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3 simple happiness tips from a 99-year-old yoga teacher


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Photo: The Tao Experience

The first thing you notice about Tao Porchon-Lynch, AKA “the world’s oldest yoga teacher,” is her smile.

She’s a tiny person, but joy constantly emanates from her upturned lips, expanding and filling the space around her—creating a presence that’s outsized. A few years ago Porchon-Lynch spoke about her approach to life and yoga at an event at the The Core Club in New York City, where she was interviewed by Women’s Entrepreneurship Day founder Wendy Davis alongside yoga teacher Terri Kennedy, who helped her detail it all in a new book, Dancing Light. (If you want to learn more about Porchon-Lynch’s unbelievable life—from marching alongside Mahatma Gandhi at age 12 to striking up a friendship with Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood—you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy.)

But what’s the secret that keeps her this vibrant, and drives her to continue practicing and teaching yoga at age 99 (she turns 100 August 13!)?

“Every morning I wake up and say this is going to be the best day of my life—and it is,” she says. It seems too cliched, too simple, but coming from her, it somehow rings true. Instead of sharing meditation techniques to help you sit in silence, Porchon-Lynch says things like, “My life is my meditation,” and talks about stopping to watch every time a flock of geese flies overhead.

Here are three more insights she shared on how to shift your life towards happiness today. I mean, who better to trust when it comes to life wisdom than this joyful 98-year-old yogi?

1. Don’t dwell on all of the bad things that might happen

Not-so-great stuff is going to happen no matter what, so Porchon-Lynch believes you’re better off thinking about other aspects of your life. “Your mind gets in the way. It plagues you with all of the things that can go wrong,” she says. “I don’t let it get in my way.” One of the things that influenced that perspective, she says, was being around fighter pilots during World War II and seeing what it looks like when people “live totally without fear.”

2. Stop judging

“Don’t look down on anyone,” she says, relaying a story her uncle told of judging an illiterate farmer. “He may not know how to read, but he knows much more about the earth than you do. Know that you can learn from everyone.”

3. Face each day with joy

Follow her lead and tell yourself it’s going to be great as soon as that alarm goes off. “Wake up with a smile on your face,” she says. Okay, maybe you can wait until after that first cup of coffee.

Originally published August 30, 2016; updated August 9, 2018.

Indra Devi was another yoga trailblazer—check out her seven inspiring tricks for becoming a fearless, happier woman. Or try this yoga sequence to help you face your fears, from Colleen Saidman Yee.

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