helenschki

Hypermobility

28 posts in this topic

It has been pointed out to me during yoga class that my shoulders are very "open" and in general my body is quite flexible I believe which I always thought was because I used to take dance classes. Very recently during extended side angle pose my yoga teacher came to me and corrected my shoulders, saying they were very flexible and that I was overstretching them and she helped me restraining myself. 

 

I really had no idea as I had not experienced any pain or even that I was stretching too far, but the day after that class my shoulders started to hurt and ache and I guess my teacher was absolutely right and that I had overstretched. 

 

Now I feel very insecure about my practice, how can I know if I am stretching my shoulders too far if I do not feel it? 

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I have the exact same problem and I'm also currently suffering from rotator cuff issues. The advice I got from my physical therapist is to take it back and stop the movement of the shoulder joint way before it feels "enough". I know, it's hard to remember to do that when you are used to greater range of movement. Another important thing is to take care of stability, which means strengthening the supporting muscles around the joint.

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This is such a great discussion! So from I have been taught is that people with hyper mobility are at a disadvantage because teachers often encourage them to push further because they're so "flexible", but really it has more to do with a greater range of mobility in the joints. Being pushed and encouraged to go further can put these people in danger of serious injury. 

 

The good news is that you know this is what you've got going on and you can move forward. There's no need to feel insecure about your practice - we all are dealing with something in the practice - emotional things in hip opening, or anxiety about headstand, or intense anger in locust pose (cough cough, me, cough cough). So this is your thing, and that's ok. 

 

The best tip I can give would be to note where you're experiencing hyper mobility and then try to engage the muscles near the joint. Think about lines and how the shape of the pose should be and then adjust the joints so your body is making this shape. I think the cool thing about working with hyper mobility is learning about self restraint and instead of pushing so hard and opening up so much, the focus, the work is on dialing down, getting a little bit more introspective...and ultimately, that's what the yoga practice is all about. Hugs to you!

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The best tip I can give would be to note where you're experiencing hyper mobility and then try to engage the muscles near the joint. Think about lines and how the shape of the pose should be and then adjust the joints so your body is making this shape. I think the cool thing about working with hyper mobility is learning about self restraint and instead of pushing so hard and opening up so much, the focus, the work is on dialing down, getting a little bit more introspective...and ultimately, that's what the yoga practice is all about. Hugs to you!

That is great advice. I think one easily get caught up in the whole "get comfortable being uncomfortable" thing and forgets to listen to one's inner voice. It really makes sense to me what you wrote.Vielen lieben Dank.

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I'm also hypermobile and proudly thought that was my "talent" for yoga.  Now I dialed back my ego and have been slightly discouraged too because of similar things you mentioned. I suppose this is may be the main reason why I feel like I receive conflicting cues from different yoga teachers (thank you for solving that mystery - saved me from starting a new post!).

 

So this just happened today, maybe this might help you.  After finishing a strength training class at a fitness studio, the owner explained to me the difference between "structural lock" and "muscular lock".  When I am told to "straighten my arm", my elbow will bend beyond 180 degrees when I do a full extension. That would be a "structural lock" and not helpful because that range of motion for me is beyond other people's normal range. Instead, a muscular lock for the elbow occurs when I engage the bicep muscle above the joint, so then I have a slight bend in my elbow but am locked in position.  The owner did say hypermobile body types are the hardest to coach / personally train because the movement is so fluid and beautiful, but not in the normal form range.

 

So, I'm not an expert, but I felt this kind of coaching was helpful because I feel like I get conflicting cues from yoga teachers in class.  For instance, one keeps pushing me to straighten my leg (I suspect because I wasn't fully engaging my quad muscle) while another will emphasize to keep "micro-bending" (because I was "locking" my joints).  The micro-bending helps remind me not to lock joints or hyper-extend, but it usually makes me soften my stance so I forget to engage the muscle.

 

I realize these joints don't work quite the same way as shoulders, so I'm not sure if any of this will help you.  Overall, the same concept applies with what Candace suggested - engaging the muscles nearby.  It's just tough to find the right balance of engaging vs. tensing up too tightly!

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I'm also hypermobile and proudly thought that was my "talent" for yoga.  Now I dialed back my ego and have been slightly discouraged too because of similar things you mentioned. I suppose this is may be the main reason why I feel like I receive conflicting cues from different yoga teachers (thank you for solving that mystery - saved me from starting a new post!).

 

So this just happened today, maybe this might help you.  After finishing a strength training class at a fitness studio, the owner explained to me the difference between "structural lock" and "muscular lock".  When I am told to "straighten my arm", my elbow will bend beyond 180 degrees when I do a full extension. That would be a "structural lock" and not helpful because that range of motion for me is beyond other people's normal range. Instead, a muscular lock for the elbow occurs when I engage the bicep muscle above the joint, so then I have a slight bend in my elbow but am locked in position.  The owner did say hypermobile body types are the hardest to coach / personally train because the movement is so fluid and beautiful, but not in the normal form range.

 

So, I'm not an expert, but I felt this kind of coaching was helpful because I feel like I get conflicting cues from yoga teachers in class.  For instance, one keeps pushing me to straighten my leg (I suspect because I wasn't fully engaging my quad muscle) while another will emphasize to keep "micro-bending" (because I was "locking" my joints).  The micro-bending helps remind me not to lock joints or hyper-extend, but it usually makes me soften my stance so I forget to engage the muscle.

 

I realize these joints don't work quite the same way as shoulders, so I'm not sure if any of this will help you.  Overall, the same concept applies with what Candace suggested - engaging the muscles nearby.  It's just tough to find the right balance of engaging vs. tensing up too tightly!

Huge thank you for sharing what the fitness studio owner said! It is so helpful as a teacher to hear the cues that work for people but I admit having a tough time helping those with hyper mobility. It's like I can't figure out the right words to say that will make sense to them. Thanks for sharing!

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I'm also hypermobile and proudly thought that was my "talent" for yoga.  Now I dialed back my ego and have been slightly discouraged too because of similar things you mentioned. I suppose this is may be the main reason why I feel like I receive conflicting cues from different yoga teachers (thank you for solving that mystery - saved me from starting a new post!).

 

So this just happened today, maybe this might help you.  After finishing a strength training class at a fitness studio, the owner explained to me the difference between "structural lock" and "muscular lock".  When I am told to "straighten my arm", my elbow will bend beyond 180 degrees when I do a full extension. That would be a "structural lock" and not helpful because that range of motion for me is beyond other people's normal range. Instead, a muscular lock for the elbow occurs when I engage the bicep muscle above the joint, so then I have a slight bend in my elbow but am locked in position.  The owner did say hypermobile body types are the hardest to coach / personally train because the movement is so fluid and beautiful, but not in the normal form range.

 

So, I'm not an expert, but I felt this kind of coaching was helpful because I feel like I get conflicting cues from yoga teachers in class.  For instance, one keeps pushing me to straighten my leg (I suspect because I wasn't fully engaging my quad muscle) while another will emphasize to keep "micro-bending" (because I was "locking" my joints).  The micro-bending helps remind me not to lock joints or hyper-extend, but it usually makes me soften my stance so I forget to engage the muscle.

 

I realize these joints don't work quite the same way as shoulders, so I'm not sure if any of this will help you.  Overall, the same concept applies with what Candace suggested - engaging the muscles nearby.  It's just tough to find the right balance of engaging vs. tensing up too tightly!

Hi there, thank you very much. I had to read your post a couple of times and I actually stretched my arms back and forths while doing so to try to connect the theory to practice. And I think I got what you mean ;)

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Hi Helen, sorry to make you have to reread! It's hard to describe an in-person demo in words only and remember the entire conversation. I forgot to mention that for the muscular lock, you start from relaxed and then use the bicep muscle to pull your forearm to your bicep to make that bend in the joint. 
 
When you said that you stretched your arm out too while reading, I thought it'd be a great idea to add pictures, just in case other people got lost. Unfortunately you can't tell see visually the difference between the 2nd and 3rd picture, but you feel it in your bicep.  I suppose if I had bigger biceps, we might have seen a difference.  :) I did this in front of a mirror to see the angle. The interesting thing I learned from the pictures is that when I hyperextend my arm, my shoulder rotated upward, so it can mess up alignment for the rest of your body, too. That's why I left my shoulders in the pictures even though I'm wearing this shirt with weird armholes!
 
Anyway, I'm only repeating what one person said, so don't take it as absolute truth, but I found this exercise as a good a cue for understanding how to engage muscles around a joint without hyperextending.   I just realized that depending on which body part it is, if a teacher cues to "lengthen", that might lead to hyperextension if one forgets to engage the muscle to not go beyond.  I guess this just adds to the list of items we can focus on during practice so we never feel unchallenged!

 

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I'm glad this discussion isn't boring people!  I don't mean to hijack this thread, but I'm learning more about myself because I didn't realize that being "double-jointed" (what I thought was a harmless party trick) is called hypermobility.  I am only doing shallow research right now, but I'm concerned after reading the wikipedia page on this topic. The article doesn't paint hypermobility as a good thing, citing potential causes as misaligned joints or weak ligaments. I also didn't know the locking in my fingers were part of hypermobility (as seen in the picture), so now I know for sure I have this in multiple joints.

 

In short, I'm freaking out a little because there are new joints I have not thought about before. Like I mentioned earlier, this dampens my pride for poses I thought I had a natural affinity for. To elaborate, it's always been easy for me to go into double lotus (and I can tuck my feet in without using my hands, so I don't think I'm forcing anything), and when I do baddha konasana, my knees are almost touching the floor. So now I'm worried if that's a sign of my hips being hypermobile and overextended.  When I first started yoga, I wasn't flexible everywhere, so I could not touch my toes but I was able to do double lotus right away. I know my flexibility takes a long time to develop - as a benchmark, now after 3.5 years, my hamstrings and lower back have relaxed enough such that I can touch my head to the ground in a forward straddle, and that was a very gradual progress that I did not rush or force myself into.  On the contrary, I thought to myself that I inadvertently conditioned myself for baddha konasana because I like to sit cross legged in chairs or pulling one knee up close to my chest on the chair while sitting. Strange habits, but it's the only explanation I can think of for my open hips.

 

Thank you to everyone who participated in this thread so far for bringing to my attention that hypermobility can easily be mistaken for flexibility. Candace had a good suggestion on practicing self-restraint. Adding to that, I think self-awareness is a big component of that, and that's tough to develop when not all joints are necessarily hypermobile. I guess one plan of action is to ask my teachers after class about my concerns on discerning between flexibility and hypermobility and request hands-on guidance for future binds.

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Hi Kupo, thank you so much for sharing. I so much agree with you that it somehow dampens the pride, I start to guess that my talent for certain poses is not because I am a yoga prodigy :P but because some of my limbs allow me to do things before my muscles are ready (if I have understood the discussion correctly?).

 

I will try to follow your advice and also practice self-restraint. And of course tell my teacher I am so grateful that she pointed this out to me. For me personally this makes so much sense and to push myself beyond my limit, not being in tune with my body and its needs it is something that for me is not only applied to my yoga routine but life in general. This whole hypermobility-issue has really been a good reminder for me on how goals are supposed to be reached and how ego sometimes gets in the way.

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Hi Kupo, thank you so much for sharing. I so much agree with you that it somehow dampens the pride, I start to guess that my talent for certain poses is not because I am a yoga prodigy :P but because some of my limbs allow me to do things before my muscles are ready (if I have understood the discussion correctly?).

 

I will try to follow your advice and also practice self-restraint. And of course tell my teacher I am so grateful that she pointed this out to me. For me personally this makes so much sense and to push myself beyond my limit, not being in tune with my body and its needs it is something that for me is not only applied to my yoga routine but life in general. This whole hypermobility-issue has really been a good reminder for me on how goals are supposed to be reached and how ego sometimes gets in the way.

:wub: I love this last part you wrote - THIS is the yoga!!  :13: You are on the right path!!

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Very interesting post.  I have hypermobile joints too....knees, hips, elbows....so I have to really be careful because I can't necessarily feel when they are hyperextending in poses.  I think my elbows are the worst.  Thanks for the great tips above

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First I have to give a disclaimer: I am not a medical specialist in this area or any other area. And even if I were it would be unethical to diagnose any individual without seeing them in person. The information below is only meant for some to consider if they wish to investigate further.
 
There has been some very good points made and hopefully I can add on.
 
In yoga we focus on stretching the muscles. Stretching is very poor use of words, lengthen and strengthen are much better. Muscle strength is very important to support our skeletal frame. As our practice progresses our muscles get longer and stronger. When going very deep into poses muscles can only lengthen so far. Once past this point we start to attack the ligaments. Ligaments are the small bits of tissue that connect bone to bone, holding the joints together. Once ligaments have been overstretched they never return to their original length. This is permanent life-long damage. When ligaments are stretched and can no longer strongly hold the joint together the risk of injury goes way up, dislocation and many others.
 
In all active poses it is very important to use muscle strength to perform the pose. (true restorative poses are different) It takes years of practice to build up the strength required to safely and properly perform difficult poses. If we go deep into a pose before our practice is ready we run the risk of this type of damage and injury. And we also won’t get anything close to the full benefit of the practice. For an example a pose like Hanumanasana – the splits isn’t about letting go and letting the pelvis drop to the floor, or somehow forcing it down. The legs are very active and this is used as a guide to know how deep to go into the pose. Pressing against where we are trying to go may seem counter intuitive but it is generally the proper and safe way to perform all active poses.

 

For those who may have joint hypermobility yoga can actually be used to strengthen the muscles to help protect the the joints. So no one should be concerned about practicing as long as the practice is appropriate for the individual.

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How is everyone's practice going?  Has any of the hypermobile folks been making adjustments to their practice after reading this discussion?  I also remembered this topic when I saw Candace's post last month: http://yogabycandace.com/blog/3-yoga-tips-for-improving-hypermobility

I have a specific question - does anyone use braces or bandage wraps around the joints to help keep alignment / add stability? Or would that sub-optimal because it can be used as a crutch and prevent engaging the muscles around the joint?  

I'm not sure if this is related to typical hypermobility since I can't hyperextend my knees like I can with my elbows, but, I sense my knee ligaments are loose "side-to-side". The past few months I've been having issues keeping my knees in alignment in bridge pose - I used to do this without pain when I first started, but now sometimes I feel pulling on the outside of my knees. I usually alert my teachers and they ask me to push my knees and legs closer together, but, it doesn't always resolve the pain, and I just get down early instead. It's perplexing because it comes and goes, so I don't even know if it'll be a good or bad day until I try bridge pose.

So, that's why I thinking whether I should wear an elastic bandage wrap around my knees - it just so happened later that day my left knee started feeling tweaky (but I think it was from sitting baddha konasana at home without thinking about it - therefore not engaging my quads). Wearing a bandage the next day helped me a ton, so I wondered if it might be good as a preventative measure.

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6 hours ago, yogafire said:

I have a specific question - does anyone use braces or bandage wraps around the joints to help keep alignment / add stability? Or would that sub-optimal because it can be used as a crutch and prevent engaging the muscles around the joint?  

It may be a good idea to see a good doctor to find out exactly what the problem is.

Knee injuries can be very tricky. Never want to let something smaller turn into a bigger problem. 'Bandage' is very well named. It is something that is put on an injury while the injury is healing. It is not something that should be permanently depended upon. If a person depends on a permanent brace of some type the muscles and joints will become weaker and less healthy and it turns into a downward spiral getting worse.

It would be better to use different versions of the poses for your practice instead of the ones that are painful. Work on strengthening at a comfortable level. Baddha Konasana is a hip opening pose that can stress the knees. Maybe a better seated pose would be Virasana and this link as well. And Keep the Knees Healthy in Virasana. But you will have to decide if this is appropriate for you. Standing postures are a the most effective for strengthening the legs and knees, the Warriors, Utkatsana.

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@yogafire I wouldn't use a bandage or wrap. Instead, for bridge pose, I would put a block between the legs to keep the knees in proper alignment. That sensation you're describing often comes with the knees start to splay out to the side...which sometimes happens when the feet begin to open up and splay to the side, or we just simply forget to keep the magnetization between the legs. The block helps us to remember to magnetize. 

You might also want to think about the strength you have in your legs. Is it substantial? If not, perhaps consider building up strength around the joints that are bothering you. The muscle development should help better support the joints. So for the knees, I'd work on the quads, calves, hamstrings and inner and outer thighs. I have a yoga for leg strength video coming up within the next three of so weeks but of course you could try others or a different form of exercise to build up strength. Hope that helps! 

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18 hours ago, Anahata said:

It would be better to use different versions of the poses for your practice instead of the ones that are painful. Work on strengthening at a comfortable level. Baddha Konasana is a hip opening pose that can stress the knees. Maybe a better seated pose would be Virasana and this link as well. And Keep the Knees Healthy in Virasana. But you will have to decide if this is appropriate for you. Standing postures are a the most effective for strengthening the legs and knees, the Warriors, Utkatsana.

Thank you! The real issue seems to be that I need to find new ways to sit on the floor when outside of yoga and break old habits of not paying attention. When I was sitting at home in baddha konasasna, I was just playing on my phone or reading (it felt comfortable at the time because my hips had opened during class earlier that day), and I didn't pay attention. These are bad habits from since I was very young - sit cross-legged all the time in chairs in strange positions (that I later found out are yoga positions!). I read this is a common symptom of hypermobility because you keep wanting to 'stretch' and 'fold' in different ways.

It was so timely for all those links on Virasana. Last night I had to watch something in the oven with the oven light on, so I knelt down in hero's pose, but with my toes tucked (like this). My husband then berated me for putting pressure on my knees and for bending my knees too tightly. So I guess the trick is to lay with feet flat, then no pressure on the knees? Perhaps shoelace would be better?  There seems to be a lot of controversy on virasana for putting too much flexion on the knees.

And good advice @YogaByCandace, I think I'll keep using blocks more often, to aid my engagement and train those muscles better, and then not have to rely on any bandages. I was perplexed because my legs have gotten stronger over the past year (there is no longer a gap at the top of my tall boots because my calf muscles got bigger!), but the knee pain has developed over the past few months. I also suspect I'm not strengthening enough to overcome my weakening joints (early 30s feels so different from late 20s already for me). :( I look forward to replaying the leg strength video!

Just an update on other things: I wore a bandage for 1.5 days to recover, I realized using a foot rest (a yoga block!) while sitting at my desk keeps my knees aligned (and from sitting cross-legged or strangely), and I'm on the path to stop crossing my legs out of habit.

 

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Hi everyone! I just came into this thread, but I'm finding it super helpful! I don't know a whole lot about shoulders, but @yogafire and I seem to have the same problem with elbows. I have always been "double-jointed" in my elbows, but I just recently noticed how much it affects my yoga practice in the most subtle way. I haven't had any pain or injuries (*knock on wood) but I'm working on changing my position to get the most out of my arm muscle. Could this be affecting my arm balance practice negatively? I've actually been improving quite a bit, but I never feel that my arms are sturdy. Maybe I just need more practice and less hypermobility. 

I never found it a problem before, but now I'm sensing I should keep working on fixing it. It's really hard though. Since I've been practicing this way for a while, I try to move my arms in downdog to their proper position and I am uncomfortable. Oh well...just have to keep practicing I guess

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That is a really good video for everyone not just hyper-mobile elbows. This link is the same but it explains in a very different way  Sore Wrists During Push ups? Let’s Fix That. After reading the link watch Kino's wrists in the video, isn't that cool! And there is another part to add to the video and link; there is an action in the hands to squeeze both hands towards each-other, drag them over the mat without actually moving them. But just a subtle effort, not too much effort, give it a try. 

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Nice observation! I like understanding things from multiple perspectives, so I love it that you linked another explanation.

Yes, I realized after watching the video you linked, we control forearm rotation through the hands / knuckle pressing, and then the elbows follow naturally. I tried to understand just from the diagram breakouts - big mistake. Watching the video first helps.

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This is so helpful for me! I'm a hypermobile yogi and I spend a lot of time strengthening because I'm flexible but not very strong (and probably will never be as strong as some- just not my body type). I've heard people congratulate me on my hypermobility and I always wondered because it comes with a lot of not-so-nice things. Reading this article really opened my eyes: http://www.dynakids.org/Documents/hypermobility.pdf I don't suffer from the pain aspect of most of it,  but some of it is very familiar: dryness of skin, bad digestion, cold feet and toes, bad circulation, anxiety, etc. 

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Wow! I actually found the same article awhile ago, but I didn't share back then because I couldn't find other sources to cross-reference the theories.  But now, I saw a recent article (https://yogainternational.com/article/view/joint-hypermobility-syndrome-yogas-enigmatic-epidemic), also citing that doctor's article as its first source.  

For me, producing too much adrenaline seemed to be a reasonable explanation for me given my sleep patterns and anxiety levels.  But, there are also psychological contributors for those same issues, so, I didn't pursue beta blockers.  I asked a friend who is an endocrinologist on what she thought about the article. She said it's plausible, but at the end, it just seems that I am more susceptible to stress than the average person, and it's not clear that hypermobility would be the root cause of that.

Honestly, there is such a laundry list of epidemics in the article that I think anyone, hypermobile or not, would find some subset of the conditions familiar.  I guess we can poll on this forum? :)

I really am glad you aren't experiencing pain, and I hope it doesn't crop up later. I never had pain issues until I hit my early thirties whereas I recovered easily in my late twenties.

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@yogafire I am only 25 so I think I'm at the stage in my life where I still recover pretty fast from issues. I can sense that my body is very quick in producing adrenaline / hormones to repair itself faster than most people. I read your post about always stretching and moving around on a chair- I've always been that way too! I have a habit of always sitting cross-legged in chairs so much that I got rid of all the chairs in our apartment but two and we sit mostly on the floor. 

It's interesting what you said about pain / sleep patterns / anxiety. I also have really weird sleep patterns. In that, I move around in my sleep, and I often (almost every night) wake up screaming / talk in my sleep / am continuously moving. I also get overwhelmed very very easily. 

Do you experience any pain now? I'd curious to see how yoga has helped or contributed to some hypermobility issues. I find that tapping into the strength aspect helps a lot. If I am distracted in my yoga practice, I will inevitably hyperextend my joints. It's just so normal for me. Not hyperextending in downward dog is a conscious effort!

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