Hypermobility can be a complex condition to manage and there are multiple ways that symptoms can be managed. A large part of management for hypermobility is movement. People who are more flexible are often drawn to activities that their flexibility gives them an advantage. One that we see all the time is yoga. It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “but I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough”. The assumption is only flexible people can do yoga, and they don’t have to try hard. This is untrue. If anything, people with hypermobility doing yoga need to work even harder than others.
What is Hypermobility and how does this affect Yoga:
Hypermobility is due to a dysfunctional collagen tissue. What this means practically, for movement, is that your muscles and ligaments don’t provide enough support and that you are less aware of where your body is in space. In yoga this can lead to hanging on your joints and excessive loading of joint structures. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do yoga, you just need to have the correct strategies.
Tips for practicing Yoga with Hypermoblility:
Co-contraction around joints: Even if you can fully extend your arms and legs, it doesn’t mean you should be hanging in your joints. Especially when putting weight through your limbs it’s important to maintain a micro bend through elbows and knees. This micro bend provides muscular support from all sides of a joint, hugging and supporting. Try leaning on a straight arm (eg in downface dog or plank) and shift between fully straight and relatively passive, and a micro bend of the elbow to “unlock” the joint. You will likely find the micro bend is both more comfortable and more work!
Imagery: As proprioception is often decreased in hypermobile bodies, imagery can be a great addition or alternative to internal awareness. You can include cues such as arms pushing into honey (eg in warrior I and II), hug into the midline (eg in trikonasana or tuladandasana), or a weight falling off your tailbone.
Finish your movements: It’s easy to get caught up in what’s coming next and flop from one pose to another. Really focus on the end of the movement and fully completing the pose (for whatever that looks like for you). For example, in transitioning from downface dog to upface dog it can be easier to flop onto your belly and then push up hanging in the shoulders. Try to break down the poses into smaller chunks, or easier options and experience each movement fully.
Adjustments: Hands on adjustments are fairly common in yoga classes. For a hypermobile body it’s recommended that you talk to your teacher and avoid being pushed further into range. Hands on adjustments that encourage activation and awareness are still useful. If you are not comfortable with hands on corrections in a class, just let your teacher know! Use props: using props such as yoga blocks or straps are a great way to increase the support and awareness of your body. For example, using a strap around the lifted leg in extended hand to toe pose means you can focus on the mini bend of the knees to provide more stability.
Barefoot Physiotherapy Can Help:
If you are hypermobile and practicing (or would like to practice yoga) get in touch with the Barefoot Physiotherapy team for individualised recommendations. Our team will help you be able to practice yoga with hypermobility in a way that helps your body. Contact us at 1300 842 850 or book online via clicking here.
If you would like to read about the use of Props in Yoga CLICK HERE