Flexibility is an issue that comes up in often, particularly around new students.
"I could never do yoga," they say. "I'm not flexible enough."
Insert eye roll.
You and I both know that flexibility is something that is developed and something that will come with time, dedication and consistent practice. But! Did you know that for some people, flexibility is just, um, already there?! Well, sort of.
Some people can do all the crazy pretzel poses right off the bat. I see them a lot on instagram and I want to tell them to watch out but I don't want to be a Negative Nancy so I say nothing and keep scrolling. But here's the thing: this is actually called hypermobility and it can be quite dangerous.
So here's what's going on in the joints. There are ligaments, which hold bone to bone, and there are tendons which stem from muscles and attach muscle to bone. Now we all have a bit of looseness in our joints. Think about a door hinge and how if it's properly attached, the door will open and close without any issue. This is kind of like our joints. Think about how they move when we move.
But some people have a lot of looseness - think of a door hinge that's not quite attached - yikes! Not the best thing, right? Super loose joints can cause pain, hyperextension and lead to injuries.
So here's what to do if you're hypermobile:
1. Cultivate awareness. When you're practicing yoga and even in your life off the mat, be really mindful and tune into whether you simply move through the motions and rest in the joints, or whether you are actively, mindfully performing each movement. For example, let's take dancer's pose. Are you someone who gets right into it without a second thought - thereby somewhat "resting" in the standing leg's knee joint and therefore buckling in the knee? Or do you mindfully engage the standing leg's quad before moving into the pose? Being aware is the first step.
2. Develop strength. Think about opposites and surrounding muscles. Hypermobile in the low back? Work on core strength. Hypermobile in the elbows? Work on strengthening the biceps and forearms. Hypermobile in the knees? Work on strengthening the quads and hamstrings. Hypermobile in the shoulders? Strengthen the traps, the lats, the chest, the triceps. When you strengthen the opposite muscle and/or surrounding muscles, you offer more support for the joint.
3. Mantra: Microbend. Instead of locking out your joints in poses like dancer's, handstand, forward folds, plank, etc - keep a microbend in the joints that you are inclined to lock out. The microbend forces you to use strength of the surrounding muscles and prevents hyperextension. You might find yourself shaking and sweating if you hold these poses for a few breaths and that's totally normal, just stick with it.
Let's talk: Is this something you struggle with?