I’ve found the present I’m going to give everyone I know when they turn 50- forget the black balloons, and over the hill cards, you are getting a copy of Dynamic Aging, by Katy Bowman.
Bowman has several books on movement, and the difference between moving and exercise. She advocates moving more of our body parts more of the time, and has great suggestions on how to make that possible. Her previous books have tended to be very specifically about one body part or another- I came across her because I was looking for solutions to stress incontinence. She also has stuff about foot pain, and diastasis recti, which is when your abdominal muscles start to separate from the center line that goes up your belly. This is a condition I didn’t even know existed until I read her book about it. She’s a fabulous writer and story teller, and she is very good at explaining why we need to move more, as well as how to move more.
All of her books about distinct problems with distinct body parts have a running theme- the same things that will help your feet feel better, will also help your pelvic floor and your abdomen and lower back and shoulders and neck and so on. In Dynamic Aging, she has taken that theme, and specifically applied it to people who are getting older. Rather than focusing on a single body part that is dysfunctional, she gives advice about the whole system, all of us, getting older. As my mom said to her doctor, “I know I’m old, but I don’t want to be old and feeble.”
Bowman has invited 4 women who are clients of hers to share their experiences in the book. They aren’t quite co-authors, but their experiences inform the text. They share stories about how their lives have improved since applying the Bowman’s lessons and moving more as they’ve gotten older. Now, one cringe-y term that Bowman uses in the book is “goldeners.” Any time she refers to old people as a group, she calls them “goldeners.” Eww. Although, now that I think of it, almost all euphemisms for old people make me cringe- elderly, senior citizens, AARP members, silver sneakers. Maybe my problem with this is that it draws a line between us and them, when in fact, if we are lucky, we will get to be goldeners some day. Or maybe we already are- my point is, we can all improve our movement and balance and general quality of life based on Bowman’s advice, no matter what we call
So, what’s in the book? There are stories, and exercises in alignment that can be used while waiting in line or waiting for tea water to boil. One of her suggestions for opening up tight shoulders is to reach up and touch the door frame every time you walk through a doorway. It looks weird, and it leaves finger prints on all your woodwork, but it really helps open up tight shoulder muscles.
Her alignment tips have made me much more aware of my mountain pose, one of the most basic moves in yoga- I mean, you’re just standing there, right? But since reading Bowman’s books, I have become more aware of my feet being lined up, my kneecaps being relaxed, my knee pits (you know, like armpits, except with knees) being straight behind me, my pelvic bones level and lined up with my ribs, and my head ramped.
I no longer suck in my gut and throw my shoulders back like some imaginary sergeant yelled “ten-hut.” It’s very subtle, more mental than physical.
Do check out Katy Bowman- start with Dynamic Aging (you don’t have to wait for your 50th birthday, and if you are already over 50, it isn’t too late to pick up a copy.) She also has a podcast, and Instagram and Facebook, and blog. It is fun to be scrolling through my feed, see a picture of bare feet, and the reminder that I should put away my phone and move my body.
I’m in the mountains this week, being all “Colorado-y” and “yoga-ing” and whatnot, but I will be back for Monday night yoga at OMS. 7:30 to 8:30. Join us if you’re in the area.