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93-year-old yogi still striking a pose

posted 14 May 2012, 16:14 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 14 May 2012, 16:15 ]

At 93, Tao Porchon-Lynch is named the oldest yoga teacher by Guinness World Records.

HARTSDALE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (MAY 14, 2012) (REUTERS) - She's 93 years old, but that isn't keeping Tao Porchon-Lynch from striking a perfect pose. The yoga instructor and dance competitor is vibrant as ever and proves that age really is just a number.

She has lived a full life that includes marriage, acting, modeling, performing burlesque and even marching with Gandhi - twice. Now, she has another feather in her cap: Guinness World Records has declared her the world's oldest yoga teacher.

And she has no plans to stop anytime soon.

"I'm going to teach yoga until I can't breathe anymore then I'll just fly away to the next planet ... I just, I love yoga, it brightens my day and makes everybody smile," Porchon-Lynch said.

On Mondays, Tao teaches classes to a dedicated group of students at a dance studio in Harstdale, a suburb 25 miles outside of New York City. She pushes her students to find their deepest range in asanas and said she holds herself to the same standards.

"My doctor when he did the hip replacement said you won't be able to do this, you won't be able to do that. I said I don't want to know what I won't be able to do because I don't believe it. So I sent him a photograph in lotus lifting off the ground and he called me the miracle woman. I said it's no miracle, a miracle means only to see that which is inside of you. If it's inside, I can do it."

Tao became interested in yoga when she was eight years old. She observed a group of young boys practicing yoga on the beach in her hometown of Pondicherry in southern India. She said she decided then that she could do anything a boy could do.

She has been teaching professionally for 61 years, although it was only at age 73 that she decided to focus solely on being an instructor.

While some would be slowing down at her age, Porchon-Lynch lights up when she talks about the 400 students who come to her classes in Westchester and New York City.

"They are all my children," she told Reuters.

Marsha Mendel has been studying with Tao twice a week for more than 20 years.

"She has the most wonderful, positive spirit and that just draws me here it really is magical," Mendel said.

Susan Upton Douglass said she was a "gym rat with no flexibility" before she met Tao in 1999. Once she started taking her classes, she said she began to lament that Tao might not be teaching for much longer.

"I just thought oh my goodness, I wish I had found her earlier because how much longer can she do this. Well, here we are and she'll be 94 in August and I think she is going to just keep going."

Tao has inspired student Helena Nord-Lee to work toward mastering the head stand.

"I can not do it and I'm not 94, so she is in better shape than I am and I think that really keeps me moving forward. She is amazing," Nord-Lee said.

Asked what her secret is - Tao won't give anything away. She said she practices her favorite asana - the lotus - often and she doesn't have a particular diet.

"Yoga and dancing are sort of something that lives within me," she said.

And living is one thing this nonegenarian plans to keep doing to the fullest. This summer Tao will be dancing the Tango competitively in Puerto Rico with a dance partner who is 69 years her junior.