollywood and yoga circles, including serving on the Newark PeaceEducation Summit with the Dalai Lama in 2011, Porchon-Lynch was never acelebrity know to the masses.

That would change when she turned 93.

The recognition by the Guinness World Records catapulted her to yoga rockstar fame the kind of fame where shes mobbed at her local Trader Joes or at Chicagos OHare airport.

That was in no small part due to her student-turned-manager Joyce Pines.

In 2003, Pines, who had recently retired from the Mount Vernon School District, met Porchon-Lynchat a yoga class in Briarcliff Manor.

She stepped out of her Smart car wearing black leather pants and very high heels, Pines said. "I was captivated."

Porchon-Lynchs positive attitude toward life had a deep impact on Pines. When she was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, Pines saidPorchon-Lynch helped her cope and taught her how to live.

There arent a lot of 90-year-olds that are fun to be around, Pines said. She had so much to offer that I felt more people should know her.

It was Pines'idea to seek out the Guinness World Records recognition. In 2014, she enlisted the help of her son to create awebsite, and soon found people from all corners of the world seeking Porchon-Lynch. Last year, Porchon-Lynchgraced the cover of a catalog for Athleta,Gap's athletic-wearbrand, for their "Power of She" campaign.

"Shes like a magnet. She just attracts people, Pines said. I cant get people out after the class. They just wantto stand around and talk to her.

Forever a student, Porchon-Lynch continues to learn from her ballroom dance teacher and partner Anton Bilozorov, who is more than 70 years her junior. She also participates in four ballroom competitions every year.

"She really blossomed in her 90s,"Pines said.

Asked why wanted to participate in Dancing with the Stars, Porchon-Lynch, who'shad two hip replacements,didn't skip a beat:

To show people that it is possible. If you believe in it, anything is possible.

Don't bet against her: She claims to have climbed Machu Picchu wearing stilettos.

Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy covers women and power for the USA Today Network Northeast. Write to her at svenugop@lohud.com

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Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world's oldest yoga teacher who marched with Gandhi, dies at 101 - Lohud

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February 25th, 2020 at 1:43 am

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