NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch, 92 years young, kept repeating her life’s motto, there is nothing you cannot do, before a packed workshop in New York City.
Then, light as a bird, she glided into a gravity-defying arm balance to illustrate the point.
“I haven’t been able to do the peacock since I broke my wrist in April, but I did it in that room,” Porchon-Lynch said of the pose she demonstrated recently at Strala Yoga studio.
“In yoga every breath I take puts me on the right path.” Porchon-Lynch has been practicing yoga, the ancient discipline connecting breath to movement, for over 70 years.
Along the way she has walked with Mahatma Gandhi, modeled couture in Paris, trod the boards in London, and acted under contract to MGM in Hollywood.
It was yoga breathing, she said, that kept fear at bay when she worked for the resistance in World War Two France.
“I didn’t realize I was doing any of them,” she said of her many adventures. “It’s just the natural path of life. You either travel on it, or you get stuck in the mud.”
Born in Pondicherry, India, Porchon-Lynch studied under yoga legends B.K.S. Iyengar and Indra Devi. At age 50 she was given her first paying yoga job in the United States by fitness icon Jack LaLane.
Porchon-Lynch founded the Westchester Institute of Yoga, where she is director, in 1982. She teaches up to 20 hours a week and has trained over 300 instructors in her Iyengar-based style. Jane Fonda is an admirer, along with generations of young yogis.
In class she cuts a glamorous figure. When she’s not adjusting a student’s backbend or fine-tuning a hand position, she’s weaving tales from her very colorful life into yogic tutorials.
“Duke (Ellington) told me he was watching a sunset and all the colors seemed to blend into deep purple,” she recounted in an explanation of the chakras, or wheels of energy, yogis believe reside in the body. “I don’t tell you these things from ego, but because it’s what I know.”
Tara Stiles, owner of Strala Yoga, says Porchon-Lynch is living proof that yoga actually works. “She is a true leader by example,” said Stiles, author of “Slim Calm Sexy Yoga.” Porchon-Lynch said her “most precious inspirations” come when people think they can’t do something, “then there’s a smile on their face, because they can.”
When she’s not teaching, Porchon-Lynch pursues another passion — competitive ballroom dancing. Despite a hip replacement, she recently completed a 17-dance event where, she says her Tango partner was a 22-year old and her Cha Cha partner was 29.
“Dancing is a continuation of yoga, like music,” she said. “Music and dancing and yoga are all coming from within you.”
She’s writing her autobiography and completing a documentary about yoga and dance that took her on a recent flight over the Himalayas.
“All of those mountains, so pure. Yoga helps us create a life where we’re looking down from clouds instead of into the clouds,” she said. “I call it the dance of life, since I’m always dancing.”
The way she looks at life, she says, she has no fear.
“The only fear I have is when people talk on the phone while driving. I’m afraid they’ll get hurt.”