Tania Dyett is still teaching yoga, for over 40 years, the oldest teacher in Wellington. She was in the Dominion Post with photos of her class when she turned 90. She does it in the church hall a few steps from the family home she’s lived in for more than 70 years. She’s sprightly, with it, and full of memories of an extraordinary life. Her parents were Russians who fled the revolution to China, where she was born. Her father had been an officer in the Tsarist army; her mother contracted TB. Tania’s an only child because of that. Once in the Dutch East Indies, though, with warmth and good food, her TB came right. During World War 2 Tania was in a Japanese internment camp for three and a half years. And that’s another story.

And it was in Java that Tania made a definitive move towards her future career. When asked by the mayor of a Javanese city ‘Do you want a holiday or do you want a violin?’ she replied ‘A violin’.

After the war, the family was accepted into New Zealand, and they obtained ‘the biggest property in Seatoun’ by dint of a kind solicitor whose brother had died in a camp in wartime East Indies. Tania calls herself a ‘citizen of the world’, having such a rich and diverse background.

She met her husband, David Dyett, when she was 21, at the Tararua Tramping Club. ‘I was sitting next to him. I always sat next to him from then on.’ David was for many years the Chief Surveyor for the Wellington City Council. She and son Kim nursed him through cancer to his death in 2009.

A stint in Dunedin provided an opportunity to further Tania’s musical passion. She was to go on to earn highest honours in the LTCL and FTCL from Trinity College London. She ended up with her own string quartet, playing at Government House, for investitures and honours ceremonies. There was a 1976 trip to Russia to study music teaching methods. And in the 1980s, at age 59, she performed in ‘TV Time for Music’, being flown weekly to Christchurch for to take part. For four years she did music recitals around schools all over New Zealand. At the end of each recital she would finish with a little gypsy song, ‘Dance d’Allouette’, and then, with help of National radio, listen to all the different native bird songs and imitate them on the violin. The South Island Kiwi on the E string, Grey Warbler, Kea, Yellowhead, Tui, Bellbird, Shining Cuckoo and Magpies on A& D with the Morepork at the end.

Meanwhile, she’d been a long time yoga practitioner, earning her IYTA (International Yoga Teachers’ Association). And that’s her abiding passion. She says Yoga is great for both physical and mental health and promotes ethics like non-violence.

Tania teaches a weekly session in St George’s church hall on Tuesdays from 7.00 til 8.30. As a Timebank member, you can use a credit. Tania would love more people to get involved.

“Experience yourself as part of God’s infinite self-expression, not because of anything you have done, but because God is great, and, therefore, so are you.” – Tania Dyett

Her son Kim gave me (Marg) a lift back from Seatoun. I asked him the secret of his mother’s longevity. ‘What you eat is the most important thing’, he said. ‘In her case, being dairy free. Then there’s her yoga. And,’ he grinned, ‘she’s as mad as ever.’

Tania is a new member but came to our Barn Dance Birthday Celebration last year. She meets regularly with Faye, a Timebank member and loves to chat.

Story by Marg Austin & Chris Carey-Smith