Ask anyone who doesn’t practice yoga why they don’t give it a try and odds are you’ll hear some version of this: “I can’t do yoga because I can’t even touch my toes.” While yogis and yoga teachers can offer a host of reasons why a lack of flexibility actually puts someone at an advantage in yoga, it’s easy to see how the perception that yogis have to be bendy is so prevalent: Yoga often attracts hypermobile students. After all, hypermobile bodies naturally move into and out of the large ranges of motion many yoga postures demand.
However, most yoga teachers agree that hypermobile yogis actually have it way worse than those who have a hard time touching their toes, because all that flexibility tends to inspire hypermobile yogis to exploit their joints’ natural looseness, which almost always leads to injury and pain.
Extending knees and elbows past straight, effortlessly sliding into splits, pancaking the torso on the floor in Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)—these all can be signs of hypermobility in a yoga practice. Yet instead of thinking hypermobility is “bad” for a yoga practice—or that yoga is bad for hypermobile practitioners—consider these strategies to add strength and stability to an asana practice if you deal with hypermobility:
- Pull back from end range: Muscles have better leverage and can exert more tension to stabilize joints when joints are positioned at mid-range.
- Slow down: Moving more slowly gives the brain time to recruit more muscle fibers for increased muscle tension. This maximizes stability.
- Look for external feedback: Because hypermobility can impair a student’s sense of their body in space, props and equipment can provide information about the real position and range of their joints (compared to what they may feel).
Resistance bands can effectively facilitate all of these strategies. Practitioners can actively work with and against external tension from the bands, and can even enjoy a feeling of “being held together better.” Perhaps most usefully, resistance bands act as brakes to slow down movement and limit range of motion in a way that hypermobile soft tissue sometimes can’t. Hypermobile students then learn to challenge their strength rather than exploit their flexibility.
Home Practice: Yoga with Resistance Bands for Hypermobility
Here is a Yoga with Resistance Bands sequence that builds toward Tree Pose. The resistance bands used in the sequence include two 5-foot long moderate-level resistance bands with small loops tied into each end, and one small, looped band of moderate resistance.
About the Author
Laurel Beversdorf, B.F.A, E-RYT 500, is the creator of Yoga with Resistance Bands Classes and Body of Knowledge™ Anatomy and Biomechanics workshops. A Yoga Tune Up® trainer and senior teacher and teacher trainer for YogaWorks, Laurel regularly presents trainings and workshops at locations like Kripalu, YogaWorks, and studios across the world. Learn more at laurelbeversdorf.com