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.

 


Body of Wisdom

Over the past few weeks I’ve been starting my days in a new way: reading Katy Bowman’s Movement Matters. (And that’s not happening just because I’m managing social media for Propriometrics Press).

The thing is, I love big ideas. And even more than that, I love big ideas that I can bring to bear on my life in tangible ways. I still find it astonishing that a book can deliver a person up to all that. But then again, I believe in the power that books have to open minds and seed meaningful change in our world.

I’m a pretty active person. I also work at jobs that have me staring at screens and tapping lightly on keyboards a lot of the day, so getting to use my body to experience the world became, and remains, vitally important.

The place I currently call home, Halifax, Nova Scotia, affords me some of the lifestyle that balances out my screen time. It also happens to be a port visited by numerous cruise ships, mostly during the gorgeous fall we often get. And it was on one of those autumn mornings that I took the long way to work, through one of our city’s most expansive public parks, which leads down to the North Atlantic Ocean.

I walked through some forest, down to the water and along the coastline for a bit, then past some shipping yards as I worked my way back to our mid-size city streets. En route, I passed a kind of ocean parking lot: where cruise ships from around the world anchor and where tourists disembark to see what they can see.

Chalk it up to the fact that I had been reading #MovementMatters, chalk it up to how everything was sparkling in some very beautiful morning light, but I was noticing things I hadn’t noticed before: like the road signs for pedestrians, the signs for cars, the parking lot full of cars, and the fact that I was the only pedestrian around at that time. And in the background? A cruise ship that had—what was that?—a giant plastic giraffe on its upper deck, wearing a bright pink life preserver. And looking down to the other end of the upper deck, a huge, and I do mean huge, screen. Think Jumbotron you can see from miles away. At sea.

It occurred to me that we may not have intended this in our dogged contemporary pursuit for more “leisure” time, but from my vantage point that day, it sure looked like we’ve reached a level of confusion about it all.

How did we get here? I blame the giraffe in the pink life preserver.

OK, blame might be too harsh. I love giraffes. But I’d argue that our cruise-ship friend, and even the cruise ship itself, is a fantastic symbol of where we all find ourselves. If I hadn’t read Katy’s book, I’m not sure I would have found the language for this, but I think I have some now: we’re getting it backwards. We’ve traded our natural tendency toward movement for epic bouts of sedentarism. And hey, I love relaxing as much as the next person. But I’ve noticed (you, too?) how relaxation doesn’t really do the trick after a long day of doing nothing, physically, already…

I always wondered if I was a bit odd (affirmative!): not really loving the gym, opting to walk to and from grocery stores carrying heavy bags, eagerly volunteering to help friends move or paint rooms in their houses. (Katy calls this “stacking your life.”) I’ve always loved using my body in the service of human living, and I realize I love the communal effort, too. And now, as I do even less sitting in chairs, add more movement throughout my day as often as I can, turn away from screens to look more at the sea and sky, and talk with our organic farmers who feed us so well, the more I don’t crave “leisure” as much as I crave connection with the world we all live in and with the people in it.

I used to dance tango a lot (and when I get back to it, I’ll be trying it without the high heels. Thanks, #WholeBodyBarefoot). It was my first profound lesson in the power of connecting with my own body, attending to the cues of another body, and witnessing the ability of the human machine to pick up on a great deal of non-verbal information—from music and rhythm to microscopic moves emanating from my dance partner’s lead to listening to my own intuition. While embroiled in a tango that sometimes would work really smoothly for a few seconds, a beautiful thing got created that was much, much bigger than the two of us.

So, I’m a believer in the sheer awesomeness of the human body and what that means as we move about planet Earth. I’ve got my own batch of gathered evidence. But it’s Katy’s #MovementMatters that has offered me not just a new vocabulary, but a new, dot-connected way of understanding the world.

What we do with our bodies matters. And that extends way, way beyond my immediate space. I feel the responsibility and the thrill of that. And I also feel tapped into a source of clarity about what being a human connected to the world means. Based on my own experience, it’s the moving of my body that delivers me back to that clarity when a lot of the signs and signals around me are saying something different. I’m happier, yes, but I’m also trying to be a better citizen. And it starts with a simple calf stretch in the morning. Amazing.

I love this line from Katy in #MovementMatters: “When striving for an evidence-based life, consider that your most relevant evidence is your body.”

To that I’ll add, without putting too fine a point on it: Vive la révolution!

(Giraffes welcome).

By: Tracy Picha


Movement Matters, in its natural habitat

There are relatively few moments in life in which every single thing seems perfect. So when one comes along, you grab it and hold it tight. Or, at least, I do. Such was the case in early November, when eighty or so of us gathered in Half Moon Bay, California, for the launch of Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement, by Katy Bowman.

First of all, the setting. Exquisite. We were so fortunate to be hosted by Doniga Markegard and her family on their working cattle ranch. The green and gold hills rolled by, dotted with cattle, the mountains rose behind them, the Pacific Ocean waved in the distance. Doniga and her husband Erik are the finest kind of people, and gave us such a warm welcome to the beautiful land they farm. The weather, too, was perfect. Balmy and sunny, with just a gentle breeze, hardly a cloud in the sky, no veil of fog.

Katy wanted a forage-and-farm-to-table meal, in keeping with the themes she explores in Movement Matters, and we found a perfect chef in Kevin Koebel of Local FATT (Food Awareness Through Teaching). Chef Kevin was entirely unfazed when I told him we wanted our guests to participate in some way in making the meal they were going to share with each other. In fact, this is the basis of what Chef Kevin does. So on the appointed day, he marshaled our eighty-or-so guests and got them working on cooking, assembling, and serving delicious appetizers, as cows milled around and the sun slanted across the hills. This act of making and serving food together turned our eighty guests into a cohesive group; fast friends were made, along with tasty bites!

As the sun began to drift down toward the horizon, we raised our glasses and made a toast to water—“not just a condiment for your meal,” Katy said, “but the earth’s blood.” Water is life, we agreed, thinking of the WaterKeepers and all those at Standing Rock, and we savoured our water before the meal was served.

The sun set, the air grew chilly, and Chef Kevin served platter after platter of incredible locally-sourced food. Cowbells punctuated conversation. Friendships were renewed and solidified. As guests began to think about drifting off into the night, coffee and hot cocoa was served, alongside bowls of fair-trade chocolate from Santa Barbara Chocolates. We stood together in small groups, hot drink in one hand, handful of chocolate in the other, finishing conversations that had woven through the party, saying goodbye for now. A sweet end to a sweet evening. We are so grateful to everyone who worked to make our party a success, to everyone who made the journey to celebrate Movement Matters with us, and to everyone who took an interest from afar! Thank you!

Another take on the evening can be found here, courtesy of Martin at Soft Star shoes.


By the Book: Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well

It’s October, and here on the eastern edge of the continent, that means changing leaves, frosty mornings, and earlier nights. The urge to cocoon is strong—but the season also offers amazing opportunities to be outside, a literal farmers’ market’s-worth of fresh, amazing produce, a deep desire to batch-cook soups and sauces, and, if we’re being honest, a to-do list as long as my arm.

We’re readying new books for publication this fall, getting our spring list in order, and dreaming of future projects to share with you, too. It can make for long days in the Propriometrics Press office—and it’s work that we love, so it’s easy to lose track of everything else while our noses are to the grindstone.

Which is why I’ve been making a few minutes every day to really think about the wisdom contained in one of the books we’re bringing out this fall. We published Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well on October 1, and authors Galina and Roland Denzel will hold a launch party for the book on October 15 in Orange County. We’re pretty excited about that. We worked hard on this book all year, and we’re pumped that it’s available now in stores and online. That part is all great. But one of the true perqs of this job is getting to dive deep into inspiring material every day. With Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, it’s the four key chapters identified by the Denzels as the ones readers should start with: The Sunday Food Ritual, Tame Your Sugar Monster, Walk More Today, The Dynamic Office.

It’s fitting this book is published in October, a perfect time to fully explore what these lessons have to offer. That Sunday Food Ritual chapter is about finding the time—making the time—to commit to setting yourself up for healthy food success all week by spending an afternoon or evening doing some batch cooking. img_2701In the example the Denzels give, you make a simple slow cooker pork pot roast with vegetables, which gives you enough for Sunday night’s supper, and two more suppers later in the week. Just the words slow cooker pork pot roast make me want to hit the kitchen—and thinking about having three suppers done and dusted in one go fills me with glee. Chilly October nights seem like a perfect time to get into this habit.

And I’m ever mindful that the holidays are approaching, with all their sugary delights, so October also seems like a good time to find a way to tame my sugar monster. There’s an abundance of fresh fruit to be had—plums, peaches, apples, pears, there are even still strawberries in my farmers’ market most Saturdays, though I’m sure there can’t be many strawberry Saturdays left. img_2705I’ve been savoring that fresh fruit as it comes in, and doing my best to can and preserve as much as I am able for the long winter nights to come. And with the cooler temperatures here, both day and night, Galina’s advice to sip a sweet-tasting herbal tea like licorice or rooibos feels like exactly the right thing to do while I contemplate my relationship with sugar, and why I want to be in charge, rather than letting sugar run the show.

And then there is the glorious exhortation to Walk More Today. It is the constant entry on my to-do list. No matter how much I walk, I can always walk more. This morning I kept my regular weekly appointment with a couple other writers at the central branch of the public library, downtown. Then I walked part-way home with one of the writers, stopping in at our local bookstore on the way, and chatting about our work as we went. We split off in different directions and I loped along, drinking in the impossibly clear, impossibly blue October sky, the heartbreaking reds and yellows and oranges of autumn leaves, the feeling of the sunshine on my skin, the expressions on the faces of the people I passed as I walked, and the company of my own thoughts. img_3457I concentrated on my gait as best I could, and then I just let my attention wander. I thought about the project I’m writing, and about the work awaiting me in the Propriometrics Press office. I returned to my desk feeling refreshed and nourished by my time outside, spent walking.

Speaking of my desk! I loved Roland’s chapter on The Dynamic Office. When I had a full-time media job, I sat for years and years, until finally one day I rebelled against the sit-down culture and made my own stand-up desk. Then I stood for years and years. Then I quit that job, and came to work for Propriometrics and started doing my work sitting on the floor, or lying on the floor, or while walking to the store, or standing in the kitchen, or—well, you get the idea. I’d do my work wherever I could, in as many different positions as I could. But not everyone has that kind of flexibility (if you will). Maybe you have to sit at a desk, and if that’s the case, Roland offers ideas and advice to make your desk time more dynamic, and, importantly, to make your non-desk time more dynamic to counteract all that undynamic desk time! fullsizerenderHis advice to keep a log of your daily time spent sitting was also world-rocking. I thought I was pretty dynamic—but there are always more ways to move.

And on that note, it’s time for me to get up, stretch a little, maybe get a cup of licorice tea, and walk to the store to get some supplies for supper for tonight and beyond. Sometimes the Sunday Ritual is really the Wednesday ritual. But as the book says, it doesn’t matter when you do it, so long as you get it done!


Feel better—today!

EWMWLW-store-coverBehind the scenes here at Propriometrics Press we’ve been busy editing, proofing, designing, amending, editing some more, proofing some more, designing some more, proofing one more time and then finally sending off to press our forthcoming book Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, by Roland and Galina Denzel. And amid all that proofing and editing and designing has been so much excitement about this book. The subtitle is 52 Ways to Feel Better in a Week, and it’s been so amazing to have this sneak peek opportunity. Despite the long hours we’ve been pulling getting this book ready to go, we’ve also found time to incorporate some of the Denzels’ lessons in our own daily lives—and we’re so totally super stoked that it’s time to give you a chance to do that, too! In other words…

We are pleased to announce the pre-sale of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well! Click over to our pre-sale page for all the details. And note, we’re so excited about this book, we’ll pick up the shipping and handling on your order! And we’re offering four of the Denzels’ favorite lessons free when you order, and access to a free online course with Roland and Galina, starting next month. Don’t delay—feel better today!