7 Steps To Crafting An Amazing Life
Tao Porchon-Lynch teaching for XYoga Dubai in the UAE at 96 years old, February 2016.
How committed are you to living a fully expressed life? How are you releasing your gifts in the world?
Millions across the globe have been inspired by Tao Porchon-Lynch -- WWII French Resistance fighter, model, actress, film producer, wine connoisseur, ballroom dancer, and yoga master. Named “Oldest Yoga Teacher” by the Guinness World Records in 2012, Tao exemplified her mantra: There Is Nothing You Cannot Do. As her biographer and protégé, I travelled with her for over a decade. We did 66 events spanning 10 countries and at places like the United Nations and with people like Dr. Deepak Chopra, Sadhguru and His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Her journey provides insights to crafting an amazing life.
1. Play Your Cards Right – Tao’s Indian mother died in childbirth, and her French father left Tao to be raised by his brother’s family in India. Tao could have let the absence of her birth mother and father become a mental roadblock. Instead, she embraced her circumstances and cherished the love she received from the family she had. She became a successful model in Europe, and then a film star under contract with MGM in Hollywood working with Bob Hope and other notables. Are you playing your cards or wishing you had another deck? The situations we are born into shape our character, but do not have to determine our destiny.
2. Follow Your Heart – At age 8, Tao wanted to learn yoga. In India at that time girls didn’t do yoga. Her aunt said, “It is very unladylike. It’s only for boys.” Tao replied, “If boys can do it, so can I” — so she did. With the pioneering Indra Devi as her mentor, Tao became one of the first women to study under yoga masters B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. She gave informal classes to friends and associates for free throughout the 1950s and early '60s. Her first paying job teaching yoga was in 1968 when fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne hired her to teach in his studio. In 1982, Tao founded the Westchester Institute of Yoga, and trained and certified hundreds of yoga instructors. She also made over 20 pilgrimages to India with her students because she believed that such visits offer enlightenment about the true spirit of yoga. How bold are you in following your dreams? If others don’t see your vision, do you stop? Power Living requires a degree of fearlessness. If something is placed in your heart, then go for it!
3. Find Someone Who Inspires You – When asked who inspired her, Tao’s first response was usually Mahatma Gandhi, who happened to be a friend of her uncle. Tao would tell the story of meeting “this little man who so many admired.” She liked him for his conviction and his belief that women should have the same freedom as men. The insuppressible spirit of Gandhi is felt in Tao’s own work. One of Tao’s favorite sayings was: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness of ignorance. If you light just one, you’re already on an enlightened path.” Who inspires you? It’s helpful to have a beacon of light to follow, whether it is someone you’ve met or someone you’ve read about. When you feel like you’re getting off track, you can come back to their core philosophy.
4. Take Care Of Your Body – Tao was a vegetarian all of her life, and her yoga practice kept her strong — literally! Even in her nineties, she could hold her entire body up on her fingertips in a Peacock Pose, and would do at least 50 leg lifts in a Shoulder Stand every evening for a good sleep. When she had an accident and needed her hip replaced, the doctor said she would no longer be able to do yoga. She was diligent in her physical therapy and proved the doctor wrong. She even sent him a picture of her in a full Lotus position! She believed we all can overcome the effects of aging and control our bodies and minds through yoga and diet. What is your physical practice? Do you have the clarity and energy to fulfill your destiny? How you manage your health will determine how fully you show up in your life.
5. Stay Positive – Tao was very adamant about controlling her mental atmosphere. It was one of her secrets to staying young. She believed that whatever you put in your mind starts to decay in the body. She would say, “Don’t let fear enter your mind. When someone starts to talk negative, I switch it right around.” Is your default mode negative or positive? What techniques do you use to tune your mind? For example, music may lift your spirits. A walk in the park may make you smile. Each person is different. Take time to identify your own mood-changers.
6. Be The Change – Tao cared deeply for others and the world. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, she would get involved. For example, she was a supporter of various animal rights efforts from Save the Whales to Save the Wolves. She was also a lifelong proponent of peace. She marched with Gandhi, worked in the French Resistance under Charles de Gaulle, and even marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1995, she was one of the invited teachers to participate in Yoga for Peace in Israel. In 2011, she shared the stage with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at the Newark Peace Education Summit. At the Summit, we debuted a workshop together entitled “The Gandhi Effect®: Transform Yourself and The World Around You,” applying the philosophy of Gandhi and sharing practical techniques such as meditation to foster peace. Throughout her life, Tao inspired countless people through her presence. What do you care about? What do you want to change in this world? It starts with you. Each one of us can make a difference.
7. Do It Today! – Tao believed that time is a jewel for us to use and not waste. At age 87, Tao decided she wanted to go to Argentina and learn how to tango. One evening, she mentioned that desire to the dance teachers at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in White Plains, N.Y., where she was teaching yoga. They said, “Why not start right now?” and she did that night. After that, she became an award-winning dancer, tearing up dance floors around the world. What do you want to do in your life? It’s never too late — or too early — to be great.
On February 21, 2020, Tao died peacefully at the age of 101 on the Hindu Festival of Maha Shivaratri, the "Great Night of Shiva," when Shiva dances in heaven. It's said to be "the brightest night of the soul where the yogi attains Nirvana." Watch tribute video. We each can live a Tao-like life by reaching our own Highest Potential and spreading Love and Light in the world.
Although Tao is no longer with us, you can still be inspired by her teachings in two digital courses: Tao Porchon Yoga: Stretch & Relax and Tao Porchon Yoga: Master Course. For Women's History Month, use code TAOHISTORY at checkout for a 25% discount on Tao's digital courses. Expires March 31, 2023.
If you want to learn more about her incredible life, check out her award-winning autobiography, Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master and award-winning inspirational quote book, Shining Bright: Quotes and Images to Inspire Optimism, Gratitude & Belief In Your Limitless Potential.
Janie Sykes-Kennedy, Tao Porchon-Lynch, Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy receiving the IPBA Award in Chicago, May 2016.
Copyright Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy
Originally published in The Huffington Post.
Updated March 5, 2023
Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy is a Harvard Business School-trained Strategist, Mind-Body Expert, Award-Winning Author, Keynote Speaker and Activist. She is Founder & CEO of Power Living and creator of Elder Dignity. Selected as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, her mission is to unleash human potential and create a more just and sustainable world.
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