Tao passed away peacefully at the age of 101 on February 21 of this year, surrounded by loving friends. She did not have immediate family or blood relatives, but she had a very large organically grown family that grew from her communities of yoga, ballroom dance, the Wine Society of Westchester, and the Rotary Club of Hartsdale. The Yoga Teachers Association is part of that large family.
She did not want a funeral or burial ceremony of any kind. It was painful for all of us, set adrift in a sea of grief and loss with no place to mourn together or celebrate her extraordinary life and contribution to the world. Then COVID-19 came to town shortly after, and we were awash in a blur of incomprehensible circumstances.
I feel tremendous gratitude for the YTA in making this tribute to Tao possible. There couldn’t be a better time to gather together to find joy and inspiration. It will be a joyous afternoon honoring her life and also the formation of the YTA a little over 40 years ago, when Tao joined a group of bold pioneering women who galvanized and began this organization.
Tao’s life story is astonishing, from the unusual circumstances of her birth and her childhood growing up in Pondicherry, India, accompanying Gandhi in the Salt March, to her aunt’s vineyard in Provence, France, where she participated in helping the Jews escape from the Nazis, to her work with the French Resistance and wartime in London during the Blitz bombings, and finally arriving in Paris after the war to become a couture model. She had not yet reached 25!
Her life course from Europe to America, from Hollywood to Hartsdale, to her later years receiving Guinness World Record awards (two!), along with numerous international honors and worldwide acclaim, will be presented in photographs and stories.
Tao never sought fame or glory for any of the ways she served in the world. Her simple life as a yoga teacher is equally as impressive as anything she has done in her life for its humility and selflessness. Tao was, above all else, a humanitarian.
And so we gather on Saturday, June 13, to honor Tao for her achievements and inspiration and for reminding us that the selfless path we have all chosen as yoga teachers is a prodigious one.
Following the audiovisual presentation, we will have a yoga practice following Tao’s methodology and beliefs and highlighted by one of her beautiful meditations from her Reflections recording.