Mastering Life

What an incredible weekend of life lessons! It’s a great follow-up to last week’s post “Just Say Yes” about the 84 year old William Shatner and his life message.

On Friday, January 29th I attended a much anticipated master class with the oldest living yoga teacher and Master Instructor Tao Porchon-Lynch. To give you a little background, she is an extraordinary woman who grew up in a French colony in India where she was introduced to yoga as a young girl. She had an uncle active in the social movement and she met and marched with Gandhi. She was a night club performer in England, a film actress in Hollywood, and a model in France. She has studied yoga for over 70 years with some of the pioneering yoga teachers in India such as B.K.S. Iyengar, and even convinced him to accept women in his rigorous training program (she being one of the first). She founded the Westchester Institute of Yoga in 1982 and has trained hundreds yoga instructors since. You can still find her teaching locally in Westchester, with her schedule listed on her website, when she is not travelling around the world teaching.  If being a yoga master wasn’t enough, she began ballroom dancing in her 70’s and has since won over 700 competitions and her current dance partner is 70 years her junior.

It makes it all the more sweet that my yoga teacher studied with Tao and I feel that I am honoring this lineage. I am unable to make her local classes so when I looked at her schedule and saw that she was teaching a master class at Lifetime Fitness in Westchester (I am an instructor at Lifetime in Montvale), I was actually the first to register for the class.

The evening of the class, I ran into Tao in the Lifetime Cafe, struck by her small stature but awed by her presence. There she was, clad in a faux leopard winter coat, a pair of 2 inch pumps, fancy pants leggings, a sparkly top, a beautiful silver necklace with other baubles on her wrists and fingers, pink lipstick, and a mane of wavy styled gray hair. She was they most stylish woman I have met in the nearly 20 years since my Grandma Lil passed away (who was the epitome of cosmopolitan style to me growing up).  Talk about making a first impression. She greeted me with a warm and beautiful smile.

Up in the studio, before class began, person after person was coming to greet her in the front of the room. Here was a guru in the flesh. She began class seated in full lotus position for our warm up. We were soon in for a treat. The most awe-inspiring moments came when she began to teach and demonstrate the poses. She showed us a two-point downward facing dog, where you are inverted balancing on one foot and one hand while holding the other first with the other hand. And she did this with ease. When it was time for us to do the pose, I looked around and more than half of the class was struggling. She took us through beautiful and uplifting flows peppered with sage yoga philosophy and asked us simply celebrate the divine within ourselves.

Tao and Me at Lifetime

Her lifelong motto is “There is nothing you cannot do.” Here was a woman who has been living it her whole life. She reminds me a lot of my father who also had a remarkably rich life who’s motto was “Nothing is Impossible.” Something he reminded me of through four decades.

Arnold and Me at Ski Sundown

Now here’s even more proof. I went skiing at Ski Sundown in New Hartford, CT, on Saturday with my family. It was the first time I was skiing in a few years and a lesson was at hand. I was pleasantly surprised to have a my hour and half group lesson with just one other person. My instructor was an older gentleman, and as we got to talking, it turns out that he is 82, and has 75 years of skiing experience! He was another fascinating person (having been an aeronautical engineer programming the life support systems for shuttle rides into space).

Within a span of two days, I had taken classes with a combined 150 years of experience!

I was seeing a pattern here. Much like Tao, he has been physically active for most of his life, and neither was ever going to retire from what they love to do most. Here is the secret sauce, once again, proof in the pudding. Believe in yourself, stay active, stay involved, and do what you love to do – and don’t let age be a determining factor.

Many years ago when I was studying theatre in England, I came across an elderly woman at the National Theater in London. It was a fairly quick observation, but there was something about this woman, a sparkle in her eyes that told me she loved life. I promised myself right then and there that that is exactly how I would like to be at her age (she seemed to be in her 70s). That was 20 years ago, and now as I am approaching 50 in a couple of years, it’s time to take stock and not just continue the things I love, but to start anything that I have been putting off. I was so fortunate that I found two more people with that same spark in their eyes.

So let’s take a page from the books of Arnold and Tao and embrace life to the fullest – and keep your body moving for the rest of your life!


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