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FLORENCE “MOMMY” WARD: An Inspiration Behind the BFF Program



My grandmother, Florence Ward, better known to all of us as Mommy Ward, instinctively knew that spinal alignment was a key element in achieving optimal health. She stretched here and there throughout each day and exercised routinely, purposefully with her head held high and shoulders back. Even at 104-years old (that is not a typo), her overall movement appeared fluid and without effort.

When I become a physical therapist, Mommy Ward was a spry 74-years old, still hiking mountains, biking, fast-walking daily miles and doing calisthenics. One day, she asked me for, “back exercises to prevent ‘hunchback.’” Given her excellent fitness level, I prescribed a rather ambitious plan as follows:

  1. Lie on your back atop your bed. Align your spine. Slide your head and shoulder blades off the edge of the bed. Reach back overhead with both hands until they touch the floor (the bed was rather low to the floor). This was a modified version of “wheel” pose or Urdva Dhanurasana.

  2. Lie on your stomach on the floor. Align the spine. Prop up on the forearms. Use the core and the shoulder set. This was a modified version of “sphynx” pose or Bhujangasana.

  3. While still lying on your stomach on the floor, place hands at sides. Keep pelvis and tops of feet pressing into the floor. Lift your head, upper trunk and shoulders. Maintain spinal alignment, core and shoulder set. Don’t forget to breathe. This was a modified version “locust” pose or Salabhasana. Note: While Mommy Ward could easily do the unmodified version of the pose but I felt that the modified version would prevent low back compression.

Over the years, I had seen Mommy Ward’s adorable “Jack LaLanne” calisthenics program that included trunk rotation, side-bending, etc., and felt that these additional three exercises would complement it. I recall telling her that day, “Mommy Ward, these three exercises should do it. I promise if you do these you won’t get that dreaded “hunchback.”

Mind you, that was 1984. Fast forward to 2016 and Mommy Ward was now 101-years old. During one of our visits, we had the following exchange:

Mommy Ward: “You know, those exercises that you gave me aren’t working.” I was baffled.

Me: “What exercises?”

Mommy Ward: “The ones to prevent ‘hunchback.’” I was still baffled.

Me: “Show me.”

This 101-year-old woman (let that sink in) began to show me a back bend off the edge of the bed followed by getting down on the floor, rather easily I might add, where her “sphynx” pose had evolved into a sort of forearm plank. Not to be outdone, her “locust” pose was amazing.

There was no conceivable way that I thought that Mommy Ward had been doing those same three exercises for the last 32 years. Although totally not appropriate for a 101-year-old, there was no backing down now! I added a full-body floor stretch to her routine using a pool noodle under her shoulder blades as an “upgrade” to her 32-year-old program.

My grandmother was an incredible woman, a bit of a visionary when it came to her health and fitness and served as my inspiration for developing the BFF Program. I sincerely hope that it will assist you in reaching your personal health and fitness goals.

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