Age is only a number. Need proof? Meet 73-year-old Bill White, a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, resident who is redefining what it means to live your best life in retirement.
And, according to White, it didn't take much convincing.
Easing into retirement was easy, but the sedentary lifestyle caught up with him. Overweight and experiencing chest pains, White saw a cardiologist. A stress test and angiogram later, his cardiologist broke the news: White had a blockage in an artery leading up to his heart. Luckily, it didn't require surgery. Instead, he was given medication and it was strongly recommended that White make significant lifestyle changes.
White was given a do-over. And he did just that.
White had spent 39 years as a high school English teacher, football coach, and guidance counselor. He was an athlete and ran a few marathons. But after he retired in 2006, White fell out of his healthy lifestyle. At the time of his diagnosis, he was 240 pounds.
"I just got a little too sedentary. I wasn't eating right. I grew up in an Irish Catholic meat and potatoes, gravy, and dessert family. That's how I was eating," he says.
White knew that if he didn't make changes now, it could cost him his life. That's when he found inspiration in an unexpected place: his dentist's office, where it was suggested he try yoga.
White went feetfirst into the sand, taking yoga classes five mornings a week on the beach in Cape Cod. He adopted a vegan diet, and when the summer ended, he found a studio nearby and practiced high-powered yoga. He was hooked, and his sedentary lifestyle was a thing of the past.
"I lost a lot of weight. I felt much, much better. My energy was up. Consequently, I kept doing yoga," says White. "One of my favorite hobbies was taking my old clothes to the Goodwill store. It felt so good to see all the progress I had made."
After six months, White went back for a checkup. His cholesterol levels went from 220 to 150. And he had lost 50 pounds.
But he didn't stop there.
In 2011, White took part in a weeklong retreat in the Catskill Mountains to complete his Level One Baptiste training. He completed the Level Two training the following year and returned to the studio where he practiced to complete the 200-hour teacher training. He was the oldest person in the group, but as far as White was concerned, age had nothing to do with it.
"Yoga has given me that wherewithal to say, 'Yes, I can!'"
Today, White teaches yoga three days a week at Power Yoga Cape Cod in Dennis Port, Massachusetts. He takes golf trips to Ireland, enjoys an occasional juice cleanse, cheers on his grandkids at Little League, and works Bruce Springsteen in any way he can.
"I like to use music during my classes. Some days I'll take it up a notch with Springsteen. I want people to enjoy the experience. Yoga should be fun," says White.
He recommends yoga to people of all ages but stresses the importance of stretching as you get older.
"You can go to a class, or you can simply do yoga at home. If I'm sitting watching TV, I'll get on the floor and wedge a block under my lower back even for 60 seconds. Just to keep my lower back stretched out," he says.
Even just 15 minutes of stretching has benefits.
"You can lie down on your mat at home and put your legs up the wall. Invert your circulatory system for 10 or 15 minutes and you're doing something beneficial for yourself."
For White, yoga goes beyond physical benefits.
"It helps you have compassion. To be kind to people. How do you treat that person who's bagging your groceries at the supermarket? That's yoga."
Adopting a healthy lifestyle transformed his life in retirement.
"It wasn't just yoga poses, but the diet, the meditation, the slowing things down. All of that resulted in me, 10 years later, feeling healthier than ever. My attitude is, 'Yes, I can.' It's not an attitude of, 'I'm not sure,'" said White. "You can be over 60 and feel like it's coming to an end. Or you can be over 60 and say, 'I'm just getting started and I'm going to make the most of the time I have left.' And to be healthy and to be able to get up and appreciate the day and to live your yoga is so important."
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