Half-Indian and Half-French, Tao grew up in Pondicherry, India and her uncle knew many notable people such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi. In 1930, Tao marched with Gandhi in the famous Salt March, and then again a few years later. She once said, “Gandhi decorates the walls of my mind.” Mahatma Gandhi’s 84-year-old grandson and peace activist Arun Manilal Gandhi sent his birthday wishes to Tao saying how touched he was by their friendship. He grew up on his grandfather’s ashram in South Africa and spent time with him in India learning about Modafinil nonviolence.
Tao discovered yoga when she was eight years old on the beaches of Pondicherry and has been teaching since the 1950s. When she was under contract at MGM as an actress, she taught a group of fellow actresses such as Kathryn Grayson and Leslie Caron. Later, in New York, fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne hired her to teach her first paid yoga class. Tao founded the Yoga Teacher’s Association in 1979 and the Westchester Institute of Yoga in 1982. In 1995, she participated in Yoga for Peace in Israel organized by another yoga legend Rama Jyoti Vernon. Rama, and her daughter Mira, sent Tao a birthday message saying, “We wish you the most joyous 100th birthday that the world has ever seen. You are so special, such a blessed person who’s work is changing the world.” Ginny Beal, who works with Rama and spent time with Tao at the Sedona Yoga Festival this February, also sent her love. As well as all the kind wishes that Tao has been sent, people have also been sending cards wishing her well, and an abundance of lovely birthday gifts too. I don’t know where she’s going to put them all! I know she was hoping for some bits from somewhere like Jacobs the jeweller, because she just loves jewellery and I’m hoping she received them as she more than deserves something special in return for everything she has done.
Love came in from across the globe. Matej Cer, founder of Avant Car, sent positive vibes from his boat in Slovenia. In 2015, Tao and her co-biographer Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy did their popular Conversation With A Master program for the Young Executives Society in Ljubljana. Teresa has accompanied Tao on sixty-six events and moderated fifty-one talks including Conversation with a Master and The Gandhi Effect. They offered both of those programs in December 2017 for Pure Yoga Hong Kong and that team led by Mikey Ki sent their love. In 2016, Tao was the headliner for the XYoga Dubai Festival in the United Arab Emirates. In March 2018, she was supposed to teach on the XYoga main stage with Yogi Cameron but didn’t make it last minute. He sent Tao a zenful birthday message. Teresa was a headliner this year at XYoga Dubai and coordinated a big shoutout from a group of students. A large group from the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas shared a chant for Tao’s health and longevity. Tao has enjoyed teaching there surrounded by nature.
One of Tao’s biggest passions is dance. In 2015, at 96 years old, she performed on America’s Got Talent with her 26-year-old dance partner Vard Margaryan. In 2017, she was named Oldest Competitive Ballroom Dancer-Female both by Guinness World Records and the World Book of Records. Famous dancer and choreographer Sandip Soparrkar, who has danced multiple times with Tao, sent his love from Mumbai in a fun video with his son Arjun and Jameel Shah, who handcrafts Tao’s dance shoes in India. From Canada, 93-year-old yoga master Dr. Madan Bali and his daughter Gita Bali sang Happy Birthday and Dr. Bali, who saw Tao at the World Yoga Festival in Reading last summer, flirtatiously asked her for a dance. While Tao was in United Kingdom, she did a program for Naked Dragon (and a surprise guest, Kate Winslet, joined). Julie Bryant, the retreat company’s founder, sent warm wishes from over the pond.
Many people don’t realize that Tao is an accomplished businesswoman. As Vice President of Unitel, Tao helped lay the groundwork for TV in India in 1959, and brokered relationships in other places on behalf of Unitel. She became an early distributor of international films to the U.S. and American films to global markets. She distributed films such as The Face of the Sahara and The Face of India. Tao also distributed the wine newspaper, Beverage Communicator, for thirty years in four-five countries. Part of the Power Living media efforts has been to expand Tao’s brand identity beyond yoga so the world can understand her historical significance in various arenas. That positioning has enabled her appearances at places like the Newark Peace Education Summit with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the United Nations for International Day of Yoga with spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, and the World Government Summit in Dubai.
In 2016, Tao received an award for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) at the United Nations. Wendy Diamond, Founder & CEO of WED, sent in her regards along with her dog. A pet-lover like Tao, Wendy founded a number of pet-related businesses including Animal Fair magazine. She also hosted Tao at the exclusive Core Club in Manhattan for a yoga session and conversation. In 2017, Tao was a headliner for Lead With Love Aspen, an event focused on conscious and heart-centered leadership. It featured speakers like Dr. Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and Rod Stryker. In addition to sharing her Conversation with a Master program, Tao taught a yoga session with the youngest certified yoga teacher, Tabay Atkins. At the close of the conference, Tao gave Tabay his first dance lesson at the Aspen airport. Now in love with Tao, Tabay sent in an endearing birthday video in his stylish PJs.
The rest of the Kennedy family–James Scott Kennedy, Jr., Sheila Kennedy Bryant and Daniel Kennedy–also sent their messages. They’ve all spent time with Tao over the last decade, including when Janie, Teresa and Tao were finishing the writing of Adipex and weight lossDancing Light in Jamaica in 2014. Tao has said that was one of her favorite trips. Even though they were there for a private writing retreat at the beautiful Dreamtime Villa in Montego Bay that is similar to other Jamaican villas available for rent, the yogis on the island wanted to meet Tao. Through the influence and network of Sharon Feanny, over 60 yogis from around the island showed up at the Round Hill Hotel & Villas in the pouring rain to practice yoga with Tao with just three days notice. Sharon sent in a passionate birthday video saying, “We are still basking in the love and energy that you shared with us here in Jamaica and I will never forgot your teaching to wake up every single day and say this is the best day of MY LIFE! Hope you’re having the best day of your life! Happy Birthday! We love you Tao. Namaste.”
Last, but certainly not least, Tao received a message from Howard and Lea Waldman who have known Tao for over 35 years. Since they couldn’t make her birthday party in Westchester, they wanted to make sure they shared their love. In addition to the videos, there was a flood of messages from people on social media. Tao has inspired so many around the world through her yoga teachings, insights and presence. She shows us all what is possible and that age is simply a number. As Daniel Kennedy said, “[We] can’t wait to see what the next chapter in your life holds.” Keep Shining Bright Tao! We love you!
Below are the individual videos. Feel free to share using #ThisIs100, #TaoExp, #TaoPorchonLynch. Be sure to follow Tao on Instagram @TaoPorchonLynch.
Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest
Dr. Deepak Chopra
Dr. Madan Bali and Gita Bali in Canada
Rama Jyoti Vernon and Mira Vernon
Sandip Soparrkar in Mumbai
Matej Cer in Slovenia
Julie Bryant with Naked Dragon in the UK
Sharon Feanny in Jamaica
Pure Yoga Hong Kong
Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
Integral Yoga Institute in New York
Ananda Ashram in Monroe, NY
Breathe Yoga in Rochester, NY
Ghylian Bell and the Urban Yoga Foundation in Harlem
Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy of www.IAmPowerLiving.com and www.PowerLivingMedia.com. President of Power Living Enterprises, Inc., Terri is a Harvard Business School-trained Strategist, Certified Meditation & Yoga Teacher, and Master Coach recognized as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum. Her mission is to raise the consciousness of the planet through transformative tools, experiences and content. As a coach, she specializes in helping people de-stress, realign and realize authentic success. After a corporate media & technology career, she founded the first yoga studio in Harlem and served six years on the Board of Yoga Alliance (including Chair and interim CEO). Called “smart with a heart,” she has been featured in media around the world including the cover of Yoga Journal and in Oprah’s book, Live Your Best Life! Along with her mother, Columbia University-trained journalist Janie Sykes-Kennedy, Terri is a co-author of Tao’s award-winning autobiography, Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master, and her latest book, Shining Bright: Quotes and Images to Inspire Optimism, Gratitude & Belief In Your Limitless Potential. Terri and her mom are working on the Tao Legacy Project, capturing Tao’s wisdom and teachings in various formats. A sought-after speaker and avid photographer/videographer with a love for storytelling, Terri often travels with Tao moderating conversations on her life and assisting in yoga workshops. In addition to volunteering her time for events and to manage Tao’s PR/Media/Strategic Branding, Terri “curates and documents inspirational experiences” with the yoga master.