Tao Porchon-Lynch: Pure Gratitude at Age 93

Jessica BellofattoI love yoga. I have loved yoga since my first class at the age of 18 back when I was a dance major at New York University. In that first class, I recognized that something magical was taking place in that room. That through a group of people breathing, stretching, chanting, meditating, and lying at the end on the floor much like children in nursery school during mandatory ‘quiet time,’ something powerful was happening, something I could not place my finger on, but I knew in the deepest recesses of my self that this practice would be with me for life.

Through the years, my relationship with yoga has, of course, gone through its phases. There were times when I practiced every single day, sometimes taking class twice a day; there were times that a few weeks went by and barely a down dog did I do. When I had my first child, I sat in bed in the recovery room at the hospital and laid my recently empty belly out over my thighs in Pascimottanasana, weeping with gratitude for the ability to do a forward bend once again.

The carpal tunnel that I had suffered from all through that first pregnancy miraculously gone, I pressed my hands into the floor and stretched back into downward facing dog, luxuriating in that stretch, and letting the tears come and flow freely. Tears of joy that I was a mother now, tears of grief that the life I once knew was gone forever, and tears of acknowledgment that this practice allowed me to FEEL and to bring up emotion that may otherwise have been squelched, had I not been able to tap into it through the body.

The yoga has, like an old, devoted friend, stood by my side, a constant companion through times good and bad. Feeling PMS ? Goddess pose to the rescue. Congested? Kapalabhati breath. Sad and vulnerable? Child’s pose with a bolster. Joyful? Back bends! I have rehabbed every injury through this practice. Cyst behind the knee? Virasana with a mat roll, draining the fluid…

So, when Tao Porchon-Lynch, a woman who has been practicing and teaching yoga for a VERY long time, offered to come and teach a couple of workshops at my yoga studio, KamaDeva Yoga, I jumped at the chance. Here was a woman who was the living embodiment of what I knew and believed this practice to be.

She arrived at the studio and I was immediately taken aback by the brightness of her eyes — there was an amazing clarity and wisdom in those eyes. I was mesmerized. She started out class by quoting the famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nat Hanh: “Nothing is impossible. Just look within.”

Tao Porchon-LynchShe went on to say, “Don’t look for tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. Take away FEAR. Fear creates disease.” The students, myself included, were in awe at the seemingly endless amount of energy this woman possessed. When she proceeded to fold her legs into the lotus posture, place her 93 year-old hands on the floor, fingers spread wide, pressing into the earth with so much deliberate, beautiful precision, and lift herself up into MAYURASANA (peacock pose — pictured here), the whole room gasped.

What was most striking about her though, was not her physical ability, but these three qualities that I felt she possessed in abundance…

Ease, Joy, Gratitude

She THANKED me several times, at least, for hosting her at my studio. She thanked the students, several times, for coming to the workshop. The first thing she said to me upon greeting was, ‘THANK YOU.” I was so struck by this…  and the fact that it was so evident that she actually meant it. This, more than anything, has stayed with me months later. And I think it is this that lends itself so purely to the other two qualities of ease and joy. She is grateful for her life, 93 years-old, she is happy and present and at ease.

Thich Nat Hanh says, “Compassion is a muscle,” meaning that we can strengthen it, cultivate it. I think that gratitude is a muscle as well.

How can we, like Tao, cultivate this muscle of gratitude? The next time you come to your yoga mat, as you move into your first posture, say thank you inside. As you move into your second posture, say thank you again. Try an entire practice of ‘thank you.’ I would love to hear your thoughts about this experience.

With Gratitude,
Jessica Bellofatto

Join me on retreat: JessicaBellofattoYoga.com


May 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Pure Gratitude article is inspiring and beautifully written! I am very interested in Bikram yoga. My current fitness interests don’t leave time to squeeze in yoga, but I’ve done enough to know it’s something that I will pursue deeper at a later time. I wish you were in our area I would try the Yoga Athletica class you offer.

Jody - Fit at 54

May 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I so have to start yoga!!! I keep saying that but I have to!!!! Amazing post!

Wendy - RunGirlRun88

May 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Such a GREAT blog. It really hit home for me today in so many ways. Thanks for sharing!!!


May 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Jess, what a beautiful post. So heartfelt, so true and inspiring. I am grateful for the gifts yoga, and meditation (and surfing!) have given me, every time I come to the mat. When I am NOT on the mat (or in my practice) however, there is no guarantee that this monkey mind will remember to rest gratefully in the present. It is the effort, or the practice, that reminds me to return to grace, the present moment and sweet gratitude. Thanks for reminding me today what I need to do to get there!!! <3

Lorraine Miller

May 24, 2012 at 8:35 am

A great way to practice daily gratitude for those who have trouble getting started is by keeping a journal. This has been such a powerful force in my life that I use this tool in my work with clients as a Holistic Health and Lifestyle Coach. The practice is so easy to do, yet so transforming that I refer to it as Vitaming G Living. Find out more: http://www.nourishbynature.com/vitamingliving

Susan kouffman

June 01, 2012 at 7:12 am

Just yesterday I sat on the wharf in sag harbor looking at the sea and the majestic boats, feeling alittle down. Thinking of all the negative, the difficulties, the unknown in my life. Out of no where…I began to see the beauty and all the positive. I was filled with gratitude and said Thank you, thank you, thank you. I felt better.

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