‘If you have a body, then you can do yoga’: World’s oldest, youngest instructors teach class together
October 27, 2017
It would be easy to think that two people with an age gap of 87 years between them would have nothing in common, but that certainly was not the case when the world's oldest and youngest yoga teachers came together for the first time.
Both accomplished yoga instructors, the two share a love of traveling and use their prominent positions to speak up for what they believe in and give back to the community.
"We do different styles of yoga, and yet it's the same. … We are working together," 99-year-old Tao Porchon-Lynch said.
Brought together as part of the Aspen City of Wellbeing's Lead with Love event, Tabay Atkins, 12, and Porchon-Lynch met for the first time Thursday and by Friday were co-teaching a yoga class to a jam-packed yet attentive crowd at the Doerr-Hosier Center.
"Feel the joy of yoga moving up from your center and moving outward," yoga master Porchon-Lynch said.
Although technically they were co-instructing, Atkins seemed content to let his elder take charge for the first portion of class, as she demonstrated poses alongside him while telling stories and imparting bits of wit and wisdom.
Eventually Porchon-Lynch turned the class over to Atkins, calling him "a golden idol of life" and showering him with praise for his skills.
The admiration between them was mutual.
When asked what he learned from working with her, Atkins replied: "What didn't I learn?"
"I just felt all the love and energy in the room and I learned something new and it's just a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
99 years and not holding back
Porchon-Lynch may be the oldest yoga teacher in the world at 99, but it doesn't show in her practice, and she hasn't let age slow her down in the slightest.
She is still more flexible than most, even after three hip replacements, easily sliding in and out of standing, sitting and inverted yoga poses. And she continues to wear high heels everywhere she goes.
"A lot of people laugh at me because I do everything in high-heeled shoes," she told the crowd at Aspen Meadows. "I even climbed Machu Picchu in high-heeled shoes."
Born in Pondicherry, India, Porchon-Lynch has been teaching yoga since 1955. She has worked with and learned from some of the most revered yoga masters and has marched alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
As she ages, Porchon-Lynch said she has more people telling her that she won't be able to keep up her active lifestyle, but she never listens to the naysayers and even started ballroom dancing in her 80s.
"I'm in the act of recycling myself," she said. "I'm not going to let anything take me down."
Because of cancer
Atkins, from San Clemente, California, discovered yoga when he was 6 and when his mom, Sahel Anvarinejad, was in the beginning stages of recovering from cancer treatment.
Although she could hardly walk, Anvarinejad started practicing yoga and not long after found herself in a 200-hour teacher-training program.
A few months into her practice, she was significantly stronger, and Atkins said he could see this positive change in his mom's health and happiness.
"I told her that I wanted to teach yoga so I could help heal others that way that yoga helped heal you," Atkins said. "(My mom) thought I was telling her what I wanted to do when I grow up, I said, 'No, no, right now I want to teach yoga.'"
So he set off on his yoga journey and became a certified teacher at the age of 11.
He recently turned 12 and teaches at his mom's yoga studio, where he donates the money from his classes to help children with cancer. (Anvarinejad celebrated five years of being cancer free Sept. 14.)
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"I want the world to be a more peaceful and happier and healthier and safer place," Atkins said.
And he wants to continue teaching yoga to as many people as possible.
"Everyone can do yoga," he said. "If you have a body, then you can do yoga."