Wilderness Moves – Podcast Episode #94

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Katy Bowman and Doniga Markegard, author of Dawn Again, talk wilderness, movement, and moving in and with nature.


00:00:50 – Reader Question #1 – Squats and Pelvic Floor Disorder (Jump to section)

00:06:54 – Meet Donna Markegard (Jump to section)

00:18:13 – Why the book Dawn Again (Jump to section)

00:20:56 – Tracking anywhere – even in the city (Jump to section)

00:26:46 – The movements that go into tracking (Jump to section)

00:29:56 – Tracking for knowledge versus tracking for necessity (Jump to section)

00:36:11 – Stepping on kittens (Jump to section)

00:39:12 – Facing your fears (Jump to section)

00:44:39 – Reader Question #2 – Play-based learning and toys (Jump to section)

00:56:19 – Where’s Doniga? (Jump to section)

01:00:26 – Where’s Katy? (Jump to section)


Doniga Markegard

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Dawn Again book

ShiftCon in LA

Dynamic Aging Retreat in Scotts Valley, CA

Wilderness Moves Event with Katy and Doniga in Pescadero, CA

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It’s the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman. I am Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about movement. This show is about how movement works on the cellular level, how to change your position as you move, and why you might want to, and how movement works in the world, also known as movement ecology. All bodies are welcome.  Are you ready to get movin?




KATY: Hey all!  I am totally digging today’s episode with Doniga Markegard, wildlife tracker, and someone that embodies so much of natural movement. I want to dive in to this discussion but before I do, a listener question.  “K.B., I’ve read you recommend squats for pelvic floor issues but I have an organ prolapse and was told to avoid them. I’m confused. Can you help?”  I can, my friend. I can.  You can find more of what I’m about to say in the pelvis chapter of Move Your DNA but this is the short version. Squats are a category of many different movements. Like a deep squat to bathroom, for example is different from a deep squat with 50 or 100 pounds on your back, is different from the squat we use to get down to and up out of chairs, is different than a sustained toilet hover. Each of these has the English language “squat” attached to them but that we do that, that we name things the same does not mean that they’re the same physically. Only that they look similar to us in some way. My point with squats is how they relate to natural movement, movement nutrition, and movement ecology. The average parts of the human body are able to facilitate a deep squat and in a toilet free context, this would be well practiced every day of our lives. So squatting is a natural movement.  Technology, toilets, and chairs, have been created and mass produced, so sitting, resting, our bathrooming no longer requires squatting. However, the parts of our body still need to be moved in this way or a similar way to keep the physiology working well.  So many prolapses, then, can be viewed as a sign of movement malnutrition…or what happens when you pair organs that have a constant weight and a frequent acceleration which is the fact that when you move the things inside of you are moving slightly differently than the house that surrounds them, you’re pairing that with a mostly sedentary body whose strength to support comes about with movement. If squatting, then, is the missing nutrient, then adding squatting can take care of this issue. Right? That makes sense. You have a vitamin C deficiency, you take Vitamin C.  However, squatting isn’t the only missing movement nutrient here. And what’s different than dietary nutrition is that you’ve got a full grown body now trying to learn how to squat with all of your adaptations that can exacerbate the issue. And actually I’m not sure that it’s actually that different now that I think about it – that different than dietary nutrition. Because I know that if you’ve gone calorie free for a long period of time, or maybe even protein free for a long period of time, that to add in maybe your daily recommendations – that can make you ill. And I believe I saw this maybe in a documentary where they were talking about it was a starving population wanting to introduce food and it was like you have to really be careful. So this idea that there’s a need eventually out here but that you are a living system that has adapted to what you have been doing and that sometimes there’s steps in between that have to be addressed.  So, it would be more accurate to say that I recommend transitioning your body to be able to handle a squat – and this requires many things, not just squats and often I’d say to not do squats at all. It would be even more accurate to say that I recommend transitioning to many other movements besides the squat as well. I’d love to help everyone get to where they can squat or at least use their body to get down and up without creating a tremendous amount of downward pressure—which is why squats are often contraindicated. A squat to fix a situation in which you’re potentially bearing down will only add to the mix. So you want to work on your pressures first. The book recommendations for that, in order, would be, Diastasis Recti, Dynamic Aging, and Move Your DNA. The Healthy Pelvis DVD has those transitional exercises that will get you to the point of being able to do a squat to and from the chair without any downward pressure as monitored by you.

Here is a pro-tip: One of the reasons I recommend minimal footwear is because ankle and foot mobility can affect the mobility of your knees and hips. Which is also the mobility of your pelvis and your spine. For many, it is the ankles that don’t dorsiflex much (Dorsiflexion is a foot that’s angled uphill.) This limitation that then changes the “shape” or geometry of the gait pattern, which is a way that you walk and also the shape of your squat. This geometry, in turn, affects which muscles are recruited when you walk or squat. So, for everyone out there working on their feet, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, pelves – that’s right I said “pelves” – and squats, check into minimal footwear and transitioning into it properly.

This health tip, this alignment tip, brought to you today by Earthrunners minimal sandals. I am on my third pair—one of my straps broke in New Zealand. I posted a picture on Instagram breaking down the cost per mile of these shoes. I will link that in the show notes. And was happy to have, in the mail when I got back from New Zealand a pair of replacement straps. I don’t even need new shoes, just new straps. So thank you Earthrunners, and everyone else in the dynamic collective. These are a group of businesses that are sponsoring this podcast; especially these two questions where you get to ask me whatever is burning a hole down deep inside to help you on the road to more movement. So the collective is:  Unshoes minimal sandals,  Venn Design, maker of beautiful dynamic living space decor, MyMayu Outdoor Boots for kids, and SoftStar, shoes made by elves, in addition to Earth Runner. For more info on these companies, go to the show notes—click listen, click Podcast Transcripts – they’re linked on top of each episode’s notes. Let’s get to it!

Doniga Markegard is my guest today. Doniga has a background in wildlife tracking, holistic management, and permaculture. Along with her husband Erik and four children, Doniga lives on a coastal ranch in San Gregorio, CA. Doniga is passionate about finding ways to regenerate lands and community through practices that build soil, sequester carbon, capture and purify water and enhance the habitat. Doniga has an immense passion for the natural world and helping others live a life of balance with the earth and all living things, leading a life of example where her own actions are deliberated into the health of the future generations. Doniga is the author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild. Doniga Markegard, hello, welcome to Move Your DNA.


DONIGA: Hi Katy!  It’s great to be on!


KATY: So, full disclosure or I guess this is…full disclosure sounds so negative!


DONIGA: We have a secret here, right?


KATY: A secret past!  I heard Doniga on a podcast. I believe it was a Modern Farm Girl podcast which is now…


DONIGA: Sustainable Dish. Diana Rogers.


KATY: Diana Rogers, Sustainable Dish. And actually it was just her that interviewed you and you were just telling the story of tracking wolves. And it was kind of like my other life. I have a movement life and I have an interest in trying to become a better farmer, homesteader. For a long time, those were two separate facets. It’s only in the last 3-4 years that I’ve realized how much that they’ve actually merged. So I was listening to this farming podcast and then here is a wildlife tracker who is talking about when … I mean you were still a teenager at this point. Right? Were you 19 or 20 when you were running, you know, you would run 20 miles. You got out, they dropped you off with a water bottle and you run 20 miles into the forest and you’re just tracking these alpha wolves.


DONIGA: Yeah I was probably more like 16, 17.


KATY: Oh my gosh!


DONIGA:  Yeah.


KATY: So I heard her on this podcast and I had a visceral reaction. And I really follow the way that I, for as much of a thinker as I am I realize that I usually am nudged by my full reactions – emotionally or, an upwelling from inside and then I quickly with my brain go “d-dododod”. I sent an email. You were hard to find online. Didn’t even have social media I don’t think. And I sent you an email to say – because I have a publishing company – I said, “If you have a book inside of you, I would like to publish it.”  And I think it was that bold. It was pretty bold.




KATY: And so here we are. Dawn Again has only been out for a little bit and doing amazingly well.  The reviews are amazing. The coverage is amazing. So I want to talk about the content in Dawn Again which is you took that story and you tied it into, it’s like a wilderness memoir. If you were to explain Dawn Again to my listeners how would you?


DONIGA: Thank you Katy for following your intuition and contacting me because I did have a book inside of me and so to explain Dawn Again, really it’s about my journey starting from a young woman of very deep questioning and curiosity and a drive to get in touch with my senses, my instincts, my sort of calling in life. And experience that through none other than nature as a way to connect with myself. And so I didn’t want to follow any path of some typical man because that’s who has written a lot the books and even when I was going to school a lot of the heroes were men. And so I really forged my own path without having a lot of female role models but connecting directly with nature and with the animals. And then that brought me to a larger holistic vision and that journey through connecting with nature brought me into the work that I do today which is regenerative ranching. So, regenerative is a term that is just starting to take root and it’s essentially providing life by giving more life in return for every life you take. So the form of regenerative agriculture that we do is large scale grassland restoration and mimicking nature to provide nutrient dense foods for thousands of families here in the San Francisco Bay area where we live.  And I think, thinking about it, I never really thought about my journey in the context of movement but I think without that movement and without connecting to the way my body works and these natural patterns, my journey really has been about movement. And every time that I find myself spending more sedentary hours, I find things starting to deteriorate. Whether it’s mentally, physically..so I think that because I’ve been so patterned to be very engaged in my body and engaged in my senses that being sedentary is very foreign to me. And actually, I think the most sedentary I’ve ever been in my life is writing Dawn Again.


KATY: That was going to be one of my questions.


DONIGA: But then you helped me to try to figure out different ways that I could still work on the computer. But it’s hard. Because when you get into a zone with writing and I think a lot … I’ve spent a lot of time with very creative visionary type people. And when they get this, it’s almost like a trance. And then everything else falls away and sometimes I would just be – have a cup of tea or cup of bone broth sitting by my computer and I have my hood on and I would just be staring close to the computer screen and for hours not thinking of anything else because I would just sort of enter into this trance mode. Then after realizing how detrimental that was to my health, I had to force myself to sort of break out of that and then go shift and move. Because when I was learning wilderness survival and wildlife tracking and nature awareness, we would start the day by movement. And we would start the day with animal forms. And I think I shared some animal forms with you, Katy, when you came to our local nature program down here. But that was instrumental to what we did. Was moving like an animal.


KATY: I reached out to you obviously because I was moved by your story but it was also, I think, for some of the reasons that you just touched on. You know, I’m constantly working and developing and trying to define the nuances of this thing that we call natural movement and often natural movement as far as popular culture goes falls within rewilding and the paleo movement which, I have always found to be extremely … there’s not a lot of women, necessarily, in those movement spheres, as authorities and so alongside that natural movement tends to, when you think of it – when you say those words, you think of sprinting, running long distances, like very large physical feats. Which it definitely does embody.  However, there’s – you know a lot of my work is breastfeeding is a natural movement. Chewing. You know, squatting. These things that, when I work with other people who teach natural movements they’re like, “I can’t teach a movement…I don’t know how to teach a movement class where acorn gathering is the star. We need to do 30 squats. Or if I had everyone squat underneath a tree and hold it for three minutes and set it up as that challenge. ‘You guys are gonna hold for 3 minutes and squat until you have tears running out of your eyes.'” But the idea of doing – when we came up and visited you, we spent a day at Doniga’s school and it was acorn gathering day. So I have this video of my daughter with her gathering bag in a squat. I mean she was in a squat for 6 minutes but she was walking in a squat to pick up the acorns. Just come up and come down, come up and come down.  Her body wasn’t signaling her to do that because it wasn’t a struggle for her to be down there. And so trying to help some of these movement teachers recognize that there are other purposes to movement than just the movements themselves. And I was explaining to someone else that I was really trying to bring this other voice to this wilderness movement. This wild food, natural movement. Just to help balance out the energy that we’re talking about it. And I read on Instagram, I don’t know if you saw this but someone wrote this about your book and I’m gonna read it to you and then we can talk about it.


This is from Primal Doc at @primaldoc on Instagram:


One of the lessons that became clearer to me from my experience in New Mexico is that I have a desire to go deeper into embodying my wild nature. Natural movement is just one of the paths there. As I devour the wisdom of Doniga’s experience, I realize that there are so many other trails to follow to that destination as well. That natural movement will simply happen when you take the time to truly become the deer or the wolf, to dance like the weasel or bear. In light of my failure to pass the advanced movement course (she was trying to certify in this next level of MovNat) and subsequent negative self- talk I’ve subjected myself to, reading her words has been like a gentle, warm embrace, urging me to take the long-view and see the bigger picture. Though I do want to test myself and expand my limits physically and mentally, I don’t feel like I need to do some crazy, scary rail-balancing combo to do that. Or cheese grater my hands and arms climbing up a stucco wall. I feel more called by the ability to move silently, to stay aware and be one with my surroundings- moving in them, not just through them.


When I read that I was like, this is exactly why this book. It is the balance of all of those natural movements that you’ve been trying to the fitness world but not necessarily to… fitness is an interesting term. There’s physical fitness, which is all those tests and your capacity and your muscle mass. Then there’s biological fitness: How well you would do, your offspring would do, in an environment. So to me, Dawn Again and the things that you do, Doniga, the things that you learned at wilderness awareness school, that you are putting out there in your nature school, and that you’re writing and speaking about is this balance to fitness. It’s like the full picture of fitness being well enough, capable enough physically to walk silently, is huge. To be able to sit still for a long period of time and observe and it also makes natural movement that much more accessible to those who are feeling like the physical feats that they associate with natural movement aren’t available to them. The fact that you can still train yourself to sit comfortably outside in the weather and observe. To me, that is so exciting. So one; Thank you for writing the book.  And now I have to get to some questions because we could just talk forever.





KATY:  Because most of us won’t be tracking wolves, oh who knows but most of us won’t, do you think that anyone can track some wildlife even if they live in a city?


DONIGA: Yes. Absolutely. Once you’re a tracker, I think Tom Brown told me this that you’re always tracking. So once you learn the basics of what types of animals live in your area, what types of habitats they live in, what they like to eat, who their predators are and then you open up this whole new world of awareness and adventure really. One of my peers in the wilderness awareness school that I talk about, her name is Ricky, and she certainly moved more like a wild animal than she did a human and she grew up and lived in Seattle. And she would have incredible adventures right out of her front door and she would have all these different trees that she would climb and so her sit spot that she found out was sort of the safest place for her to be with the homeless populations was to be high up in a tree. And she had amazing tracking stories. I remember her telling us about how she had mapped out where all of the squirrels made their caches. And she essentially made this map of the city of where the squirrels would cache the hazelnuts and she would go back later and mark if they had come back for the cache or if they didn’t or if it was stolen by a jay or someone else. So, she essentially had a whole map of the city not like we’re used to seeing a map on Google maps but of the wildlife trails and the birds and the things that go undetected. So she really did have sort of this secret view of the city. Now I’ll have to say I’ve never lived in a city. I’ve never had a desire to. And I live, our house sits right in the middle of a thousand acre grasslands so my kids, they can walk out the front door and they could potentially find mountain lion tracks down in the drainage. However, there are amazing things to discover, really, anywhere you are at.


KATY: So well there’s wildlife everywhere. I think we don’t think of birds as wildlife, right? I think that so many people – find an Audubon center, right? I think almost every city will still have an Audubon center. We live fairly rurally as well but we also travel quite and bit and when I do travel, I’m going to very large cities. And it’s very interesting to see my kids, who go to nature school outdoor school, they are so trained to engage with the green spaces. The limited green spaces that they can find, you know. Even if you’re in New York City, they’re pointing out the bugs that they see, what the birds are doing, these plants over here. They’re just tuned to seeing it. So I think that tracking and becoming more in tune to nature is simply just a shift in perception. That there is always wilderness going on around you, nature really going on around you. You just have to train yourself how to see it.


DONIGA: Yes, absolutely.  Yeah. It’s just a shame that that’s not taught from the very start in preschool and kindergarten to recognize these species and that nature really is all around us and that we depend on nature and nature depends on us and we really are a part of nature because if kids were taught that from a young age, cities would look very differently. They would be designed differently. And there’s a whole other slew of mental things that I’m sure would be different in terms of people’s own mental health if they have access to nature from a young age. I mean that’s been proven, that when kids have access to nature then they develop more empathy and they’re more likely to be environmental stewards as they get older.


KATY: Do you think it’s changing? Because I’m seeing things like Children in Nature networks do bigger things and there’s just more and more research about minute daily nature exposures as being very beneficial to our physiology and physical experiences. My hope is that people start designing urban areas to add green spaces. Make them more walkable. I’ve seen some of those changes. Have you seen any at all in your travels?


DONIGA: Oh absolutely and I think we are fortunate enough that we live in areas and often times travel to areas that there are folks that are really consciously making those changes. However, I would say that the bulk of the country is still probably 20-30 years behind that.


KATY: Yeah. Definitely, there’s definitely a pull to looking at the accessibility of nature for everyone.





KATY: If you were to explain the motions that go into tracking a wolf from a geometrical or … like if I were watching you and if I could strip away a photograph of the forest so that all I could see was you on a green screen and I was assessing your movement as we would do in a biomechanics lab, what are the movements that go into tracking a mountain lion, like a carnivore? A mountain lion or a wolf?


DONIGA: Yeah, so I think the first thing when even before I come upon a trail, what I will do is I’ll just do a centering. So that may look like me standing or even sitting, I’ll start out with my eyes closed and just a relaxed, knees bent posture, and breathe deep and connect with the earth and connect with my senses so that I don’t have the jibber jabber in my mind sort of distracting me from the present moment and really the task that I have ahead of me. So that’s how I’ll start even before I hit the trail. And then once I find a trail, if I’m fortunate enough to find a fresh trail of a mountain lion or a wolf, if I’m actively tracking them, then what I’ll do is – I do a lot squatting down with one hand palm facing down in a squat with my hand over the track. And not necessarily feeling for anything but I’m getting the sense of ok my hand’s over the track and how what size is the track compared to my hand. Because as I’m trailing which is the ultimate form of tracking in my opinion. When I’ve tracked with indigenous hunter-gatherer people from Africa, they’re not used to the Western analytical view of tracking. What they’re really looking for is the animal.


KATY: Right.


DONIGA: And they find a fresh track they’re off in a run to find that animal. So they track for survival. So that’s very different than what you see out here in our cultures is that often somebody will see one track and oh everybody will circle around it and backs facing out and analyze and pressure releases and size and get their measuring tapes out …


KATY: So to just interrupt you, would you say that the difference is one group is tracking knowledge and the other group is tracking food or some necessity?


DONIGA: Yeah. That could be a good comparison. Because it is different when you track for food.


KATY: Right. Right. There’s an urgency there.



DONIGA: And that’s not to say that one’s better than … I love geeking out on tracks and getting down into all the micro things about a track and what’s around it and how fast it’s going and all of those things. But when I track with indigenous people like they’re up-taking that information very rapidly just enough so that they can see the next track and get a sense of the trail so that they can follow it.


KATY: Just to pause there a second for our listeners. That is a very good difference, too, between kind of geeking out on the technicality of movement done for the sake of gathering knowledge about movement versus what you learn about movement once you get moving quickly. That you are still gathering information. It’s just the types of information, the way you’re perceiving the information that you’re gathering, and the end reason that you’re doing that movement are different.  Ok. I will not interrupt you again. That was such a beautiful non-movement example … so we’re back on the trail.


DONIGA: Yeah, so I’d be squatted down, maybe one knee higher than the other so that I can move one side of my body. So say my right hand is hovering over the track. My left hand is sort of out to the side or maybe on the ground so that I can get down to the height of the animal. So I have an idea if I’m tracking, say, a wolf, where their eyes land on the horizon. So, I’m looking down the trail as they would look down the trail. So that I can get an idea of where they’re going, where they’re looking and then also look for the next track. And then I’ll get a sense by the information that I’m gathering from that track and from that trail, I’m seeing ok what sort of movement pattern is that animal in. So I might actually rock my body back and forth if it’s in just it’s baseline trot and we use the term baseline to say, ok, that probably 90 percent of the time that animal is in that baseline trot. Usually, when you see a coyote cruising across the hillside, they’re in a trot. And it’s only when they have to get into a lope that they do or when they’re pouncing or moving slower. It’s only maybe when they’re closer to their den site. So I get the idea, I get the cadence, the rhythm of it and maybe rock my head back and forth.  And then I start to move down the trail. But before I move down the trail what I’ll do is I’ll look around me. So I’ll maintain that centered sense meditation and I’ll look to the left. And then I’ll pause. Because if you’re always moving your head, you can’t see movement. Have you noticed that?


KATY: Yep.


DONIGA: So if you just look to the left and then look to the right and then look behind you, then you’re not really gonna see anything. So you have to look to the left and then pause and go into wide-angle vision and see if there’s any movement off to your left. Because oftentimes animals will circle around and I’ve had this tracking mountain lions. They will actually circle around and then be trailing me and I’ll pull back. I don’t realize it until later. I’ll see they’re tracks actually landing on top of my tracks.


KATY: Mmm.


DONIGA: So when you’re tracking a predator, you need to be paying attention or even when you’re in predator country.  So you look to the left and you pause and you look for any movement you tune into the bird language. And then you look to the right and you pause. Behind you and pause and then look above you and pause because animals can also pounce from above in the case of a mountain lion. So it’s only when I get a sense of my surroundings that I continue down the trail. And I’ll go at different paces. I might walk slow, doing a really slow kind of quiet … what we call fox walk. Or I’ll jog down the trail. It just really depends on the terrain, how difficult the trail is. If it’s a really difficult trail to follow I’ll go slow so that I don’t miss anything. And I’ll stop often. And I’ll go back down to a squat and I’ll put my hand over the trail. And the other thing is when I’m walking or when I’m jogging, my head’s not bouncing up and down. You know when you see somebody jogging maybe with the iPod in and they’re cruising down a trail you’ll see a lot of ups and downs movement. And they’re swinging their arms. It’s like they’re trying to get the most out of every step but then they’re kind of landing with a lot of percussion. So when I move, I’m trying to keep my eyes level and even when I’m jogging.  So it doesn’t, it kind of looks strange but you can imagine, say, if you were to have a rope attached to your belly button and it’s more like you’re being pulled to move forward. You’re not thrusting yourself forward but you’re getting pulled from your core – from your center. And you’re not bouncing up and down. And you’re landing very softly.



KATY: I like the idea, so again, what I think you’re introducing or how I’m perceiving it is this idea of form. You know so many people run for fitness and the idea that humans are runners naturally. But the idea that the way that you would run, because it serves a purpose outside of running affects how you do it. You’re not trying to get your run over, right?  You’re not thrusting your chest out and trying to race necessarily. In a lot of different running techniques, I think there’s a form to quote “good running” but I do think it’s interesting to relate it back to this idea that if you’re running serves another purpose then to be able to hold your body – how do you say still while moving?  That you can still perceive the world. It is – if anyone wants to try this. If you go out and if you’re trying to detect movement you have to kind of hold stillness in order to have the movement signal you. Right? That’s what seeing movement is. You catch it because it’s different than the stillness. So we can’t necessarily – I mean there is some amount of tracking that’s done in stillness in observing nature but once you’re observing it, when you need to observe it for your safety and your sustenance, you still need to be able to stabilize or keep stillness while you are moving through it. So it’s like a whole other reason for form or good form. That it’s not just good, like “Good!” like some nebulous concept. But that it’s purposeful in that now you can move while still meeting these other safety or health objectives.


DONIGA: Yeah, absolutely. And then it’d be easier on your body, I think?


KATY: Well right. To be able to do it longer, right?


DONIGA: Yeah. Yeah. To be able to sustain long distances. My daughter, Quince, who you’ve met, she likes to talk to herself in the shower when she thinks nobody is listening. So just yesterday when she was in the shower I kind of quietly went in there so that she didn’t notice I was in there. And she does this horse vaulting. So they’re doing all of these gymnastics up on a big horse and then jumping off or doing all these tricks and landing. So a lot of the injuries happen during landing. And so she’s going over and over in her head, “Ok, soft landing. Imagine that you’re landing on the heads of hundreds of little baby kittens.”


KATY: Right.


DONIGA: And I’m thinking, “oh gosh, that’s kind of…”


KATY: Motivation. She loves kittens!


DONIGA: Yes she does love kittens. So maybe that’s something that we can imagine. Imagine that there is a carpet of cute baby kittens and we don’t want to step on their heads.



KATY: Right. And you are running on stuff if you’re out running in nature. There are living things underneath you. So that’s what fox feet are good for. Besides being quiet, is not being destructive for that same bout of movement. Here’s a question that I got a while ago. The idea of when you’re talking about make sure you’re looking up when you’re walking through predator country. Someone wrote me and said: “I would love to do more nature. How do I get over being afraid.”  Afraid of predators and snakes and all of these things out there that can kill me. You know she’s asking how do I train myself to be less afraid? Do you have any tips on that?


DONIGA:  Yeah. That’s a big one. Because so much of that fear is stemming from something that may have happened that they may not even be aware of. So, you know, maybe something that happened when they were a child and that has sort of just ingrained into their brain and their whole being, that when they come across a situation it might be like a fight or flight reaction. So I would say that overcoming fears is some of the greatest work that we can do for self-growth.  And I talk about a lot of stories in my book that many people would probably say “I would never do that. I would never sleep alone in grizzly country.” And yeah, some of it may have been that I was just this fearless teenager that nothing could harm me and yet I had other things that I was sort of up against. So I think everybody has different sort of mental barriers that we can all take steps to overcome and to start small. One of the things that we, that I’ve always done because I was the youngest of 3 girls and my sisters would go off a lot with their friends and I was stuck alone and my mom worked a lot so I got really used to being alone. And often times I didn’t have anyone to ride my horse with so I would jump on my horse and I would go far out into the wilderness and I would be alone. I would go down to the river alone and sit by the river. So I think the first step is just being comfortable being alone. and for longer periods of time and that may be that you go out into nature with someone but then you take two different routes. We do that a lot with our kids when they were young. It was like, “Ok, you take this trail. I’ll take this trail.” And if we’re concerned that they’ll stumble across something or there’s a safety – we might take a trail where we can still look at them and look at their surroundings but they still have the sense that they’re alone.


KATY: Yeah.


DONIGA: So I would say that would be the first step. Spend more time alone in situations where you’re edges are pushed.  And then try to go and spend a night alone out in nature. And I think with that you’ll start to be comfortable with the things that may come up that are perceived fears and then be able to tell yourself, “Ok, that really wasn’t real. That was just something that I was making up in my head.” Because really you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to get attacked by a mountain lion.


KATY: Right.


DONIGA: So we don’t walk around in the rain thinking that we’re gonna get struck by lightning all the time, right?


KATY: Right.


DONIGA: So I think that’s really the first step.


KATY: And also, I guess, for so many people, they’re not really fluent in nature and so the more … I always have found to get over certain fears is just surround myself with people who don’t have that fear who I’m on my edge simply by being with them while they’re comfortable and so I can, my brain, my thinking, analytical part is, “Ok, there’s 12 people here. I’m the only one afraid.” And so I can kind of shift my perception a little bit to being like maybe either I know something that maybe none of them know or maybe there’s not as much of what I had to worry about. And you know, like if it’s snakes or whatever, that you get in and you expose yourself to them in ways where it’s made more controlled. And I’ve just found that simply by doing it on some scale, just like pursuing fitness or exercise, you find a small amount to push you towards your edge a little bit so that you can grow through whatever is holding you back from where you want to go.





KATY: Ok so your kids attend a nature school as well. You also teach there. We have just started on this podcast being supported by this thing called the Dynamic Collective. So it’s a few minimal shoe companies; SoftStar Shoes, MyMayu boots, Unshoes Sandals, Earthrunner Sandals and Venn Design that make kind of minimal furniture. They are regularly sponsoring a mailbag which is a question that people send in for me but today I actually want to get your take on this question. So the question is from Denee, who writes: “One thing I would love to hear more about is helping kids follow this path. (Nature path, wilderness school path.) What kind of toys … (see you have older kids than I do) … What kind of toys do you limit or keep around with older children? We try to keep it minimal but also believe in play-based learning. And we are trying to make nature central to our learning this year. So, with your kids getting older, how do you plan to transition if at all? I love the forest school philosophies and try to make it work with our homeschool. What are your plans for moving forward? Have you found resources that really dig deep into nature study?” So what’s your answer on that?


DONIGA:  Yeah. Product. Hmm.  Um, yeah that was something that I think, I’m probably a little different than most parents in that we really tried to limit product. And sometimes it’s difficult because you get gifts from relatives.


KATY: Sure.


DONIGA: But and sometimes I even feel bad when the kids have birthdays we write on the card “please no plastic toys.”  You can get them a toy but please I don’t want it to be plastic.


KATY: Right. What’s the age of your kids too, just so everyone knows the context?


DONIGA: We have a seven, nine, ten, and fifteen.




DONIGA:  And so in terms of what you could have sort of surrounding them which you could call toys or tools or resources, from a young age my kids really were surrounded by things that they may find outside. So wooden blocks they could stack and and build things out of were something that we always had on hand. And some of the most played with toys were very simple things like sticks or cardboard boxes. Oh man they had so much fun with cardboard – and they still do. My 10 year old when I come home with groceries I put them in the recycle wine boxes that they have at the store and I have them in there and they still curl up inside the cardboard boxes. They cut holes and make shelters. Stack them up and knock them down.  So, I think really simple things like that. And then limit the amount of things that have batteries. My kids never had battery operated toys.  We are on a cattle ranch, so horses are definitely a part of it. So they always had a things where they could pretend like they’re riding a horse, or pretend like they’re out on the ranch. Because it’s not always practical.  When you’re cooking dinner and you have a toddler you can’t just send them outside. They’re in the house with you doing stuff. And then in terms of just bringing in more wilderness education into your homeschool and into the lives of your kids, what we have is, I find if I try to – because it’s my passion, right? My passion is nature and curiosity. But if I try to push that on my kids then they lose interest. So by trying to say, “Ok, now we’re gonna sit down and we’re gonna journal 5 plants.” It’s like, “Oh yeah right mom.”  So instead what I do is I set up our environment. So the first thing when they come in the door, they have – their bookshelf is full of field guides and even before they could read they had access to field guides. And some of my kids’ favorite books as little kids to look through were bird field guides. So they are very well versed with where the chickadee is in the book. And where the woodpecker section is. So that when they are out in nature and they find something like, “Oh I saw…”  I’ll hear my son say, “I saw this really really cool bird that I’ve never seen before.” And I’ll say, “Oh, I don’t know what it was. Go check in the guide.”  And then sure enough he’ll flip through the guide and he’ll forget about that bird that he was so interested in and been looking up and he’ll look at 50 other birds that he’ll say, “Oh yeah, I remember seeing that.”  So, I think that having those, instead of me saying, “Oh yeah, that’s a … ruby-crowned kinglet” or “That’s a California Towhee”. And then his curiosity is over. He’ll say, “Ok, I have a name to it. I’m going to move on to the next thing.”  I have those guides there so he can research and look it up himself. And then other things are just … I look at what I’ve done as more facilitating experiences.  And so that’s part of why … I married a cattle rancher yet I wanted to engage my kids from a very young age in ranch work. And so we decided to expand to animals that were a little bit more accessible to kids.  And so that I could be outside with my kids at the same time working. And that’s really important for our family because I have always needed to work full time to support our family. And so I wanted to have a line of work that I could work with my kids and that it could be outdoors. And so that’s when we started raising a lot of chickens and doing more with the sheep and pigs. Things that are a little bit more accessible for little ones. So I did that. I would go out and even when my kids, even before they could walk, I would set up a little blanket and then I would go and work on some fencing. And then when they got a little bit older they would help me collect the eggs and do the other things. But a lot of times it was more like I was working outside and they were off running around and doing their own thing. Because often times when you try to get kids to work, they’ll want to do the opposite. It’s kind of like you have to model it and then every once in a while they’ll come in and they’ll help you a little bit.  And then they’ll run off and do their own thing.


KATY: Yeah.  I have seen the idea of play-based learning, the need for play over and over again. And I think what might be happening is the idea that because we associate play with toys, that therefore toys are the facilitator of play. Even though you find play in modern hunter-gatherer populations that don’t have toys that play is more a state of mind. The set of requirements placed upon someone else. Like the idea what you’re doing has to be productive. Has to be done in a certain way, to me that’s what makes something not playful. So if you’re looking to facilitate play-based learning, you can do that entirely in nature with things that … or inside the house using pine cones and things that you gather and plant. So you can facilitate play based learning without toys. We have a similar thing here. Toys are not a big part of our household. Because I think that anything that you can get from a particular toy, you can get from a natural counterpart and then not only get the skill that that toy would facilitate, also becoming more competent, familiar with things from nature as well as not requiring the production or the purchase of something – a non-essential. I think there’s also this idea that we teach rather than we model. So if you’re looking to create play-based learning in nature, that oftentimes is going to require that you are prioritizing nature education for yourself. Nature play for yourself. And when you go out and do it then I have a hard time keeping my children from whatever I am doing. The number one way to keep them away from me and what I’m doing is to invite them to come do it and tell them that it’s something they should do.  You know what I mean.




KATY: I found that’s the equation. If I say “come outside with me and let’s build this structure or let’s dig this thing,” because I need to do this work or whatever. It’s like, “Eh. I don’t want to. I want to just sit inside here and read these books or these flashcards” or whatever. Then I’ll say, “I’m gonna go outside I’ll see you guys later.” And 5 minutes later they’re right there saying, “What are you doing? Can we help?” So maybe play based toys can be shovels and sticks for digging and making, identifying, or cutting different plants. So there are tools but a tool, the label of a tool becomes when you need to use it for a job. A tool becomes a toy when you get to do whatever you want with it.  So I think that those ideas of play, and toys, and tools, it’s all, those labels might be keeping you from getting the thing that you want, Denee, which is more learning and more nature.  Right? So those would be my suggestions. Buckets go a long way.


DONIGA:  Mmhmm.



KATY: A whole set of kid-sized digging sticks or hammer or mallet. These are things that  I have found many kids, not just mine but kids within our greater community are often very keen to play with. Ok, I need to let you go here shortly but before I do, you are appearing at ShiftCon in LA on February 4th. What are you presenting there? What is ShiftCon?


DONIGA:  Yeah, well it’s my first time at the conference.  And from the looks of it it’s a conference that really works in the sphere of leadership in the media and how we can all recharge as we go out and do great things in the world. So I actually was invited as a part of a certified grass-fed cattle rancher with the American GrassFed Association. And so there’s a big focus, this year, at ShiftCon on how we can look towards nature’s built-in carbon sink, which is our soil. So we could look towards the basic principles of biology, of photosynthesis, and the root structures and the rhizosphere, billions of organisms that are in the soils that are all working towards pulling carbon out of the atmosphere to store long-term in the soils. And that happens with green growing plants all the time. So it doesn’t happen in cities. It happens in nature or in any type of plants. It can happen in cities if we built rooftop gardens and have a lot of green spaces. But overall there’s a much larger percentage of this carbon sink sort of solution to climate change happening on our farms and ranches. And how could we make farms and ranches more regenerative giving more life whether above ground or in the soil than the like that we essentially farm or ranch in the form of food? So I’ll be joined on a panel with the author of the book Fist to the Ground which our family is featured in. And we’ll also be on another panel with other ranchers that are doing similar work. And I’m just excited to meet folks and just see how we can all collaborate more because it seems like there’s so many different movements and a lot of times it’s hard to find the time to really kind of crossover to a different group of people and find the commonalities and how we can all in a sense lift each other up.


KATY: Right. Yeah.  If you go to ShiftCon Media for anyone interested in the LA area, you can check out getting a ticket or pass.  Doniga thank you for coming on today. I really appreciate it. I can talk to you again. Maybe we’ll do another one too because there’s definitely more that we can talk about and maybe we can do an all question based one for those wanting to figure out a nature solution.


DONIGA: Absolutely!


KATY: Doniga Markegard is the author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild. You can find it by walking to your local bookstore and if they don’t have it, request it. You can also request it always at your local library. They’re really good at getting you the books that you want. You can also find it on online booksellers and Amazon. You can find Doniga online at donigamarkegard.com, on Instagram @dawn.again, and on Twitter at @donigawrites. We’ll put more information about Doniga’s appearance in the show notes! Have a great day Doniga.


DONIGA: Thank you, Katy. You too.



KATY: And speaking of California—I’m headed there for two public events in April. On Thursday, April 5th, 1 to 4 pm, Doniga Markegard and I are leading a 2.5-hour hike on gorgeous land in Pescadero. We will be playing with the complexities of human movement and how they fit into the fundamental principles of wildlife tracking and wild food gathering. If you liked Move Your DNA, Movement Matters, if you love Movement Ecology, if you loved Dawn Again, come out and join us! We will be doing a book signing, Q&A, photos, as well as just getting our hands dirty and getting our knees down in the dirt. Friday through Sunday, April 6 to 8, that’s Friday afternoon through Sunday morning,  I am leading a Dynamic Aging retreat at 1440. That is a new retreat center in the Bay Area of California. It’s located in Scotts Valley. Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Improving Strength and Confident Movement Through a Texture-rich World. I will be teaching eight hours of class and there are other things to do on this retreat property. You’ve got your meals. You’ve got your housing. You can make it a parent-child, partner, girls weekend. Whatever you want to do. Come out. It’s a  beautiful redwood covered property. We’re definitely going to get some barefoot action on as well as learning how to tend to our bodies in a sustainable way. Because we are all aging. There’s link to both events, both the foraging hike and the retreat in the show notes, and you can also find more information by going to NutritionsMovement.com. Click on the calendar and go to “live events”.  Ok, everyone for more information about anything you can also go and sign up for my newsletter. Come say “Hi” on Social Media. I post movement tips almost daily on Instagram. It’s @nutritiousmovement. If you have a question, if there’s something you want to know:  email podcast@nutritiousmovement.com.  If you enjoy listening to Move Your DNA podcast, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Your review helps other listeners decide whether they should take a chance on this podcast. And if they do it could help them get moving. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, Thank you for listening—we appreciate your support!




VOICEOVER:  This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully, you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.


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