Yesterday, I had a wonderful pleasure of meeting Tao Porchon-Lynch, the 96 year-year-old yoga master for her 3-hour workshop at Integral Yoga in NYC.
I had come across her pictures a few years ago online of her doing yoga poses in brilliantly-colored beautiful dresses in Central Park, and I was amazed and inspired seeing this woman in her 90's doing yoga poses that I couldn't even do (namely peacock among others), and doing them with such radiance, spark, and joy.
As I stepped into Lotus (one of the rooms at Integral - all the rooms at Integral have wonderful names like Heaven, Rose, Lavender) Tao was warmly greeting the students in the room. As I found a spot toward the back and sat, Tao continued her way around the room to greet everyone. When she came to me, she looked at my face with such delight and palmed my face with affection. Her sweetness and warmth were quite palpable.
The workshop began with an introduction of Tao who is not only a yoga master with more than 70 years of yoga practice and 45 years of teaching but also has been a model, actress, writer, producer and activist. On top of all that, she started ballroom dancing in 2005 and came first place 543 times in competitions. AND get this: her partner is 26 years-old!
And just like her life her, brief talk in the beginning and what she said throughout the workshop were inspiring and whimsical. "Nothing is impossible." She would repeat throughout. "There is nothing you cannot do." What better person to hear this message from than a person who can do full lotus at 96 years-young. (If you have not done yoga you may not realize how difficult it is to get into this pose and stay in this pose. For many adults restricted muscles, joints, etc., get in the way of doing full lotus - even half lotus. Don't try it unsupervised please!) I'm starting to almost get into full lotus. Almost!
Here is Tao sitting comfortably in full lotus.
I must admit I didn't know what to expect from a 3-hour master class taught by a 96-year-old woman. I just wanted to be open and receptive and learn from this charming and inspiring woman. But boy, it was a class. It wasn't a power vinyasa massacre of a class but she had us doing some poses that were pretty challenging even for seasoned yogis. I was not even going to try peacock - not yet at least, one day, Tao, one day.
This is Tao doing Peacock.
I did manage to do a pose she had us do and I included it in my practice today outside. (Opposite leg and arm.)
I didn't get a picture of Tao doing it but I can assure you she did it with such grace and ease. (It looks easy and simple but try it. ***At your own risk*** It's pretty challenging. )
Here is a picture of Tao doing full lotus in shoulder stand!
Tao also went around the room assisting and giving physical adjustments to students with such vigor. And check out her stylish yoga clothes.
Tao gave excellent instructions in alignment in asanas but she also spoke very much about aligning and moving our energy as well as chakras. She said we can do anything if we aligned our energy properly.
Of the many inspiring things Tao said, few things stuck with me. "Breath is key to oneness." And she told how she was able to ride a horse for the first time like a seasoned horse woman after she breathed together with the horse.
"Don't procrastinate. Tomorrow never comes. Do it today." How fitting for me who often get caught in the web of procrastination. Look, I'm writing this blog! A day after the workshop! No procrastination!
Tao spoke of how there's so much more to learn and that she wants to continue to learn.
And this story really touched my heart:
A 6 year-old girl asked Tao, "What are you going to do when you retire?"
Tao replied, "I'm never going to retire."
"Oh good. But what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to dance away to another planet."
"You know, we landed a man on the moon; when I'm your age I'll be able to come visit you there."
After the workshop, I was honored to take a picture with Tao. I was struck by her clear and sparkly beautiful eyes and asked her if there was any exercise I could do to have healthy sparkly eyes like hers and she told me with her brilliant smile, "Just smile." And she said, "When you smile from your heart sparkles will shine out from your eyes."
Thank you, Tao. Thank you for your beauty, sparkles, warmth, charm, and brilliant light. I know one day you'll dance away to another planet among the stars.