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

Tao Porchon-Lynch, who was recognized by Guinness World Records as the “World’s Oldest Yoga Teacher” in 2012 and who marched with both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Died Friday in White Plains, New York. She was 101.

“Our beloved TAO passed 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 teach her students at the Fred Astaire Studio at age 101.

Porchon-Lynch lived by her personal mantra: “There’s 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 “America’s Got Talent,” receiving a standing ovation from the show’s judges.

Ever the style 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 always painted 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.

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

Who was Tao Porchon-Lynch?:The world’s oldest yoga teacher, and the power of positivity.

Global adventures

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

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

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 doesn’t 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-Lynch told The Journal News on the eve of her birthday.

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She used to teach eight classes a week, hosted yoga retreats and spoke at conferences at more than 20 destinations a year. Some of her excursions included Arizona, Singapore, Dubai, Slovenia, France, China and India. In 2016, Porchon-Lynch was recognized on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.

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

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 life’s 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 thinking it’s going to be a great day, and it will be.”.

In 1939, she set sail for France 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 moving to 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.”.

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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 to actors in Hollywood, including Clark Gable.

After marrying Bill Lynch, an insurance salesman, in the 1960s, she moved to Hartsdale and together they founded the American Wine Society.

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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.

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

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

“That has always been her philosophy,” Lublinski said. “And that’s gotten her many careers, traveling all over the world and many friendships with people on many continents. She’s been an inspiration for me for a long time.”.

Follow Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy on Twitter: @SwapnaVenugopal.