Would the REAL World’s Oldest Yoga Instructor Please Stand Up?

You might call it a battle over who holds the title of the grand dame of the downward dog.

The Guinness Book of World Records recently proclaimed 96-year-old Ida Herbert as the world’s oldest yoga instructor. The British-born Ontario-based Herbert spoke with ZNews videographer Darrin Maharaj in 2009, explaining how she caught the yoga bug decades before it infected the millions of others who practise it today.

 “I didn’t start doing yoga until I was 50 years old,” Herbert said. “It started with jogging and just ordinary exercises, and then one day I saw a lady in the class doing yoga and I thought, ‘That is my dream.'”

According to the Canadian Press, Herbert currently teaches yoga at Bayshore Village, near Orillia, Ont., instructing, “women ranging in age from their 50s up to their 80s.”

“Ida is an inspiration to all of our members and especially to me personally,” Carol Graham of the Orillia YMCA said in the ZNews piece. “She – has a lot of energy and is very welcoming and inclusive with her students.”

However, while Herbert certainly appears proud of the honour, an online search for the “world’s oldest yoga instructor” shows that this particular Guinness record is a fiercely contested one.

As recent as this morning, the Washington Post Express posted this piece online about Tao Porchon-Lynch, a 94-year-old native of India, who was also awarded the title of world’s oldest yoga instructor earlier this year. Numerous other news outlets also covered her achievement. And while you won’t have much luck garnering many results when searching the Guinness World Records website for “world’s oldest yoga teacher,” the only related post (as of today) still lists Porchon-Lynch as the record holder.

If that’s not confusing enough, poor Bernice Bates of Florida was named world’s oldest yoga instructor just last year, at age 91, only to see two others overtake her achievement in less than 12 months. Who knew there were so many nonagenarian claimants to this record?

“Since we announced Bernice Bates (91) as the oldest yoga instructor last November, we’ve been flooded with applications for this title,” Jamie Panas of Guinness World Records NA, Inc. told the Toronto Star in July of this year.

However, what makes this case even more curious is that the Star article was published in July, two months after Porchon-Lynch received the official Guinness status. The article, however, makes no mention of her.

Evidently, the title of world’s oldest yoga instructor is, surprisingly, a popular one. It’d be nice if Ida Herbert had a chance to rest on her laurels as the new record holder, edging out both Porchon-Lynch and Bates. But, given recent events, who knows if there’s a 101-year-old yoga instructor in Moose Jaw, Sask., just waiting to swoop in and take it away just as quickly?

-Mike Crisolago