Disclaimer: This photo has been used with permission.
One of the things I love about leading yoga retreats is that by the middle of the week, everyone feels comfortable enough in the class, that I can sometimes stop and have a teachable moment. "Teachable moments" is a buzzword term that used to come up a lot when I was a school teacher, but it really applies here as well. Let me explain.
On the particular day this photo was taken, everyone at our Italian yoga retreat was in downward facing dog, and I was going around the room just checking in with alignment and trying to help fine-tune the students' pose. After all, one of the biggest advantages of coming to a yoga retreat, in my opinion, is so you have extra attention on your practice and therefore you can grow exponentially.
I talked about the feet being about hip distance, the hands being about shoulder distance. I talked about the inner thighs spiraling up towards the sky, and the head hanging heavy - no tension in the neck.
And then, I noticed this one particular student's elbows. I told her it looked like she was hyperextending through her elbows and asked if she'd mind if I took a photo so I could show her what it looks like. She obliged, and boom! Teachable moment! Instead of just "correcting" her, I was able to show her (and the few others around her), what hyperextension looked like. This was important for her because now that she knew what it looked like, she could associate it with what it felt like in her practice.
I then told her the secret to fixing hyperextension: add a micro-bend.
All this means is that instead of locking our your arms and letting the joints just kind of rest in that locked position, you'll simply bend the arms ever so slightly. Bending the arms just the tiniest bit will make them appear more straight, although it's not really about appearances here. The micro-bend is going to fire up the muscles throughout the arms and really make them work to develop strength and stability around the joints. Instead of locking out the arms and letting the joints passively hang out there, the downward dog will become an active, strength-building pose for the student.
And why do we want to avoid hyperextension through the elbows? Because over time, the hyperextension can cause weakness and imbalances, and potentially be the root cause of injury. So if you're experiencing hyperextension, add that micro-bend, and keep on practicing. You'll surely feel the effects of the micro-bend soon after implementing it, and the strength will slowly develop.
Hope that's helpful!