Stretch In Time

The world’s oldest yoga instructor wants to teach D.C. that anything is possible

September 11, 2012

Tao Porchon-Lynch, 94, can still touch her toes and balance on just her hands.

When Tao Porchon-Lynch was 8 years old, she saw boys playing on the beach in her hometown of Pondicherry, India. She desperately wanted to try their game. Her aunt, however, explained that they were practicing yoga and forbid her from joining them.

“My aunt said it wasn’t ladylike, but I just wanted to play,” says Porchon-Lynch, who eventually got her chance. A decade later, she took her first class. A few decades after that, she began teaching. And this year, she earned the title of oldest yoga instructor on the planet from Guinness World Records.

The 94-year-old, who often balances her body on just her hands in mayurasana (or peacock pose), will be playing in Washington on Saturday at Results Gym, where she last taught in 2005.

“People are still talking about her,” says Harold Sanco, director of group fitness, who expects she’ll be an inspiration for students young and, especially, old. Yoga classes filled with 20- and 30-somethings can intimidate more mature members, but Porchon-Lynch is proof that there’s no age limit on yoga.

There’s also no limit on what you can learn, says Porchon-Lynch, who considers herself a student even after teaching for 56 years and studying with many masters, including B.K.S. Iyengar (who’s a few months younger) and the late K. Pattabhi Jois.

“You’ll do a pose for years, and then one day, you’ll find it leads you to something else,” she says. “It’s never dull.”

She credits yoga with making her breath strong, her muscles strong and her mind strong. That strength enables her to do anything, and that’s a lesson she wants to pass on to her students.

“The nicest thing in life is when you’re giving a class, and there are students who think they can’t do something, and then they do it. The look on their faces is priceless,” says Porchon-Lynch, who advocates moving carefully and with proper breathing. “If you just take a gulp and try to go into a longer pose, you can’t make it. If you breathe, you have it in you.”

There’s no question she has it in her to lead a two-hour workshop in the morning and a three-hour workshop in the afternoon on her trip to D.C. “I’m used to it,” she says. Her typical schedule at home in New York’s Westchester County involves getting up at 5 a.m., leaving for work at 7:30, and not getting back until 9:30 at night.

Whenever she’s not teaching yoga, she’s dancing. Porchon-Lynch, who took up ballroom in 1995, now trains three days a week in a variety of styles and travels the world to perform in competitions — often with partners 70 years her junior. “Young men are so sweet and don’t mind to dance with me,” she says.

It can’t hurt that well before she got the Guinness World Record, the former actress and model won another award: the best legs in Europe. They’re still quite impressive, particularly when she picks them both off the ground.


Tao Porchon-Lynch’s signature move is peacock pose.

Meet Tao: Porchon-Lynch will lead two workshops at Results Capitol Hill (315 G St. SE) on Saturday. Vinyasa (10 a.m.-noon, $50 for members, $60 for nonmembers) is for all levels; Wisdom (2-5 p.m., $65 for members, $75 for nonmembers) is for students with some experience. Register by calling 202-234-5678.

Celebrate Yoga Month

When students take their first class at Dream Yoga in McLean, Va., they always have one complaint, founder Luann Fulbright says: “I wish I’d done this sooner.” Her studio is one of thousands countrywide offering free classes and other enticements for newbies in honor of National Yoga Month (Yogamonth.org). Here’s what’s happening in the D.C. area this September:

Athleta

Athleta.gap.com

The fitness apparel company is offering free yoga classes every Saturday at its stores, which include locations in Georgetown; McLean, Va.; and Reston, Va.

Bikram Yoga Bethesda

7832 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-215-7820, Bikramyogabethesda.com

Try out weekday morning classes for $8. A free global yoga practice will be held at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 30. It’ll be the traditional 90-minute Bikram series, followed by another half hour of instruction.

Dream Yoga

1485 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, Va.; 703-448-9642, Dreamyogastudio.com

Four free classes today (and one Wednesday) will showcase a variety of styles. Dream is also holding a free global yoga practice Sept. 30, which will conclude with a 15-minute meditation for universal peace and well-being.

Sacred Well Yoga Studio

450 W. Broad St., Falls Church, Va.; 703-989-8316, Swys.net

New students can take advantage of one week of free yoga. And everyone’s welcome at the studio’s free celebration of yoga Sept. 23, featuring six different 45-minute classes, including kids yoga, laughter yoga and yoga nidra.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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