Last spring, Athleta launched their Power of She campaign, with a mission of empowering girls and women to ‘realize their limitless potential’. At the same time, they unveiled their brand new Athleta Girl line, tapping the next generation of athleisure-wearing girls to lead an active lifestyle. Now, the ongoing feminist campaign is back with a new ad, this time pushing their uplifting girl power message from the opposite end of the age spectrum. The star of their latest ad is Tao Porchon-Lynch, a 98-year-old yoga celebrity, and the world’s oldest yoga teacher. Despite being told nine decades ago that ‘yoga isn’t for girls’, Porchon-Lynch is living, breathing, handstand-ing proof that fitness truly has no age—three hip replacements be damned.
Check out the exclusive video to hear Porchon-Lynch’s incredible story, and read the interview below to find out her secrets for a long life (hint: wine is her passion) and her thoughts on body confidence.
On first discovering yoga: “I was raised in India and when I was eight years old I discovered a group of boys on the beach making unusual shapes with their bodies. I tried to do everything they were doing and I was pretty good. Later, when I showed my aunt what I had been doing, she told me that it wasn’t a game, it was yoga, and yoga is not for girls. That ignited something in me and I was determined to find out more. My dear uncle taught me yoga philosophy through our everyday activities. Yoga, in all of its forms, became a lifelong passion of mine. If you can be one with the Eternal Energy, then there’s nothing you cannot do.”
On limitations that are still put on girls today: “It is astounding! When I was young and told that yoga was unladylike, I was devastated but took a stand teaching those around me that girls can and should be involved in yoga. Now there are so many women who participate in and teach yoga but that wasn’t always the case. I think in every way, women have had to fight to engage in certain activities. It is unthinkable that today people still tell young girls they are less than or not as capable as boys. That’s why it’s so meaningful for me to be a part of Athleta’s Power of She campaign which is all about the limitless potential of women and girls when we come together. It’s beautiful to see a brand sharing that message.”
On yoga’s evolution over her lifetime: “Yoga has changed remarkably in the last half-century but the simple teachings remain the same. When I began exploring yoga in 1926, there were so few people in the west that had ever heard of it, not to mention how few women were involved. When Indra Devi opened her studio in Hollywood in 1948, it was an exotic, unexplored practice. She encouraged me to start teaching. I have had an incredible journey through yoga and it has been very special to see the practice evolve and grow into something everyone can participate in.”
Her diet philosophy: I’ve been a vegetarian all of my life. I love fruits such as mango and grapefruit, and vegetables such as spinach and kale. I eat a half of grapefruit almost every morning. I don’t eat much. I believe that if you eat light, you will have more energy.”
On redefining stereotypes of what it means to be 98: “I think it is important to be yourself. I’ve never tried to be a representative of what yoga or a 98-year-old should look like because I don’t believe there is one identity to it. For me, it is far more important to spread the word that regardless of your age, you can do anything your heart desires. There’s no such thing as being too old. I believe that if you live a centered life, your goals become realities. Yoga is a unique practice and it may not be for everyone, but trying new things is what life is all about.”
The secret to her energy and longevity: “Aside from yoga, I love to be as active as possible. I do ballroom dancing when I’m not teaching yoga. It is thrilling and fast-paced. I’m also passionate about wine and still lead tastings as a co-founder and vice president of the American Wine Society. My family had a vineyard in the Rhone Valley in France so wine is in my blood and I enjoy certain teas such as peppermint and ginger. I credit my active life, enjoying little luxuries I love, as well as my mindset, for my energy and happiness. What you put in your mind materializes, and I don’t put age and decay in my mind. I always look for the good and my next adventure.” (And, according to science, your biological age matters more than your birth age.)
Her thoughts on yoga fashion and athleisure: “I think fashion is a wonderful way to show your spirit. I enjoy wearing bold prints, patterns, and colors whenever I can. I love that there are so many ways to express yourself in yoga apparel today and that brands like Athleta let you find clothes that move with you during your practice, but you also let you show your personality throughout the day.”
On body confidence and loving her shape: “From a body standpoint, I’m all legs. When I was modeling in the 1940s and 1950s, I won the Longest Legs in Europe contest. I was told that I could ‘walk like a panther.’ Despite three hip replacements, my body continues to support me as I do yoga and dance. I feel strong when I’m teaching and being twirled around the dance floor. It’s important to love your body and work with it. Highlight your strengths.”