Remembering Tao: Silver Hair, Pink Nails, Purple Bomber Jacket, And All Her Yogic Glory
Circa 2014: I was fresh out of a six-week long Yoga teacher training program when I stumbled upon the news that Tao Porchon-Lynch, then world’s oldest certified yogi at 95, was planning a trip to India. Enthused by my recently acquired skill of contorting my body in shapes imitating wild animals, I wrote to her, asking if I could meet her or help organise a workshop with her in Delhi.
I wasn't expecting a response, let alone one in the affirmative, complete with her travel dates. As it turned out, that would be the first of many times in the next few weeks that I'd be proven wrong about Tao.
Seven years later, I still vividly recall the first time I laid eyes on her. Her flight from New York had been delayed because of a crazy snow blizzard, and ended up arriving at around 3 pm. So, at around 4, I pulled over in the pick-up zone at the airport, got out of my car, and started searching for her. I spotted her in the distance. Much like the pole star is often the only star visible in the hazy sky of dusk, Tao shone from a distance amid a blurry crowd dulled by the hustle of life.
She wore a bright purple bomber jacket the vibrance of which paled in comparison to Tao's contagious energy. I escorted her to my car. I, a 26 year old, at 4 pm on a day I'd had enough rest, looked haggard while she, a 95 year old, after a long and tedious journey, looked like she was ready to party! The entire ride to my house, where she was staying for two nights, Tao chatted. She talked about the snow and the dance competition in Mumbai she was participating in. She commented on the traffic and how cute my hatchback was. She told me about Joyce, her assistant and friend who thought she shouldn't wear high heels on the flight -
YES! Tao travelled from New York to New Delhi wearing heels. She was 95 at the time.
Her exuberance did not fade through the short course of her stay. In fact, time and again, she outdid her own expectations. She would tell me that she would like to be in bed by 8 pm, but at 9.30, she'd still be narrating stories to me from her time marching with Gandhi, or the films she did in Hollywood. On the day of the workshop I'd organised for her, too, Tao taught for an extra hour and proceeded to chat with each and every person who had come to attend the workshop after. Her energy was boundless.
At dinner, she sipped on her glass of merlot, and told me about the trips she takes to vineyards across America as a wine-tasting sommelier. ‘I drink wine every night - a glass with my dinner,’ she told me with that smile that never left her face glowing with some sort of a supernatural inner wisdom.
Tao was onto something. I wanted to know what drove this 95-year-old to wake up at the crack of dawn, still learn and teach new asanas everyday, read voraciously, smile all the time, talk like she was a toddler who had just learnt how to speak, travel halfway across the world to do the tango with two men almost 70 years her junior! Or, was it that her joie de vivre led her to be this enigma?
‘You have to start every day believing that it is going to be the best day of your life!’ She told me with enviable conviction. To her, it indeed was that simple. She decided that today was going to be the best day of her life, and it would be. Every single day.
Tao’s high heels, immaculately manicured pink nails, purple bomber jacket, a head full of glossy silver hair, and that infectious smile are forever etched in my memory. But, what really moved me, and continues to unfurl even seven years later, is something she repeated couldn’t stop talking about during the two days I had the blessed fortune to host her at my home - her 100th birthday. It was five years away, but she had decided that she was going to have a hundredth birthday, and had already started planning it. My cynicism at the time interpreted this as a manifestation of Tao’s denial of her mortality. She may have been jauntier than I was, but she was 95! She couldn’t decide to live another five years, and actually achieve the feat. She had one foot hanging in the grave.
I was wrong. Again. Much like her morning affirmation, her decision did come to see the light of the day. Tao turned a 100, like she had wanted. No, decided.
On 21 of February, Tao Porchon-Lynch left the Earth for her heavenly abode, with a bonus birthday tucked away in her kitty. I can picture her somewhere in the astral world, sprawled on a big, soft bed, with pink boas spread across, her legs up the wall in viparita karani, still wearing her beloved stilettos, a book on one side, and a glass of merlot on the other - because I’d imagine laws of gravity don’t apply there - chuckling to herself, still celebrating the best day of her life!
Time to channel your inner Tao Porchon-Lynch in our new #YogaGirl crop tops.