Conscious Coupling : a later in life couple discovers a second home in yoga

By Gayvin Powers

Photography By Amy Young

It has been said that couples who play together, stay together. Sharing a common interest, working together, improving health, wellness and appearance can bring couples closer. There is also something to be said for having an accountability partner who has your best interest at heart. It can be challenging when your spouse is your accountability partner; however, the best couples find a way to play upon what works.

For Theresa and John Gagan, exercising together and being healthy has become a habit that has brought them closer together. Theresa shares that one of the aspects she loves about John is that, “John and I have, as different as we are, the same value system. In disagreements, there is never a spark of disconnect. And we still inspire each other with new ideas, thoughts or items on our bucket lists.”

After all, John inpsired Theresa to go in a hot air balloon, thus crossing it off him bucket list. Theresa was terriby afraid at first. However, John’s zest for life, search for knowledge and adventure rubbed off on her. Once she got over the fear of the balloon ride, she was exhilerated, joking  that now she’s ready to get her pilot’s license.

Equally, John appreciates Theresa rising to the challenge, saying that he believes one of the reasons the marriage works is that “we share so many of the same interests. She’s willing to take off on any of my hair-brained schemes and adventures.”

This isn’t the first time OutreachNC has interviewed the Gagans. They were one of OutreachNC’s first couples featured in the March, 2010 issue about John recovering from illness after changing his diet to vegetarian. What readers didn’t know was at the time, Theresa and he were newly wed three years earlier. That’s right. The Gagans had a later in life marriage that was unexpected and turned out to be a blessing in many ways.

She’s grateful for the life, love and lessons John brought to the relationship, including honoring that he was a widow from a long, happy marriage with his first wife that produced two beautiful children. All of that, plus his adventure keeps the relationship strong. “He’s still eager to be a learner,” says Theresa. “He still learns languages and picks up new books to read. He’s very adventurous.”

In recent years, John had an interest in yoga and thought Theresa would make a great instructor. For Theresa, yoga becama a welcomed activity that she

enjoyed and, in return, shared with her husband.

John welcomed the new practice. Over the years, all of this excitement and adventure have come at a price. Years of ignoring injuries and getting older had turned a once simple irritation into a very painful situation. As a special forces retiree, John had a series of ailments that have bothered him over the years. In September of 2014, with the encouragement of Theresa, he started practicing yoga more regularly to help with his shoulder that he could barely move. In wanting to avoid surgery, John was open to other possibilities. Yoga seemed a good fit.

Soon after starting yoga, John noticed increased mobility in his shoulder. As of January 2015, he states that his shoulder mobility is almost healed with very little pain left.

Many couples who start a healthy practice together end up becoming closer because of it. The increased activity, involvement and interests have strengthened the Gagans’ relationship. Theresa sums up her adventuraous life with John by saying, “I knew he was the one because my heart knew it found a home.”



Known as the exercise where people “take a two-hour nap while getting massaged,” restorative yoga has a lot of healing properties for people while they age and those who are recovering from injury. Dawn Avent, an instructor at Cool Asana in Southern Pines, shares with each of her classes that during this type of yoga, all the instructors are there to provide care for the participants.

It’s not surprising that it’s so relaxing, considering that restorative yoga balances the nervous system back to a parasympathetic state. When people are in fight or flight (like combat veterans), the sympathetic nervous system is at work. Over prolonged periods of time, it can wreak havoc on the body. Simple positions that activate the parasympathetic nervous system can balance the body and put it in a state of relaxation.

Avent, who assists the Gagans in their practice, highlights some of the health benefits to people over 50 who attend a restorative yoga class.

How many poses are done in the two hours? 

Six  to eight poses are held. A couple instructors walk around the room assisting and massaging the students while students are in the yoga positions. It helps the students relax.

Why is restorative yoga beneficial? 

It relieves the tension from the sympathetic nervous system being activated and relaxes the body.

What are the benefits to people over 50?

It’s an easy class to become familiar, especially in the cool environment so people don’t have to be concerned about the heat. People over 50 have been beating up their bodies for a long time and restorative yoga is beneficial for that.

What is the take-away from restorative yoga?

There are many. There is balance. It’s gentle and powerful. You’ll notice for the next few days that you’ll sleep better and have higher energy levels.

What do you love most about restorative yoga?

I know how I feel after a massage. I’m floating. The weight is lifted off my shoulders, everything is right with the world. When I see people leave, they have that same look on their faces.

What was the best comment you heard from a student?

I overhead a husband tell his wife, “I can’t believe you haven’t told me about this. It’s like adult nap time.”