Can you change bowed legs?

I never thought it would be possible. Ever since I can remember, I have been bow-legged, and over the course of 2 years I have managed to transform that.

I grew up wearing orthotics. I was told I had no arches even though when I wasn’t bearing any weight i saw arches on my feet. At one point they even talked about surgery to cut my tibia and somehow line it up straight and staple it back in! (This was how my young mind understood it at the time. Incidentally many years later there was a girl in my dance classes who had had this done.) I took after my dad, I was very athletic, from monkeying around on the jungle gyms, handstands in the playground, to swimming, gymnastics, ice skating, and ballet. I had dabbled in lots of sports and enjoyed the physicality of it all. As I got older it was a way to feel in control of my life and free and at peace at the same time.

My dabbling in baby ballet classes somehow don’t really count (except for my first and only stage performance in a bikini!) As I took up modern dance or contemporary dance classes I found something I truly loved. My first classes weren’t about strict technique (that I can remember) but about expressive movement and being creative. As I got older my awareness of my body and being bowed legged increased. I rarely wore skirts. My continued dive into the world of modern dance helped me to become more aware of my body and for the most part i could hide my knees under pants.

Fast forward. My career, although hardly direct, found me dancing and in grad school where I learned Argentine Tango. And for the majority of my days learning and then teaching Argentine Tango I could continue to hide behind pants.

It wasn’t until 2011 when my dance partner said to me that he wanted to compete in Argentine Tango that I had to start training to look a certain way. My bowed legs came back to haunt me. And at the same time I was exposed to my first encounter with Katy Bowman, bio-mechanist and founder of Restorative Exercise (TM).

I attended a session with her when she was visiting Phoenix. I was blown away by the clarity of this paradigm. I had always heard about alignment in my dance classes and had a keen curiosity about movement and how it happened in the body but this explanation was so clear and tangible.

The Journey Begins towards Changing my Bowed Legs

The first thing from that class that I recall was lining up my feet. And like everyone else you tell to line up their feet so that the OUTSIDE edges are parallel, there is a moment of total resistance and disbelief. After all, now I look pigeon toed! And my dance teachers have all told me to line up the inside edges of my feet so they would be parallel. So this takes time to calm the mind down when you do it.

But this is the great thing about Restorative Exercise (TM) protocol, you find your stance, wherever you are today, starting with your feet and lining them up in a wide 11. After this there are 25 boney landmarks of alignment that we are trying to align. I had heard this idea before in my dance technique classes after all – “drop your ribs”, my dance teacher used to say.Bowed Legs 1

But Katy had a really clear template for alignment. So my journey began, I spent about 6 months from that day forward thinking about many of those 25 points of alignment starting with my feet lining up with the outside edges parallel. The other thing I did was to find the rotation of my thighs (or femurs more specifically) so that my knee pits would face straight back.

in this picture I have shown my feet with the outside edges parallel and the knee pits, in red, where they like to be: do you have the idea that they are facing away from you? So here began my work.

I also changed my sneakers and got rid of my orthotics – things I NEVER thought I would ever do.

Everywhere I went I worked on my stance when I could (standing inline at the grocery store checkout, for example) and I worked on imagining and moving my knee pits to face straight back.

I accompanied this with stretches and completing the Whole Body Alignment Certification Course that is offered by Restorative Institute to become a Restorative Exercise Specialist, which helped me to further understand how the biomechanics of the body works from this scientific perspective.

Almost 2 years later check out my stance.

Bowed Legs 2Almost straight back at ya’!
This work has also brought to my awareness the anomalies in my body. But that will be a blog for another day.

So now when I see videos of my dance I do not see by bowed legs in action as much as I used to. And I wear skirts more often. And when I am not dancing, I’m lining up my points, going for a walk or doing some Restorative Exercise (TM) stretches.

You can change your body, when you change your mind!



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