How To DO Yoga With Hypermobility
Does hypermobility mean that you are really flexible and great at yoga, or too weak and unable to do yoga? In yoga, the body is accepted for where it is and adjustments made to suit the needs of the individual at that moment. Being aware of how to adapt yoga for hypermobility is important to prevent injuries and build well-being.
What is being hypermobile?
Hypermobility is about a range within joints that is beyond ‘normal’ for the biomechanical design of that joint. It can also be called ‘double-jointed’ and often looks a bit ungraceful. The most likely joints are the lumbar spine, elbows, knees, shoulders and ankles. Hypermobility may not be present in all joints and could arise in only specific joints of the body.
If undiagnosed someone who is hypermobile will likely suffer several sprains, strains and possible dislocations. They might report muscle and joint stiffness, could struggle with balance and coordination can be an issue sometimes looking ungraceful. Often they report unable to ‘feel’ a stretch in the muscles or joint.
Hypermobility is worse in childhood and early adulthood when the body is still forming into its alignment and coordination as it grows. Medical treatment is not really perceived as an option because the body will stiffen with age and the issue reduces as a result.
How is hypermobility treated?
It is most important to create stability and strength throughout the range of motion in the joints affected hypermobility. The focus should be on alignment, improving posture and balance.
- Reduce the range of motion in asanas. This often requires coming to 60% of where the hypermobile person might feel they could go with their body. A stretch will not be felt but this is not the focus for a hypermobile person, their sensation work is in the drawing the bones into the joint.
- Strength must be built with very lightweight resistance to begin, for example, a resistance band that allows broad ranges of motion. Hypermobility often leads to a lack of proprioceptive feedback in the affected joint. Light resistance will help build proprioception in the joint when at 60% of the full range of motion.
- A slow fluid controlled movement is important to build coordination and stabilise within the joints. This is a part of building proprioceptive awareness within the body’s movements and neuromuscular training patterns to fire the smaller stabilising muscles early in the movements. Fewer injuries will occur if a controlled and ordered movement pattern has been developed throughout the range of motion.
- Balances should be kept simple at the outset such as standing on a flat foot or feet. Watch for alignment of hips, knees and ankles in standing balances and add challenges of working around the range and planes of movement in balances to challenge the stability of the joints. Arm balances and inversions must be worked towards with time for proper alignment checking and full understanding of proprioceptive feedback at all points of the positions.
Avoid high impact activities that can place too much strain on the joint to stabilise on impact and result in strains and injuries. It is also helpful to avoid too much weight-bearing that can push the joints out of alignment. This can be added into training once the smaller stabilising muscles of the hypermobile joint have sufficient strength to support the global mobilising muscles in heavier weights.
What can you do in yoga if you are hypermobile?
It is best to take gentle and slower styles of yoga such as a slow flow, Hatha, alignment-focused, and restorative classes. The class must allow sufficient time to correct alignment, engage the muscles to support the joints, and ‘lift out’ of the stretch. In a flow class ensure that there is the proper time to move in and out of the joints to build strength and stability in all ranges.
Avoid heated classes and yin yoga. The heat will overly loosen the joints and increase the likelihood of injuries as the joints destabilise further. A yin class works to lengthen into the joints with gravity, exacerbating the joints and it may not be suitable for hypermobility. Alternative calming practices are restorative yoga where the props support the joint as the asanas are held for longer.
Fascia (a connective tissue in the body) can become very restricted and tight for hypermobile people, as it tries to hold the joints together. There are many methods that can be used such as balls, foam rollers, fascia blasters available depending on your preference. There are also specific techniques outside of yoga that can support the body’s path with hypermobility such as Pilates and other fascia release techniques. It can be best to speak to a professional for further support.
About the author
Nid loves all her incarnations as an energy healer and coach, massage therapist, teacher of mind-body movement through yoga and Pilates, and blog writer. She is a passionate messenger on how to find your truth and live in alignment with your soul. Her work attracts people going through major life changes, long-term pain or health issues to discover how to live life with joy in mind, body, and spirit. She can be found working on retreats and online worldwide at https://www.omegamovement.org/
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