Hypermobility: Techniques to practice yoga safely

HYPERMOBILITY

In this article, we are going to talk about what is hypermobility/hypermobility and how sufferers can safely practice yoga.

If you're wondering what an "advanced" yogi looks like, you might imagine someone tied up like a pretzel or casually tucking one foot behind their head. Yoga's reputation as a flexibility practice is well-earned, as most styles include poses that take advantage of the full range of motion of the hip and shoulder joints.

It's true, it is fun to do strange and different postures from what we usually do with our bodies in our daily lives (when would you swing your leg over your arm to do a hand balance outside the yoga room?). So you might think that hypermobility, that is, the ability of a joint to extend beyond a typical range of motion, would be an advantage for a yoga practitioner. After all, more flexibility would make these fun shapes easier to access, right?

No. For a person with hypermobility, tools must be developed that may be different from what other practitioners need.

In ours Yoga classes in Quiroesencia, our focus is to help each practitioner achieve balance in body, mind, and spirit. For us, tissue elasticity is only one factor in what constitutes "doing yoga" and is not the most important factor.

Since each person has different needs, we must investigate how to recognize and manage these needs safely. There is no goal to reach in our classes, but we develop the necessary tools in each person so that he or she knows how to return to balance again and again.

What is hypermobility?

Hypermobility is a condition in which joints can move beyond the range normal movement.

This is because connective tissues, such as ligaments and tendons, are more flexible than usual.

It may be an isolated, benign feature, often seen in children and young people, but may also be part of a broader connective tissue disorder, such as hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Characteristics

  • Frequent dislocations and sprains: Due to lax ligaments, joints may be more prone to dislocating or spraining.
  • Muscular fatigue: The muscles around the joints may fatigue more quickly because they have to work harder to stabilize the joints.
  • Postural problems: Hypermobility can lead to posture problems, such as flat feet or an abnormal curvature of the spine (scoliosis).

Is it compatible with the practice of yoga?

Does this mean that hypermobile people shouldn't practice yoga? Of course not.

Each person is born with a certain tone of connective tissue. Some people are naturally more tense, while others are naturally more lax.

People with hypermobility tend to have looser connective tissue. Which means that structures composed of connective tissue, such as joint capsules, ligaments and tendons, will tend to be more mobile.

While this may make practicing yoga easier, itJoints need to be stable to be functional.

In a highly mobile practice like yoga, the stiffer practitioner is protected from overstretching by the inherent stiffness of his or her body, but the hypermobile practitioner may take the risk exploit your natural flexibility and destabilize your joints.

Hypermobile yogis can hyperextend their joints, which can be dangerous when exceeding 180 degrees in the knees and elbows.

It is important do not exceed natural range of motion and supporting postures with muscle activation rather than relying on flexibility alone. Developing strength along with flexibility is essential for those with hypermobility.

When a hypermobile yogi overextends their joints, they are relying on the pulling force of the ligaments rather than the support of the surrounding muscles.

Over time, this persistent muscle disconnection can overload the connective tissue and disable the stabilizing muscles necessary for functional movement.

However, in order to fully reap the benefits of their yoga practice, they have to resist exploiting their natural mobility and instead work to cultivate stability in their practice.

8 Tips to Help a Hypermobile Practitioner Stay Safe and Strong

We are going to detail some tips that can help you practice more safely and develop the postures in a way that benefits you. These tips are intended as a guide and are based on our experience and research, but will not always be suitable for all practitioners. Remember that it is always advisable to consult with your doctor before starting a yoga practice.

1. Keep your joints slightly flexed

Pay special attention to certain postures to effort morscular compared to dependence on the joint.

The first example is within the postures in which you support weight with outstretched arms, such as the plank.

If you slightly bend your elbows here so as not to support the ligaments and force the muscles to do the work, you will help keep the joints stable. 

Also pay attention to the standing postures with straight legs, such as the triangle pose (trikonasana) and the pyramid pose (parsvottanasana).

When you straighten your leg, keep a slight bend in the knee. Although the slight bend will make the pose feel harder, you'll be cultivating the strength your joints need to stay functional.

2. Choose your yoga styles well

If you are hypermobile, look for practices that focus on strengthening and body awareness and not only in the depth of the stretch.

For example, you probably don't need to stretch your connective tissue in a yin class. Hatha and strength classes may be a better option to balance your natural mobility and give you the opportunity to develop strength.

3. Use your feet to protect your knees

As a general rule, in straight-legged standing poses, place your weight on your heels and keep your knees bent. Keep the weight on the heel of the front leg during postures such as Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) and Extended Lateral Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana).

This action will help keep pressure away of the front of the knee by activating the glutes and reducing pressure on the quads. Additionally, you can exert inward traction with both feet, as if your legs were scissors.

Putting weight on the ball of your foot in straight-legged poses like Pyramid (Parsvakonasana) and Crescent (Ardha Chandrasana) will encourage the hamstrings to engage, which will create a slight bend in the knee joint, helping you avoid knee joint. hyperextension.

4. Practice stabilization 

keep a balanced muscle engagement keeping stretching tissues active.

In positions with outstretched arms, such as the plank, lightly pull your hands toward each other to activate the biceps. In seated poses, such as Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana) or Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana), resist fully stretching your hamstrings by slightly pulling your heels toward your sit bones.

Although the muscles do not need to be 100% activated during these stretches, maintaining some muscle engagement will maintain joint support and prevent hyperextension.

5. Don't be a sensation addict

When you are flexible, it can be tempting to take the pose as far as you can. After all, you may not "feel anything" if you stop before you've reached the maximum of a stretch.

However, if you are hypermobile, you probably you don't need to be more flexible, but more stable.

Instead of looking for the end range of your movement, practice 80% in your range.

Sometimes we think we have to "feel it" to "get it." For yogis with hypermobility, moving back (and not feeling stretched) can be healthier for the body in the long run. Check and make sure your ego is not in charge.

In addition, it can be used to focus on conscious and continuous breathing, for example with the Ujjayi Pranayama technique, especially if the mind tends to wander when there is not so much intensity of the physical sensation.

And finally, if it bothers you a lot not to feel very deep sensations, it may be an opportunity to look deeper into the causes and what happens in the absence of sensation! This is where a truly more advanced practice begins.

6. Do YOUR practice and don't compare yourself to others 

Someone with excessive joint laxity can easily make yoga poses 'look good', but that doesn't mean it's the safest expression of each pose for YOUR body. In our classes, we offer options and possibilities for each yogi or yogini to do a different variation, but it is important that each person looks inward rather than looking outward.

7. Be aware that many of the instructions you hear from a yoga teacher may not apply to you. 

If you hear an instructor who encourages you stretching deeper or going through some discomfort may not be appropriate advice for your body.

The advice to “just listen to your body” may not be enough for a person with hypermobility, as you may feel pain hours later or even the next day.

Therefore, the following point is important. 

8. Talk to your instructor before class 

You do not have to disclose any medical information that you are not comfortable with if it does not impact your yoga practice.

In fact, doing so can give you a artificial sense of security when instructors can't ensure your safety or personalize things to 100% in a group setting.

However, you are more likely to stay safe and go at your own pace when you have already revealed that you are working with a physical therapist and can modify or choose to do nothing. 

If you are concerned about how to practice safely, you can always book a private session to review the most common postures or positions that a person with hypermobility needs to pay attention to to protect their joints and ligaments. Contact us for more information about a particular yoga session.

Beyond the physical

The Yoga Sutra Patanjali advises that the asana should be “firm and easy.” Each practitioner, rigid or flexible, is invited to balance these qualities to create a practice that is sustainable and functional.

Practitioners with hypermobility have been blessed with great flexibility and simply need to focus a little more on the stability part of the equation. At Quiroesencia, we seek above all balance in the body, mind and spirit, instead of reaching an end. We seek to share with our clients learning about their self-care, which will always be different for each person.

Remember that the goal of yoga is not to turn us into human pretzels; The physical forms we make are vehicles for much deeper purposes: sustainable health, the development of mindfulness, and above all a deeper connection with ourselves.

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