Bill Proud, a masonry contractor from Philadelphia, isn’t your stereotypical yogi. The soon-to-be 60-year-old owns a construction company, runs a restaurant and is a real-estate developer. Additionally, Bill is a father and grandfather to 14 children and grandchildren. And until five years ago, he’d never stepped in to a yoga class.
Everything Bill does is with commitment, and his path to becoming a yoga enthusiast later in life is no different. When he was 55, he started yoga by joining a local, all-male class that felt more like a group of friends than a typical yoga studio class. The men-specific approach worked for him, and he’s since been attending class regularly. Bill shows no sign of slowing down, and he attributes his boundless energy to his yoga practice.
How did you first get into yoga?
I was actually at my grandson’s birthday party, and I saw my friend Dominic. He looked great, and so I asked him what he was doing to stay in shape. He told me about this men’s yoga class he was doing. He asked me to try it out, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Did it help to be in an all-men’s class?
I think it made me more comfortable when (my friend) told me about the environment of the class. As a guy, you think of yoga as mostly flexible women. The class environment sounded interesting to me.
That was my introduction to the world of yoga. One thing that came about, is that I became friends with so many people in the men’s yoga class. I’m usually twice the age of most of the guys, but everyone has respect for one another and cheers each other on. It’s a great thing.[
How do you benefit from a yoga practice?
So I went to my first class, and it was amazing. I’ve got to be honest, at the end of the class, after I meditated in the last pose, I had tears in my eyes because I hadn’t shut my mind down in years. It was the first time in years that I allowed myself to not think about work.
I saw my daughter after that first class, and she asked if I would go back to the yoga class. I said, ‘I have to! I need it for my mental state. It was unreal.’
I keep myself in pretty good shape. But doing the type of work I do, masons are known for having bad elbows and knees. It’s just part of the trade. It’s so bad that when you’re hitting your late 50s or 60s, you’re usually hanging up the tools. When I first came into the class my knees were bothering me. I had a torn meniscus. I kept surgery and the pain at bay for three or four years. I really think that coming to class and staying with it prevented me from getting surgery. There’s no doubt that without yoga I would not be able to do this kind of work.
How does yoga help you off the mat?
It lets me live the active life I like to live. It also helps me to be light-hearted and willing to do anything. I took my grandson to the water park last week, and we were going up and down the steps and down the slides. Their parents sleep late while I take them (my grandkids) biking or to the park in the morning. Yoga helps me get around and be a better grandfather.
With my kids and grandkids, they know me for being a jokester. They saw the videos of me in forearm stand on the beach. They all got a kick out of it. Last summer, I had my family at the shore. I was doing push-ups with them on my back.
What advice would you give those who are older and considering yoga?
With yoga, don’t be discouraged. When you get to class, you just do whatever you can to the best of your ability. I went into it with all different pains and problems, and it worked its way out. I never get back pain anymore. And I had a herniated disc in my back in my 20s.
If you just show up, you will see improvement, no doubt.
What are your favorite poses? Which ones help you the most and why?
One of my favorite poses is pigeon because my knees get sore, and I always want to keep stretching them. It’s hard for me, but it helps me the next day. Pyramid pose is great too because it stretches my hamstrings.
Inversions, especially handstands, I love because they’re just fun. My shoulders and back are the strongest part of my body, and I feel like inversions are my strength.
What’s your goals moving forward with your yoga practice?
For me, moving forward, I want to get more relaxed and focus more on meditation. I have to balance my work and life. You live in a fast-paced world. Thank god I found yoga because it at least slows me down a little bit. I hope to do it more and more.
Full wheel pose is my goal for age 60. I can’t wait to bring my grandkids to class. That’s huge. I like to share the yoga experience with other people.
Starting Yoga in your 50s was originally published on U.S. Health News & World Report.
Article written by Jake Panasevich, US News. Practice with Jake Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30am and Wednesdays at 5pm. Register here!
Jake is a yoga teacher in Philly specializing in yoga for men and office workers. He is also a yoga trainer for professional athletes. Listen to Jake’s recent interview on NPR. You could also learn more about Jake in his featured articles in Men’s Health, Huffington Post and US News. Visit Jake’s website at yogawithjake.com.