Hypermobility: when ‘good in yoga’ is not that good

Yoga and Hypermobility

Starting Yoga, first thing that really amazed me was how graceful the movements of my teachers looked. Vinyasa and Power Yoga were my starting points. Of course I wanted to do that. And you know what? I was soooo goood at it. From the very first class. All bendy with my leg behind my head. Actually, I could always do that, it didn’t really have that much to do with yoga. As a kid, circus skills were my favourite – twisting my fingers in freaky manner, swallowing a whole orange like a piton was my relative and like I mentioned, both legs behind my head. Probably it was fun to have me in a class. And then after years of finding the right practice (running was so boring and I’ve managed to hurt my knee in a gym) there it was.

hypermobility and yoga

Finally here it was one thing I was almost as good as the teacher (talking about ego issues!). In my defence – that was ages ago. And also feeding my ego, without thinking it through – that’s a bitch. Harsh words? Fast forward 15 years later – apparently I was not soooo goood in yoga – I was JUST hypermobile. And trust me that is not a good thing when you are doing anything without really knowing what is going on in your body. It is not good when you have no idea that the flexible part will eventually get too flexible if there is no strong hold for it. And in my case I was not building strength. I was totally manipulating my overly mobile joints and ligaments. And then pregnancy came, then carrying baby on those loose joints and now without any strength exercise (because there was no time for it) and then another baby and all that relaxin hormone rushing through my body. Wow, how loose can one woman be? Well so loose that I had to start learning to walk again.

Finishing my 200 hours teacher training was a great thing. I’ve learn a lot. And now it was time to learn all over again. In a wider and deeper sense – from a hypermobile point of view. Bad always comes with good. So maybe there wasn’t a physio or a cranial therapist or any kind of doctor that could help me. And yes living in Edinburgh away from family that could help me maybe worsen my condition, but it gave me the opportunities to help myself. It gave me access to great teachers.

A road to recovery

Starting with Jumbo Truong’s workshop. And to be honest I really don’t know why I went to his workshop as I felt I was totally physically not capable of ever doing yoga again. Which was totally devastating mentally because that is the only thing that can calm my mind (and for some hypermobile people hormones do crazy mind games). But I did go and after two days the loose painful SI joint felt better (not without pain but better). The prolapse felt much better. Wait what? How? It was simple – I will not do the cool ab works everyone else was doing, I will do for me a safe variation. I will not be the best in the class. I will be doing the right thing for my body at this moment and I will go slowly (and my busy busy mind can’t stand that and I still sometimes go over top but now when I know the price it so much easier to not win battles over my own body).

And then there was Leslie Kaminoff . So far everyone was teaching the right way to be in a pose. It was the way that your heal HAS to be in Warrior. But it hurts my knee. Nevertheless that is the right way (see the photos in yoga books). And then Leslie’s words of wisdom – well no, your body is different than the body of the person beside you. Why and how could you look the same in the pose? Same revelation came in Yin Yoga teacher training with Clare Gates-Sjöblom. Going even deeper right into the bones. Literally into bones. like Temperance Brennan dissection of them. Guess what, they are so different that it’s actually not that hard for Temperance to give Booth some great clues. Same as they can give a teacher great clues about what might help to position their practitioners in a right way for their body.  Seems like common sense but obviously we don’t always use that when practising. Thank you universe for revelations yoga practice brings.

So I started to modify and with the modifications build the strength instead of looking like an Instagram Yoga on the account of flexible bendy and at cost of my own joints. And when I was ready for more strength Janet McInnes lead me step deeper into the Forrest Yoga.

One step at the time, different teachers, different styles, different books, different articles and that is the answer – different things work differently for different people. Finding what is right for me or you is part of the game.

Yoga is not about touching toes

My own practice looks very different now  and so does my teaching. And it changes from day to day. From time to time I see hypermobile practitioners in my class. And I see them doing what I was doing. Crumbling under their weight in Chaturanga (no strength) but doing the most exquisite Trikonasana ever (again little strength but a lot of flexibility). And when I get the chance I talk to them trying just to put them into the right direction. Some come back and I see their bodies evolving in a different and for them safe practice. Some run away. And maybe I would if someone told me 15 years ago I should not pull on my joints to look like a great yogi but instead use the muscles to strengthen them so they can protect joints. And actually this is something that should be applied for every yoga practitioner not just the flexi bendy ones. Hypermobility as a necessary part of every yoga teacher training. It is damaging enough for people who are HM that GP’s and physios don’t have any clue about it. (And believe me I’ve heard it all – like don’t worry with age your bones will get stiffer so you’ll have no problems at all. No, really, you get paid for that??). But to have a teacher who will push you happily into the pose and say to others yes this is how it’s done (is the ego again here?). No, please don’t make Yoga about the toe touching thing.

Yoga and Hypermobility Workshop

There is so much more to learn. New teacher equals a whole new experience. And like they say when you are ready – the teacher will come. One of my happy moments was founding Jess Glenny  (thank you Janet :). A yoga teacher who knows about hypermobility from her own unique experience and still teaches yoga (when a lot of people told me I shouldn’t do it). Really happy moment. Having her here this Saturday, in Edinburgh, sharing that knowledge – even if I wasn’t HM this is one of those workshops I would not miss.

Moving Prayer I welcome you with open <3