A 100-year-old yoga instructor has no plans to stop teaching: Recently She Receives Prestigious India's Padma Shri Award


HARTSDALE, N.Y. — A 100-year-old yoga instructor has no plans to stop practicing and teaching.

On a spring day in Hartsdale, a northern suburb of New York City where she leads her classes, Tao Porchon-Lynch said she first encountered the ancient practice at age 7 in her native India. Strolling along a beach, she was transfixed by a group of boys doing yoga poses. When her aunt told her the movements were "not ladylike," she responded, "If boys can do it, I can do it."

By the time Porchon-Lynch was a teenager, already teaching yoga, she was able to explain how to breathe in a healthy way — especially to people in awkward sitting positions.

"I said, 'You're squashing your lungs. Your lungs are not down in the navel, they are above,'" she said.
She also has advice for herself. "When I wake up in the morning, I look at the sun and I say, 'This is going to be the best day of my life' and it will be. It always is."

Tao Porchon-Lynch
Tao Porchon-Lynch
Tao Porchon-Lynch Receives Prestigious Padma Shri Award 2019

January 26, 2019 - The Ministry of Home Affairs in India announced from New Delhi that 100-year-old historical icon and yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch has received the prestigious Padma Shri Award 2019 for her distinguished service.  The Padma Award, instituted in 1954, is one of the highest civilian honors conferred by the Government of India.

When asked by phone whether she would like to receive the award, Porchon-Lynch said with clear joy, "I would be delighted."  Her biographer, Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, said, "Tao loves India. It is her first home. She also embodies the value of service that the Padma Awards represent."

The Padma Awards are presented by the President of India at ceremonial functions which are held at Rashtrapati Bhavan–the official home of the president located at the Western end of Rajpath in New Delhi–usually around March or April every year. The awardees are presented a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion. The recipients are also given a small replica of the medallion, which they can wear during any ceremonial/State functions, etc.  The award seeks to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.  The fields include Art, Social Work, Public Affairs, Science & Engineering, Trade & Industry, Medicine, Literature & Education, Civil Service, Sports, and Others (such as the propagation of Indian Culture, and Human Rights).

“As her biographers, my mother and I are simply thrilled for Tao. Since meeting Tao in 2007, and given that she asked us specifically to work with her to capture her life story, our goal has been to ensure that her brand/legacy is viewed with the highest level of honor. The Padma Shri Award–along with appearances we coordinated with The Dalai Lama, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Sadhguru, and others–accomplishes that and adds to her distinction,” Kennedy said.

In addition to being a world renown yoga master, Porchon-Lynch has been an ardent proponent of Oneness and Freedom for All.  Her mother, who died in childbirth, was from Bihar in East India, and her father was French.  For the first twenty years of her life, she grew up in Pondicherry, on the Bay of Bengal.  A French colonial settlement until 1954, Pondicherry was the home of her uncle, Vital Porchon, who raised her.  An engineer who created some of the notable railroad lines, he knew people such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.
Salt March led by Mahatma Gandhi
Salt March led by Mahatma Gandhi

In 1930, Tao joined her uncle in the famous Salt March led by Mahatma Gandhi.  She marched with Gandhi a second time a few years later and has said that he "decorates the walls" of her mind. She discovered yoga at eight years old on the beaches of Pondicherry and went on to study with the greats: Sri Aurobindo, B.K.S. Iyengar, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Swami Prabhavananda, and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. She also made documentary films in India, including one of the first Republic Day, and she was instrumental in raising money early on for Literacy House in Lucknow. Her mentor was Dr. Welthy Honsinger Fisher who founded World Education.

Over the past century, Porchon-Lynch has been a French Resistance fighter in World War II, couture model, actress under contract with MGM in Hollywood, film producer and distributor, newspaper publisher, wine connoisseur, yoga teacher, and ballroom dancer. In 2012, she was named Oldest Yoga Teacher by Guinness World Records. In 2015, at 96 years old, she wowed millions as she danced with her 26-year-old partner on America's Got Talent. In 2016, she spoke at the United Nations for International Day of Yoga and received an honor at the UN for Women's Entrepreneurship Day. In 2017, she was named Oldest Ballroom Dancer by both Guinness World Records and the World Book of Records.  That same year, she received the Yoga Ratna Award in Bangalore.

Shwaasa Guru Sri Vachananand Swamiji, who hosted Porchon-Lynch in Bangalore, sent his delight about the Padma Shri Award and said, "Congratulations to Tao Porchon-Lynch.  I am very proud of you for the rich contribution towards Yoga."

More information on her incredible journey can be found in her award-winning autobiography, Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master (2015) and nuggets of her wisdom can be found in her award-winning quote book, Shining Bright: Quotes and Images to Inspire Optimism, Gratitude & Belief in Your Limitless Potential (2017). 

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