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How This 98-Year-Old Yoga Teacher and Ballroom Dancer Stays Young

Sitting in a lotus pose, Tao Porchon-Lynch is the oldest yoga teacher, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Photo by Betsy Farber

For the graceful and spritely Tao Porchon-Lynch, that old adage, "age is just a number," seems to be true. She's 98 years old, but that doesn't stop her from traveling around the world, teaching eight classes a week, doing shoulder-stands, drinking a glass of wine a day or dancing the tango. So how does she maintain this enduring sense of vitality?

Following a master class at The Yoga Room, a studio in Long Island City, New York, she revealed the rules she lives by (over a glass of vino).


Nothing is impossible

Her yoga practice of more than 70 years, plus teaching for 45 years to students in India, France and the U.S., and founding the Westchester Institute of Yoga in 1982, have taught her that anything is truly possible. She's survived being hit by a car and started ballroom dancing at the age of 80, proving to be a true example of this simple mantra: "And never say I can't," she added.


Tao explaining the importance of keeping your shoulders down and engaged. Photo by Betsy Farber

Don't procrastinate

"Today is the best day of your life," typically reads like a clichéd bumper sticker, but coming from Tao, it has a deeper resonance. Her yoga practice and its principles have taught her to stay present, to live without attachment and to approach every morning with an optimistic mind-set. And when she doesn't feel great, she says shoulder-stands are her favorite posture and make her feel better. "Reversing the blood flow is good for your body, " she explained.


Tao doing a downward dog. Photo by Betsy Farber


Tao sitting in a lotus pose. Photo by Betsy Farber

Whatever you put in your mind materializes

Whether she's dancing, teaching or practicing yoga, she believes that the thoughts she puts into her head will translate into what her body will produce. As she led the class through a yoga flow, she kept saying "stretch through to your finger nails." This kind of engagement, she reinforced, is how you should approach all the movement in your life, always stretching yourself beyond your limits. "And don't be dainty," she added.


In her favorite position, a shoulder-stand. Photo by Betsy Farber


Tao says this exercise against the wall, which engages the pelvic floor, has helped her students with hip issues. Photo by Betsy Farber

Watch below, Tao's 2015 performance on "America's Got Talent."

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