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Hypermobility and Yoga - What to be mindful of?

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Yoga is about finding balance: mental balance, as in an even mind, and physical balance, as in a well-aligned pose. This means honouring both flexibility and strength. But the misunderstanding that yoga is all about flexibility is incredibly common.

The naturally more flexible people or the “hypermobile” bodies tend to be attracted to yoga. On the flip side, a stiff person may feel uncomfortable and challenged. The irony here is that it is actually flexible bodies that are most at risk for injury in yoga.

Why do some people seemingly “struggle” with poses that others “get” easily?

There are different body types in regards to mobility, some people are genetically more mobile than others and this is usually attributed to the individual having collagen that is more elastic and thinner than normal. This means the soft tissue surrounding the joints that is made up of collagen is less stiff and doesn’t restrict joint movement as much as normal.

It’s not surprising that hypermobility is prevalent amongst yoga practitioners. As humans we’re inclined to stick with things we enjoy doing and do well.

When a hypermobile person stretches, their joints are happy to go a whole lot further than their muscles, which can often mean that practising physical yoga is quite ‘easy’ for them. However, they mays risk exploiting their natural flexibility and destabilising their joints. If we continue stretching muscles around joints that are hepermobile (outside of their normal range), it can cause dysfunction. We then transfer the load to the ligaments, which are supporting our joints, instead of the muscle. This is not the natural physiological role of those ligaments and can lead to injury. Yoga can be a great form of stability training if you know how to modify the poses.

I am going to give you some examples of hypermobility that can lead to back pain and how to use stability to prevent spinal overload: Upward facing dog, Warrior I, Foward folding, Bridge, Crescent lunge.

Hypermobile peopleo ften don’t feel a stretch sensation unless the position is somewhat extreme and/or the sensation is very localized. So make sure you move slowly and avoid going to the end of range to protect your joints!

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