By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club editor
I’ve never been much of a fan girl. I had a mild crush on David Soul back in the day. Remember him from Starsky and Hutch? My father paid for me and my mum to go and hear him sing at the Birmingham Hippodrome. What a dish he was! But I never had pictures of pop stars up in my room like all my friends did. I was a more serious teen!
But, I had the ultimate fan girl experience when I finally met my all-time heroine, Täo Porchon-Lynch, then the world’s oldest yoga teacher at 98. When I actually saw her in real life, getting out of her Smart car in three-inch heels and walking round into the Fred Astaire Dance Studio where she taught her Monday class, I almost started to hyperventilate!
My friend had driven me up from Manhattan to Hartsdale for a 9 a.m. yoga lesson with this amazing woman. I’m a big fan of yoga and believe it can really help transform midlife and beyond. I was so overwhelmed to finally see Tao that tears pricked my eyes.
“Why are you crying?” asked my lovely chauffeur. “I don’t know,” I sniffed back. I did some deep breathing to get my pounding heart under control. Then we went into the studio to bask in the aura of this quite incredible woman.
A Remarkable Life
Täo Porchon-Lynch had a remarkable life. I’m amazed a film hasn’t been made about her. She was born in 1918 to a French father and an Indian mother. Her mother died in childbirth and Täo was brought up by her aunt and uncle, mainly in India, but also travelling around Asia as her uncle designed railroads.
On hearing that I had journeyed from London to meet her, she told me of being there during the Blitz and meeting Noel Coward. She’d performed in cabaret nightly there during the War, having escaped from France where she’d been helping Jews flee the Germans.
Tao was clearly doing something right to still be able to teach yoga at nearly 99. So, what life lessons did she teach us? For starters, that beauty is completely and utterly ageless!
There is Nothing You Cannot Do
This was Täo’s mantra and a powerful one it is. She had been practising yoga since she was a child and saw boys doing extravagant poses on the beach in India. She wanted to do them, too, even though she was told it was inappropriate for girls. Nothing was going to stop her then and nothing has since.
She practised with many of the yoga greats including B. K. S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. When, after her first hip replacement, her surgeon told her she would no longer be able to do full lotus (both feet sitting on alternative thighs), she was determined to prove him wrong.
Then 98 and after three hip replacements, she could still do full lotus and then lift herself up on her hands while in that position! In my 50s I can still only dream of such feats.
Watch this video to hear how Kathryn Grayson and Debbie Reynolds encouraged Tao to set up a yoga class and how she told B.K.S. Iyengar he was a snob for not teaching women!
Wake up Each Morning Knowing This is the Best Day of Your Life
I have no doubt that Täo’s exceptionally positive outlook on life contributed to how fascinating her life was, her longevity and the phenomenal physical flexibility and health she enjoyed into advanced old age.
She embodied mindful living, milking each moment for its exquisite life force and seeing the beauty in everything. She embraced life and everything it threw at her. She did that all her life and continued to do it as she approached her centenary.
The day I met her she was teaching two yoga classes, one at 9 a.m. and the other at 6 p.m. She had a dance lesson immediately after the first yoga class. And, then in the afternoon, she was taking part in a wine tasting. Ah yes, she was also a wine connoisseur. She founded the American Wine Society with her husband in 1967!
Tomorrow Never Comes. Don’t Procrastinate!
Täo lived and breathed this mantra too. Her life was a veritable odyssey through 20th century history. One wonders how you could pack so much into one lifetime. She marched with both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. She was friends with Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich.
She worked as a dancer, model, actress and yoga teacher. At 87, she took up ballroom dancing and won over 700 First Place awards since then! She even danced on America’s Got Talent at 96.
I was lucky enough to watch her having a dancing lesson immediately after our yoga class. Watch the video to see Täo strut her stuff!
Whatever You Have in Your Heart – Smile
I spent three hours in Täo’s company and I don’t think she stopped smiling once. There was true joy and compassion in this quite exceptional woman. She lived to bring that joy to other people through yoga. In class, it was impossible to reconcile that a 98-year-old woman stood in front of us, seeing the way she was able to bend her body into advanced yoga poses.
Täo exuded kindness, energy and poise, and energised all those around her.
She also had an immense sense of fun. I’ve already told you about her heels. She wore them all the time, except on the yoga mat, even at 98! She talked of how they stretch out her foot perfectly. She also told me she even took them with her to walk up to Machu Picchu. How bonkers is that!
Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond which was recommended in the New York Times.
Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Editorial Staff