Spring loaded

As a company of book lovers, we equate any change in the season with an opportunity to talk about the books we are reading, planning to read, or have recently read. Here in the northern hemisphere, spring is springing, bringing days of longer light, chirpier birds, and a feeling of excitement about the coming weeks and months of warmer weather and beach days.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For me, any spring read is one I can take out into the garden with me, but since I live on the east coast of Canada, and spring is being quite pokey this year, I have to content myself with reading near a big window, supervising the slow melting of the snow that currently covers my garden. To that end, there are a couple of old gardening books my parents, both avid gardeners, passed down to me. I page through them every early spring, dreaming of getting my hands dirty when the big melt finally comes. I’m also digging in to Baseball Life Advice by Stacey May Fowles as that season once again heats up. And lately I’m finding I really want to prioritize the voices of women. To that end, Penelope by Sue Goyette always has a place on my shelf, as does anything by Alice Munro, in this case the amazing Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. And I’m loving dipping into Startle and Illuminate, a book of writing advice from Carol Shields.

 

 

Rounding out this stack are reference books that feel luxurious. I want to eat everything that Deb Perelman cooks, so I love reading—and cooking from—her book Smitten Kitchen Every Day. The Hidden Lives of Trees I am slowly making my way through, a pace I’ll likely pick up as the leaves return outside my windows. And then there is Lists of Note, a perfectly odd compendium of lists by people like Sylvia Plath and Jack Kerouac, Edith Wharton and Captain Beefheart. As a lifelong lover of lists of all kinds, I am infatuated with this book. The thing about lists is that they can reveal much more than mundane details—everything from love to grief, to writing advice, to notes on how to be a good person are detailed here. And finally, an Italian translation of The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I don’t read this one so much as dream of being able to read it. Still, I like to open it and practice my pronunciation and challenge my comprehension.

 

Publisher and author Katy Bowman‘s stack


What are “spring reads”? To me they are those books that are grounded in the season OR they are books that help you do some deep cleaning. I read Animal Vegetable Miracle every year as I try to remind myself why I want to get out in the garden. Gathering Moss, Mind of the Raven, and The Home Place are books about an aspect of the natural world—and spring is where you’ll find me watching more birds, sitting on bare earth trying to pick things apart with my hands and eyes. Eat Well Move Well Live Well—while this is “52 Weeks of” book, I’m going to pick just a couple small chapters (“Fermenting” and “I Have Needs,” if you must know) and make that part of tidying house. Along those same lines, How to be a Better Person is like Spring Cleaning for my soul. “400+ ways to make a difference in yourself—and the world”, and I seem to need reminders for about 395 of them!

 

Co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well Roland Denzel’s stack

That big book is by Seth Godin, and it’s called What does it sound like when you change your mind? It got it when I attended one of Seth’s talks. It’s really heavy. Fifteen pounds, and because I didn’t know I was going to get it, walked to his talk. That meant I had to walk back. With the book. A couple of miles. That, my friends, is nutritious movement. The perfect spring workout. By the way, the book is so big and heavy that we put if on a book stand like it’s the Bible or a unabridged dictionary. We read it every day. It’s all kinds of big.

Next up is Orient Express, by Silvena Rowe. It’s our second cookbook of hers. It’s like if Mediterranean and Bulgarian cuisine had a love child that was extremely photogenic. Totally worth it. The book is filled with amazing fresh vegetables and vibrant spring colors that will probably look brown on Instagram.

Dawn Again was hidden on my wife’s side of the bed, and our ‘spring clean’ brought it forward, so now I can finish it. Good timing, because there so much about the outdoors in there. Spring is the perfect time for the inspiration.

Tacos, by Mark Miller. This gift from Galina has an amazing recipe for Tacos Al Pastor. I love everything about tacos, Galina, and al pastor.

Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m., by Sam Wasson. This is all about Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The making of, the angst of, Audrey, Truman, Fred. All of it. In Truman Capote’s book, Holly is a prostitute, and I’m reading this book and I’m like “OMG, I was so blind…” How embarrassing.THEN… we watched again, and I wasn’t blind. Holly is not a prostitute in the movie at all. They made her a ‘society girl’ or something like that. Something that doesn’t really exist, like the fun, jazzy cocktail parties that we wish actually went on all the time in the early ’60s. I’ll probably watch it again soon. I love that movie.

That thing on the top is my kindle. That’s where I keep most of my science fiction and vampire stories. Vampires prefer winter, so for spring, I’ll be focusing on the stars.

Debbie Beane keeps the wheels moving at our sister company Nutritious Movement, but she’s just as big a word nerd as the rest of us.

 

All of my books right now are centered around growing and exploring, which are often put on hold as the snow piles up around here. We’re still waiting for it to melt (to stop falling, really) so some vicarious living through books is in order. Words for the Wild is my trail-side inspiration, and I’m re-visiting the essays with my kids as we get closer to backpacking season. Closer to the Ground is one I’ve been meaning to read for over a year now, but it starts in the spring (or rather, as the author is Ready For Spring To Start), so now’s the time to begin. California Field Atlas: exploring my home state anew with this beautiful inspiration to travel and be outside. Robbing the Bees is a cool history of humans and honey, as I try to decide whether this is the year we try again with bees. The Earth Speaks is a childhood friend, also re-reading with my kids. Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate is about gardening both the earth and the mind, apropos of spring, and July and Winter is to help me figure out how to grow more than just lettuce and peas in my short Tahoe growing season.

 

Co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well Galina Denzel’s stack

 

My spring reads are the books that point me back to what is wanting to be born or be renewed. Right now, my spring reading shelfie looks like this: Blue Horses by Mary Oliver and The Chaos of Longing by k.y. Robinson—I read and write poetry, and the more writing wants to emerge, the more I find inspiration and company in poetry. There is a discipline in being available to the writing that wants to happen and reading others’ poetry helps me stay open to it. The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, as there are beautiful daily encouragements to keep looking out, yet staying connected to looking in. Belonging by Toko-pa Turner is one of the most moving reads I’ve held in a while, and invites us to embrace our deepest nature, and re-remember the skill of belonging and find our way back, both rooted and free. The archetypes in the book, like spring, are eternal and repeating, and invite what is eternal in me to show up. Standout 2.0 is my reminder that I have practical strengths in the world, and is a great teacher in how to show up at work and in the marketplace, with ease and grace, showing my greatest talents. It’s very affirming and has been a great professional companion for me and our work online. And last, but not least, I am re-reading Dynamic Aging—as I have committed myself to support my goldener students and create a local book club for them. I am inspired by the stories and women in the book and am preparing to pass on the spirit of Dynamic Aging—if there is a message of continuous renewal and hope through movement, this book is it.

Co-author of Dynamic Aging Lora Woods’ stack

My reading this spring is Rick Steves’ Portuguese Phrase Book and Dictionary + his Portugal.  Fado music is in my immediate future as my brother and I are backpacking (and driving) around Portugal for 30 days. My most common phrase will be Fala ingles? or Do you speak English?

Propriometrics Press designer Zsofi Koller’s stack

 

Spring is a time of expansion and movement, and these are all titles, that to me, explore pushing the edges of our current realities. Be it against our social and mental constructs (Fight Club), our gendered boundaries (Women Who Run with the Wolves), our own natural settings and movement (Wild) or the fantastical explorations of the imagination (The Space Trilogy), I love how spring creates new growth and fresh possibilities.

What about you? Are there books  to which you return each spring? Or is there a stack of new-to-you reads just waiting for your attention? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know!


#practicewhatyoupublish and other tips for holiday season happiness from our authors

For the last several months, I’ve been participating in a challenge to walk a hundred kilometres in a month, alongside two of my siblings, and a bunch of our childhood friends. This month, the online group in which we report our progress and egg each other on, is called “100 km in Crazy December…We Got This!!”—a nod to the way December seems to zip by in a cloud of twinkle lights and shortbread cookies, with one’s best intentions scattered like so much shredded wrapping paper after a gift-exchange frenzy. Without that kind of external motivation and accountability, I know it’s easy for me to forget I live in a body at all. My month is shaping up to include lots of time at my desk (book rewrites are coming my way this week, plus there’s the work I do here at Propriometrics Press and on Katy Says, the bi-weekly podcast from our author Katy Bowman), lots of time at my sewing machine (making Christmas presents for family and friends, and yes, for myself!), and lots of time in the car (my husband and I drive eighteen hours to see my family at Christmas).

All of this, plus the usual hustle and bustle of the season, could set me up for a stressed out, sedentary month. But I’ve been thinking about the hashtag we use on social media: #practicewhatyoupublish, and I’ve asked some of our authors to share with me—and with you—their best tips. We hope you’ll find some inspiration for your own life here!

 

Galina Denzel, the co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, writes about meditation in that book’s chapter “Meditate on This.” But, she notes, “sitting meditation comes easier in those times when I have relative peace, life is in flow and I am not facing huge challenges. But with the holidays, there is more stress, more expenses, more travel, more preparations in our home. On top of it, we have a special holiday program, and our students need our attention, so technically, we put a lot on our plates.” So here’s how Galina embodies #practicewhatyoupublish:

While our life is rich with many amazing holiday experiences, it becomes harder to wake up and pull my cushion, sit and just drop into what’s in my body. And herein lies the paradox: the times when I most need to attend to my inner world is the time when I am least wanting to do it, because…there is stuff to do. Around this time of year I choose to do walking meditations instead of sitting meditations. It’s a way for me to combine two of my favorite ways to stay connected with myself at a time when walking comes easier than sitting. This way my walk to the store can become an opportunity to drop in and be with myself and attend to emotions, thoughts, sensations, connections that are tugging at my heart. I can do it on my way to or from work. I can do it while walking with my partner.

I usually choose one of three anchors for my walks. On some walks, I choose to attend to my breath, as I walk and become aware of certain thoughts, events, sensations, emotions or connections, I keep my awareness on my breath. This way I have a line connecting my attention to my breath and my whole experience organizes around it. A second anchor may be the ground. As I walk, I feel my contact with the ground—right, left, right, left—aware of the textures under my feet. A third anchor may be the colors around me—as my attention drifts I always come back to the colors and notice here is red, here is yellow. You can choose your own way to organize your walking meditations, and make this idea your own.

Practicing walking meditation is all about setting the right intention and can really transform how you feel through the holidays. To make it easier, I am sharing one of the walking meditations from our holiday program. Have a listen. (http://eatmovelive52.com/walking-meditation/)

Joan Virginia Allen is a co-author of Dynamic Aging:

During the holiday season, I am in the car a lot. Great opportunity to practice head ramping as explained in Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole-Body Mobility. For more information on head ramping, check out our blog entry “As Long as You Breathe, Change is Possible” at www.dynamicaging4life.com.

 

 

Doniga Markegard is the author of Dawn Again:

Winter brings time to breathe. Winter brings people together to sit around the fire and talk about the season, talk about our dreams, reflect, and imagine the future. I have been thinking a lot about the future. When you have kids it is hard not to. The changing climate, political system, and the rapid pace of tech growth are all subjects to talk about around the fire. There is something about sitting around the fire with other people that brings about a depth of honest conversation that is difficult to achieve in everyday passing.

I recently had the chance to sit around the fire at Wilderness Awareness School while I was on my book tour in Washington. This was the same fire I wrote about in Dawn Again. That was 20 years ago. It has been burning nearly daily since that time. Each year a new group of youth comes to gather around that fire and talk, cry, dance, dream, and imagine the future.

Pictured here, Doniga Markegard and her son Larry teaching Holistic Context-Setting to the Wilderness Awareness School apprentices

Katy Bowman, author of eight books, including Movement Matters:

My books are always about movement—specifically natural movement, transitioning your body to handle more natural movement, and where movement can fit back into your life. When it comes to movement, the holidays can be stressful because with the addition of so many extra “things to do,” the bout of daily exercise is the first to go. For many, it’s the least connected thing to other elements of life and so is the easiest thing to set aside when all the other plans come in.

Katy’s Hiking Advent invitation from 2016

The way I #PracticeWhatYouPublish is to, obviously, keep moving. I choose less convenient methods (read lots of things by hand!) of processing raw or foraged ingredients. I also like to celebrate with movement—to infuse the holiday with movement—so that we can move together (yay Vitamin Community!). I create exercise advents for my social media followers, giving them one exercise each day. I send out a “Week Before Christmas Hiking Countdown” letting our friends know where we’ll be hiking and at what time, and that they (or even just their kids) are invited. We hold a holiday-eve brunch for all our friends, often eating outside and then heading out for long walk down a local trail. In short, I’ve worked to make the holidays ABOUT moving. Movement is not only a great way through which to celebrate, movement should be celebrated. Movement is the gift!

Shelah Wilgus is a co-author of Dynamic Aging:

During the holiday season and any other time, I make sure to calf stretch several times a day. I leave a half foam roller in front of my sink in the bathroom. That way I can do a double calf stretch while brushing my teeth or just washing up. Detailed instruction for doing the calf stretch can be found in Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole-Body Mobility.

Alison Bernhoft is the author of Entropy Academy: How to Succeed at Homeschooling Even if You Don’t Homeschool:

I have a couple of Entropy-Busting Ideas which helped me keep the chaos at bay, at least as regards Christmas stockings:  early in the year, I hung up plastic grocery bags, one per child, on a rail in my closet kept exclusively for that purpose. (It’s a short rail, and we have six kids, in case you were wondering.)  As the months passed, the bags filled with odd items that I found on sale, with mementos of some of the trips we had made, maybe a CD from a concert we had particularly enjoyed. Then it was a simple matter to add the traditional English piece of silver money, apple and satsuma in the toe, then fill it up chocolates, brain puzzles, and a giant plastic candy cane filled with M&Ms.

Warning! Once wrapped, small presents become impossible to tell apart! THE ONLY WAY TO FILL STOCKINGS AND STAY SANE is to use different paper for each  child, (but the same paper for all that child’s presents.)

And Alison’s daughter Lorna adds:
The distinctive thing we did that comes to mind is extending the season and acknowledging the Magi by exchanging books on January 6, the Epiphany. Strong emphasis on extending the season!

As for me, I’m excited to apply some of these tips to my December, and I hope you are, too! In my family, we called January 6 Little Christmas, and there was always a special meal, and a small gift for everyone around the table. I loved the way it brought forward the warmth of the season into the new year. From everyone here at Propriometrics Press, may that warmth be your companion long after the last gift is unwrapped and the twinkle lights are packed away.

 

 


Nature school rules

As kids and parents everywhere get ready to get back to school—whatever that might mean in households and communities across the continent and beyond—we’re getting ready to publish Dawn Again, by Doniga Markegard. As well as being a memoir of Doniga’s time as a wildlife tracker and regenerative rancher, it is also a love letter to a nature-based education.

 

Doniga was fifteen years old and rebelling hard when she finally found her way to the Wilderness Awareness School near her home in Washington State. Attending high school through WAS changed Doniga’s life for the better (you can read more about that here), and the experience continues to ripple and reverberate through her adult life, and into the lives of her children, all of whom are also students at their local nature school in San Mateo County, California. And Doniga has kept her hand in, too. She’s an instructor at Riekes Center for Human Enhancement, bringing what she learned in nature school to a new generation of students.

Because Doniga is passionate about nature education, she’s looking forward to celebrating the launch of Dawn Again with an interactive Facebook Live event on Wednesday, November 1. We’re inviting nature school administrators and parents to take part, as well as anyone who’s curious about a nature-based education and whether it’s right for their family. The event is called What Comes After Nature School?, and it’s free and open to all who are interested.

The details:

What: An interactive Facebook Live event called What Comes After Nature School?

Who: Doniga Markegard, regenerative rancher, nature school graduate, author of forthcoming memoir Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild

When: Wednesday, November 1 at 4pm-5pm PST 

Where: Online, wherever you are! It’s all happening on our Facebook page

Why: To hear about Doniga’s nature school experience, the ways in which it prepared her for college and her adult life, and why she chooses it for her own children now, and to have your own questions about nature education answered

We look forward to seeing you there!


Golden days

I’ve written before about how we celebrate good news, here at Propriometrics Press. Well, the emoji strings were flying thick and fast Saturday night, as news broke that we had won not one but TWO gold medals at the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards.

Three of our books were nominated for Health Book of the Year: Diastasis Recti and Movement Matters, both by Katy Bowman, and Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, by Galina Denzel and Roland Denzel. Movement Matters was also nominated in the Essays category. Much to our delight, Movement Matters won the gold medal for Essays, and Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well picked up gold for Health.

Here’s how that news was received in our virtual office on Saturday:

 

Once we’d cleaned up after the confetti cannon, frolicked for a while in nature, and consumed all the virtual champagne and tacos, I had a chance to ask our winning authors what it meant to them to win a Foreword Indie.

“Although I’ve written many books, I still think of myself as a sort of blogger-turned-author,” says Katy Bowman. “Most of what I write is on the internet—in short bursts on social media or in the occasional article. And even though I write about the importance of movement to our physiological, social, and ecological models, my books have always been relegated to FITNESS categories, making it challenging to spread the idea that movement is critical to our bodies, lives, and planet to anyone but exercisers. Movement Matters won Best Essays! In a contest open to essays on all topics, with judges who are into books, and who are not necessarily into movement or exercise or fitness or even health! I’m excited because it means Movement Matters is accessible—interesting, even—to those outside of fitness, which is the most critical step in bringing the idea that movement matters to the world.”

Roland Denzel echoes that sentiment. “We’re honored and thrilled to have been nominated,” he says, “but overjoyed to have won. It’s wonderful to be recognized for our hard work, and when it’s by people outside of the health and fitness industries, it’s even better. This is the audience we’ve always wanted to reach and help, so when they appreciate our work, we know we’ve succeeded.”

And finally, I asked our editor in chief, Penelope Jackson, what went through her mind when she heard the news two of our books had won gold—especially in light of how new this company is, and how small our list is. She resisted the urge to reply in emoji strings and celebratory gifs (for once), and instead told me: “What I thought of first was all of the hours Roland, Galina, and Katy put into writing their magnificent books; all the time I and our other editors spent working with the text; the time Zsofi spent designing and laying them out; all the time you, Steph, have spent managing distribution and sales and printing. So much of the work that goes into a book travelling from an author’s mind to a reader’s hands is invisible, and that’s why these awards are meaningful. They are a recognition of all that uncelebrated labour. We know how special and brilliant our authors are, and we know that every minute of our work has been more than worth it—I’m so glad other people see it too.”

Emoji tacos and champagne for all!


Mother of all gardens

My mother has always been a gardener. Together, she and my father turned our suburban corner lot into a glorious green place, where we grew most of the vegetables our family of six ate in the summer, where we composted our organic kitchen waste (long, long before composting was trendy, or even understood by our friends and neighbors), and where we kids spent summer evenings picking stones out of the soil, and summer mornings harvesting endless rows of beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes so my parents could pickle, can, and otherwise preserve them.

Years passed, and our yard went through many phases, growing and changing as our family did. The huge garden gave way to a swimming pool and my parents continued to grow a few tomatoes and other favorites in raised beds my dad made. After he died, those went fallow, and then gave way to grass.

But this year, my almost-seventy-year-old mother decided she’s ready to grow some tomatoes again. There’s a decently sunny patch just off the deck in the backyard, but it was terribly unkempt, filled with raspberry canes and spring onions that had gone rogue from other parts of the garden, and a rhizome-spreading visitor from next door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom wanted three planting boxes, and a stone pathway she could use to get among them to do her work. So, on a recent visit in advance of Mother’s Day, my spouse knocked together three nice planters, and Mom and I got busy with shovels, rakes, and brute strength. We pulled out an old planter, dug out bags and bags of that invader from next door, harvested some spring onions and some nearby rhubarb, dug out and moved rocks that were in our way, and got the area ready to become a new garden.

This made for two day’s worth of bending, pulling, pushing, grasping, squatting, single leg squatting, reaching, and twisting, lots of barefoot-on-dirt time, and tons of fresh air. Not to mention the time spent hanging out with each other, working side by side, or resting on the deck, drinking water and congratulating ourselves on our hard work.

Mom wanted a path she could feel comfortable stepping down onto, and walking over, while she goes about her planting and weeding. Something that would provide both stability for her less-sure moments, and enough texture that she can continue to challenge her balance and give her bare feet some lumps and bumps to navigate.

My mom has just started reading Dynamic Aging, and while she doesn’t see herself climbing trees like Joan, Joyce, Shelah, and Lora, she is absolutely interested in aging well, maintaining the mobility she does have, and even gaining more if she can. She’s even getting back to her composting roots, albeit on a smaller scale than our garden’s earliest days.

I’ve been working to #stackmylife more consistently, and this project really lent itself to that philosophy: I moved more, and moved more of me, racked up some barefoot time, spent time with my mother, took care of a little patch of the Earth, enabled my mom to move more, and move more of her, and to divert some organic waste to her own backyard to feed the soil that will eventually feed her (and me, if I’m lucky!). Also, that’s Mother’s Day gift-giving done and dusted. A pretty efficient use of two mornings, I must say.

If you’re still looking for a gift for your mom, or for one you know, we’ve sorted some of our recent books into helpful piles for you! Find what you’re looking for at your favorite online or bricks and mortar book retailer, and Happy Mother’s Day to all who mark it!

 


Meet the dynamic women of Dynamic Aging

We talked with Katy Bowman’s four co-authors of her forthcoming book Dynamic Aging: Joan Allen, age 78, Joyce Faber, 79, Lora Woods, 75, and Shelah Wilgus, 78. Their stories, shared in more detail in the book, are seriously inspiring. (The book will be available in stores and online March 1… but pre-sale copies are available here.)

We’re all told that we have to accept certain things as we age. These women, who have been working with Katy for nearly a decade each, are proof that just isn’t true. We’re not talking about climbing Mt. Everest at 80 (but if that kind of goal gets you moving, go for it!), we’re talking about having agency over our own bodies by way of understanding and appreciating how our bodies work. And, of course, working with ourselves as we age so that we can enjoy active, healthy lives that are filled with vitality and engagement for as long as each of us is roaming the earth.

JOAN began working with Katy at age 71 after a long career as an attorney (imagine the amount of sitting over the years). She’s dealt with pelvic prolapse, chronic constipation and foot problems. Joan, now 78, gleefully reports numerous changes to her overall health in the past seven years: her chronic constipation has disappeared, she walks daily, regularly hiking three to ten miles and can walk comfortably in zero-drop shoes and barefoot.

Scheduled for major surgery to address her pelvic organ prolapse at age 72, Joan was able to side-step that, continuing to heal her body through movement instead. Joan says, “My balance is the best it has ever been—two years ago I walked barefoot across a log six feet above a rushing river, something I never thought I’d be able to do, and certainly not for the first time at age 77. My overall body strength has improved significantly. Changing how I move has changed my life.”

We asked Joan: Is there a moment that stands out for you, a turning point in your work with Katy when you realized what kind of change was possible for you?

A: There have been many moments that stand out for me over the past seven plus years of working with Katy that I would consider turning points. One was when my chronic constipation ended after three to four years of diligently practicing the correctives, getting off my butt, and adding more daily movement to my life. Another was when I was able to discard my orthotics and once again walk barefoot on the beach and in minimal shoes with no discomfort. The ongoing “moment” or “turning point” for me is knowing what to do and doing it in the way of correctives and movements that have kept and are continuing to keep my pelvic prolapse under control.

Q: What are some of the physical accomplishments of which you’re most proud?

A: Overcoming my overwhelming fear of getting on the BOSU. Now I practice on the BOSU on both feet with my eyes closed, list on one leg, can list on the inverted BOSU and actually teach BOSU classes—all of which has helped enormously with my overall balance. The other physical accomplishment I am so proud of is climbing and hanging from trees. But for Katy, I never would have thought of doing something like this “at my age.” What freedom and exhilaration!

Q: What would you say to someone who’s thinking, well, that’s nice for you, but I don’t see how it could work for me?

A: Try it—you might like it. And, what have you got to lose? Whether you start Katy’s movement program or not, with any luck at all you will continue to accumulate more years. What if, like good wine, you could get better with age or at least not lose ground?

SHELAH started classes with Katy at age 66 after retiring from her graphic designer job (read: sitting at a computer. A lot). She describes herself as a “life-long exerciser,” and explains that it was the “logic of the scientific theory of Katy’s program” that convinced her to take Katy’s training program.

Shelah also describes herself as “a work in progress” and a product of her long-term habits. (Aren’t we all!) It was when she was preparing for a trip just before her 75th birthday that she reached into her closet for a garment and twisted too far. The resulting back pain, she says, was evidence that something was very wrong, and a later MRI confirmed she had serious scoliosis accompanied by painful shearing of lumbar vertebrae.

It was after a month of doctor-prescribed inactivity, aside from short walks on level ground, that she was well enough to start the basic exercises offered in Dynamic Aging. Shelah notes: “Moving better doesn’t automatically mean you don’t get injured, but it makes you more resilient if you do.” She credits Katy’s teaching with giving her “the knowledge and tools to know what movements I can do, like hanging and core strengthening, and which movements I must be very careful doing— like twisting.” And today at age 78, she can walk three to four miles daily in relative comfort.

We asked Shelah, what were your expectations, as you began studying with Katy?

A: I didn’t have any, but from the first class it was clear to me this was not a regular “exercise class.” I loved the clear explanation and theory of each movement, something I had never encountered in any other movement class.

Q: What else is on your physical bucket list?

A: Working on ribs down, feet straight ahead, and hanging (upper body strength.)  I want to again be able to get up from the floor without using my hands, squat comfortably and do at least one pull up easily. And I would like to do some more long distance (10-20 miles a day) walking trips both in this country and abroad.

Q: What would you say to someone who’s thinking, well, that’s nice for you, but I don’t see how it could work for me?

A: Try it, what do you have to lose. It’s non-invasive and you are in control.

Q: What else would you like to say about the process of aging dynamically?

A: Be grateful and keep moving. Walking is (my) key to independence.

LORA was headed for the first of at least two surgeries that would have resulted in a complete knee replacement before she started to work with Katy. She says, “through my work as an RN and dance-movement therapist, I thought I knew and had experienced all the self-help modalities and was resigned to ‘the knife.’”

But after doing some of Katy’s exercises for two weeks, namely the calf stretches she learned, Lora began noticing that signs of her “restless leg,” which had robbed her of sleep for decades, had disappeared. It was that success, she says, that empowered her to cancel knee surgery and try more regularly the gentle knee-stretching exercises she’d learned from Katy for her frozen knee.

Now age 75, Lora can walk up to six miles at a time, which makes walking to all her in-town errands and appointments possible on what she refers to as her “original equipment.” She also says, “Incorporating the principles in this book into my daily activities has created opportunities to change life-long conditions I thought were just me.”

We asked Lora: Is there a moment that stands out for you, a turning point in your work with Katy when you realized what kind of change was possible for you?

A: I was skeptical but [engaging with the exercises fully]. The turning point for me—which I observed almost immediately—is that Katy has a completely different paradigm. This really works for those of us who want control in our lives. Early on in Katy’s program, I realized I had the power to change my projected future.

Q: What are some of the physical accomplishments of which you’re most proud?

A: I went on a Sierra Nevada packing/camping trip and faced eight miles mostly uphill the first day (that’s two miles more than I do without a 25-lb pack.) I got to the point of fatigue where I was shuffling and cursing myself for doing the trip. I considered my alternatives and found none, so I turned on my Katy-brain. I concentrated on rocking forward after each heel strike, and activating my toes in this way seemed to give me a little lift or boost. By the time one of my sons came back to find me I was well in control of the situation and he carried my pack for only about half a mile. And after that first day I needed no help!

Q: What would you say to someone who’s thinking, well, that’s nice for you, but I don’t see how it could work for me?

A: One success will lead you to many more. The power-of-the-body concept that Katy introduces you to is beyond expectation. So, one’s first success is rather like being set free of previously felt age limitations.

JOYCE navigated painful knee injuries for nearly 30 years; she tore the meniscus in one knee and the other knee was damaged shortly after from compensating stresses. Never enamored of the idea of surgery (skeptical it would bring actual improvement), Joyce leaned on various palliative measures over the years to mitigate her knee problems: limited walking, Tai Chi, gentle yoga stretching, daily pain medications, weekly chiropractic treatments, and massage therapy.

But when she started Katy’s program, she says, she began to understand her body for the first time from a biomechanical point of view and learned that injuries, pain, and inflammation are our bodies’ warning flags and that “we shouldn’t ignore them or power through them, but rather teach ourselves to heal using them as our guides.” She also says, “This whole-body model of wellness has taught me that our health is influenced more by our habits—the way we use, load, and live in our body—than by our age.”

Joyce will turn 80 this year. She’s had no surgery, has regained her ability to walk without pain or impairment and, as she puts it, lives with wellness in her body, mind, and spirit. “Whole-body movement has made this possible in my life and I feel strong and capable walking the path to healing and wellness.”

We asked Joyce: What were your expectations, as you began studying with Katy?

A: My expectation was that it would be just another version of Pilates, Yoga, or Tai Chi that I would need to learn yet again—another discipline and framework that would not give me any significant benefit. It seemed senseless and boring to me. I was not ready to choose surgery but did not have hope that there was another choice. I didn’t realize that there was a paradigm out there to heal the wear and tear on the body at the cause.

Q: Is there a moment that stands out for you, a turning point in your work with Katy when you realized what kind of change was possible for you?

A: Yes. I felt that excitement during the first lesson in her studio. Katy told about optimal cellular regeneration, how the body is a whole system affected everywhere by even the tiniest change. Doing the exercises with her was interesting for that reason and also because I felt aliveness inside and outside my body—and I realized that was important, very important to my health and well-being. Gaining that understanding was new and exciting to me—that how I learned to live in my body would directly affect my health.
Q: What are some of the physical accomplishments of which you’re most proud?

A: Walking effortlessly and aligned all day long! My car sits in the garage as I attend to my errands on foot each day, walking three to five miles or more. I gain my health directly from this habit. I’m most grateful to Katy for teaching me how to do this. I feel a sense of freedom, power and aliveness that is satisfying and connects me at a deep level to a vital source of my health.

Q: How would you describe your quality of life today?

A: Excellent, rich and fulfilling. Without Katy’s work, I would have had two knee operations, and one laminectomy for my cervical spine because of pain and loss of ability to move. My physical mobility would be compromised.

 


Beyond the book: Meet Ben Pobjoy

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If you’ve cracked into your copy of Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement by Katy Bowman, you’ve had the pleasure of encountering Ben Pobjoy, who wrote the foreword for the book. Ben has only been on our radar for a little while, but we’ve become fast friends, forged through movement. You can learn more about Ben and his inspiring story here. Meanwhile, we had a chance to catch up with him recently. Here’s how that went…

 You’ve written before about how you encountered Katy Bowman’s work. What was it about her message that resonated with you?

Katy unexpectedly landed on my radar when she appeared as a guest on a podcast. What’s peculiar about the resonance, is that it had as much to do with her message as it did the medium I first experienced her message through. Katy and her message are obviously brilliant, but it was the dialectical form of the podcast’s discussion that figuratively hammered her message into me. This podcast wasn’t just Katy opining about biomechanics into a microphone from a scripted speech, it was Katy participating in a well-rounded, long-form conversation where she was occasionally challenged by the host, and every time she was, she responded humanly and often humorously with even more evidence, insights or analogies that made her argument more compelling. In addition, she just had this fun and inspired timbre as well as what appeared to be a bright mind that was as imaginative and innovative as it was analytical and methodological. By the end of the podcast, I was just convinced. More so, I was awakened and inspired to move. I heard the podcast on January 14th 2015, began walking on January 18th, and have since logged over 10,000km in walks over the last 21 months. The short of it is, I caught the Bowman bug!

Why did it resonate at that time in particular, do you think?

I first heard Katy’s message on the tail-end of a decade of decline; where my ascending professional success had erroneously ushered in a seriously unhealthy degree of personal sedentarism. It wasn’t just that I was immobile and felt lazy, it was that my immobility was so bad that it was making me sick…and I was only in my early thirties! I knew I had a problem— one that was worsening— but I didn’t know how to solve it. I had tried to get fit with conventional forms of exercise but such either left me injured or the results were so slow to experience that I gave up. But, when I heard Katy speak about immobility as a disease of captivity, her articulation of ‘casts’, her ‘orca collapsed dorsal fin’ analogy as well as her scientific meets anthropological discussion of humans as primates / constantly moving hunter-gatherers, I was ENLIGHTENED! For me, it led to a profound paradigm shift where I saw the shortcomings of ‘exercise’ (especially within a larger lifestyle that’s sedentary) in stark contrast to the holistic value of a lifestyle rich in varied movement. It all just clicked, and the necessity of movement just clearly came into focus for me.

What kinds of thoughts did you begin having as you began to move more?

Initially, I felt a range of thoughts, and sometimes conflicting ones. Intellectually, I was convinced; I knew I had to move— Katy and her books thoroughly convinced me of such. However, I started walking in the dead of winter— up in Canada— and it was real tough out of the gates. I was severely out of shape, so it was physically demanding to trudge through the deep snow, deal with the subzero cold and endure brutal winds (that seemed to pass through any outerwear I wore). So, the first few months were hard. I’d heard Katy mention that 25% of our muscles exist below our ankles, and I understood this, but when I’d trudge the uneven snow or jerkily slip on ice, I didn’t realize every one of those muscles would ache at the end of the day, ha ha! However, I eventually improved my acclimatization and conditioning and moving became enjoyable. At first, it was stress busting; walking to and from work provided amazing ‘decompression time’ between my professional life and home life. Then, when spring and summer came around, moving outside just became awesome— especially as I developed the stamina to walk for a couple hours at a time. I just loved walking around outside, just being an observer to the weird and wonderful things the world has to offer.

At what point did you realize you needed or wanted to do some kind of social good along with your movement?

I work in advertising, and while it’s fast-paced and demanding, one upside is that I’m dispatched all over North America to make commercials. So, I do a lot of work travel, and beyond that, I’m fortunate to have the means to do a lot of personal travel around the world. Whether I was on work trips or personal ones, I’d walk, and I’d walk anywhere; from the nice parts of cities to the troubled parts. The more I travelled, the more I saw recurring patterns. While every city is different, every city is the same; poverty disproportionately affects women and children— and in Canada— our First Nations peoples. Witnessing this frequently, it just started to fuck with me on a deep level. There I was, this white successful dude— who’d been given every opportunity in life— that could now afford to voyeuristically drop into all these places. And, when I got there, I’d use my free time to work on my own self-improvement via walking. I just reached this point where I would look in the mirror from time to time and be like, “Man, if you don’t start moving beyond yourself and pitching in for the greater good, you’re a legit asshole of a human being!” Thereafter, I was out in Vancouver quite a bunch for work and I’d walk through East Hastings Street, which is this notorious street that’s riddled with homelessness and substance abuse. It’s a literal hell, one of the biggest failures of the Canadian state, and I just thought to myself, “This is completely unacceptable, and due to my apathy, I’m partially to blame.” So, I transitioned my physical movement into social movement thereafter and began distributing sandwiches to hungry people on the streets. It’s something I could do at home, it’s something I could do in hotel rooms, and I made it my mission throughout 2015. I recognize it’s a very small gesture that doesn’t change the system, but I’ve seen the small, temporary relief it provides to people so it has some worth on a micro level.

What can you say about the response with which your sandwich-delivering efforts were met?

In the fall of 2015, when it began to get cold in Canada, I wrote a post on Facebook about what I was doing. It wasn’t to boast or be self-righteous, it was just a plea to my friends— many of whom are these turkeys (myself included) with expensive road bikes or designer running outfits— to consider pitching in (with food, water or warm clothes) on their physical activities outdoors because I knew they could afford it, and because people on the streets needed it especially as it was getting colder. We’re all these poser wannabe athletes and I was like, “Hey, let’s cut the shit, and be honest- we CAN and SHOULD be doing something.” Much to my surprise, the post went viral— like really viral, people shared it around the world. Many were jazzed on the concept of converting their physical movement into social movement. The response was a little overwhelming because I was flooded with inquiries and media coverage, I did a national health campaign with one of the biggest brands in Canada, I was asked to be on podcasts and to do talks in front of powerful people in my hometown. The whole time I was like, “Man, I’m just this regular dude doing this D.I.Y thing in my spare time…I don’t really know what else to say?” I didn’t aspire to be the face of anything, and I’ve kept things at bay by saying, “No” to a lot of requests to ensure I don’t become one. If anything, I just want people to know that small actions can have big reverberations. So, practice kindness and move beyond yourself.

What changed in you and in your life, because of that?

Nothing and everything! Sometimes I get recognized as ‘sandwich guy’ around Toronto, and the one material gain I received from it all, was a barista giving me a free banana once when I ordered a coffee one morning, ha ha. I could’ve cashed in on it- public speaker agencies were reaching out to me to sign me as a speaker— but I turned it all down, just not my vibe or intention. Even the health campaign I did for a big brand, I didn’t ask for a fee, instead, a donation of $25,000 was made to an organization that promotes physical literacy to young people in Canada…which is rad! Throughout it all, it just taught me how powerful one’s small actions can be. I’ve had about 65 million other realizations about privilege and purpose and becoming a better ally to marginalized groups on my walks that— if I were to share them— they’d be so longwinded I’d crash the internet! But, if I’m being completely honest though, the most life changing outcome of all the walking and sandwiches— beyond the move to better health— is that I met the woman of my dreams on a walk of sorts. It’s literally the most insane and romantic story ever!

You’ve begun taking on longer and longer walks, and aiming for larger and larger social impacts. What happens to you while you are walking? During your recent walk from Toronto to Buffalo, for instance, what happened inside you?

Yes, I got into endurance walks while simultaneously trying to think of new ways to retrofit my physical movement in ways that will deliver the most value to people who need help. In September 2016, I decided to do a continuous 125km walk from Toronto to Buffalo for Sprott House, the first transitional housing program of its kind for LGBTQ2SA youth in Canada. It’s based in my hometown, and was a no-brainer because I’m trying to become a better ally to marginalized groups. The walk was both easier and harder than I imagined it would be. We estimated it would take 25 continuous hours and I did in just under 20 hours…averaging 08:54 a kilometre. In these types of walks, what happens inside of me, is that I just get into a flow state for hours at a time, and I can blaze a quick pace. I align my breathing with my heartbeat as well as my stride, and I just become this movement machine. It’s like I tune out, I’m not even thinking, I’m just moving and flowing. It’s an incredible thing. However, during the walk, my body did start to break down. I reached a point where I couldn’t retain all the water I was drinking. I had to keep peeing…and I feel bad because I peed all over this last town I walked through! Sorry small town whose name I won’t type! But, luckily this happened right near the very end of my walk. Originally, I set out to raise $2,500 for Sprott House and I ended up raising over $27,000…so when the going got tough, I thought about all the donors who pitched in, and that gave me the strength to finish the walk.

What would you say to someone who’s not sure their movement really does matter?

You matter, your movement matters, and how you move matters; not just for you, but for others as well. Unrestrained movement— to me conceptually— is the definition of freedom. So, in a way, how we choose OR refuse to move, is an expression of either freedom or captivity / oppression. And, I do not mean this in a way that pertains to ablism / disablism, I mean this in terms of the cause-and-affect of movement, intention and action. In capitalistic societies, if you’re outsourcing your movement (from growing one’s own food to transportation itself), the slack is forcibly picked up by people likely being paid unfit wages in questionable conditions or by machines that burn fossil fuels and pollute. And, if the aforementioned isn’t compelling, I’ll end with a personal examples of why movement matters; it helped me lose 100lbs and reconnect with my body, movement was meditative and enabled me to put myself in check, movement helped me feed people in my community as well as around the world, converting my movement into a platform for fundraising helped me raise over $50,000 for two important causes in 2016, and movement brought me into the orbit of an amazing partner I hope to spend the rest of my life with!