Having hyperextended knees, elbows, fingers, hips and shoulders give me higher challenges in practicing yoga. I never felt uneasy since I was a kid whenever I locked my knees and elbows beyond the normal range of motion until I practiced Trikonasana and Prasarita Padottanasana.
Prior to these two poses, hyperextending the joints always give me more support and strength, and it feels good. However I notice by doing so over time, it does not actually give me more strength because it is not my muscles that are supporting me but the ligaments supporting it are being put under a lot of stress. And it is commonly found with weak muscles around it. I started to feel discomfort when I had to hold in Trikonasana and Prasarita Padottanasana for long, the feeling like I was going to break my joints anytime soon which is kinda scary, I had to release and go back to locking position every five or ten seconds or so. I could feel that it will lead to serious injury down the road if I continue locking my knees to hold in poses.
Until the concept of micro bending came to me and I started trying without locking my joints, I know my yoga practice ain’t going to be easy, and in fact more difficult than the majority without hypermobility joints because more muscles have to be engaged by micro bending to hold in poses. Although it requires more strength, it does good to our muscles and joints and causes no injury. As such, muscles and strength will be built even faster.
Using such architecture of bones with hypermobility joints to provide the stability needed to stay in the pose does not help us to build our muscles; locking it so our muscles can relax and at the same time injuring ourselves and lead to arthritis or ligament damage in the long run. Correctly micro bending the joints in physical activities can prevent injury. Alternatively, accompanied by padding or braces around the affected joints, it can remind us to move and engage the right muscles correctly.
— Shu (aka Sharon Chong)
— 200hrs YTT, Sept 2017 (Weekend)
— Blog 4/4
Increased flexibility is many people’s goal when they are practising yoga. However some people can naturally have too much flexibility in their joints and this must be carefully managed to help prevent damage to their joint. If a person has hyperextension of the knee or elbow hinge joints, then it will look as if the joint is being bent backwards.
The anatomical name for this over flexibility of the joints is called “hyperextension”. Hyperextension can also occur through injury, however in this blog I am going to discuss the importance of differentiating the asanas for those who are born with elbow and knee hyperextension and how to perform them without causing injury.
Whilst hyperextension does not cause discomfort to people whose joints are like this, it can in the long term lead to arthritis or ligament damage: when a joint is hyper extended the ligaments supporting it will be put under a lot of stress. It will also mean that the correct leg or arm muscles are not engaged during the asana as the joint will be taking the pressure.
One example of when you may see or experience hyper extension of the knee is in standing asanas such as tandasana. If one hyper extends their knees then this must be counteracted by slightly bending the knee, to prevent the knee joint from over extending backwards. It will of course look different to the traditional tandasana pose, however this is the correct way to do the position to avoid injury to the knee ligaments.
Hyper extension of the elbow can occur in sitting and inversion asanas. An example is when one is performing trikonasana or marichyasana poses. A person who hyper extends their elbow should counteract this by maintaining a slight bend in their elbow, which will allow for the correct muscles to be engaged and developed and will prevent overbearing weight on the elbow joint.
So, if you have hyper extended joints, or if you are teaching someone with hyper extended joints, this will mean that the visually asanas should look different as bending of the knees and elbows will be necessary to counteract the hypertension.