The hypermobile among us tend to be underserved by the yoga and exercise world. Hypermobility means that you have joints that move too easily beyond what it is their prescribed range of motion. Joints move in different ways—some hinge while others glide, rotate or roll.
The mobility of a joint is determined by the tonus of the ligaments, muscles and tendons that surround them. Ligaments connect bone to bone and have very little elasticity— way less than muscles and slightly more than tendons. Hypermobility is most often due to ligaments that are excessively lax allowing for too much movement in the joint.
Having loose ligaments and hypermobile joints doesn’t necessarily mean you have long and open muscles. It is just as likely that someone with hypermobility is loose in the joints and tight in the muscles. Both variation comes with its own issues, and both are consternating.
You can also be hypermobile in one part of the body and not another. In my case my hips are as open as can be. I have a full turn out and an extreme hyperextension of the knees. In my upper body while my shoulders are fairly open my upper back is tight and I can’t hyperextend my elbows.
There is also a distinction to be made between loose ligaments and overly stretched ligaments— which develop due to poor posture. If you hyperextend the knees or tuck the pelvis sinking the thighs forward you will invariably strain and stretch the ligaments of the knee, and the iliofemoral ligament of the hip. If loose ligaments aren’t your issue and you change your posture to better align the legs under the pelvis, the over stretched ligaments will return to their natural tone.
The curse of hyperextension is how often it goes unrecognized as pain symptoms manifest and sometimes multiply. Another problem with hypermobility and those with loose muscles (which are unfortunately also frequently weak) is that hypermobile people usually appear to have an enviable yoga practice while doing poses in a way that might come back to haunt them. It is easy to see a hypermobile person in a deep backbend that looks very impressive while it is actually compressive putting undue strain on many of the body’s joints.
The blessing of hypermobility would be that it is nice to be loose with very mobile joints. Once I realized that I had a problem—following three surgeries— I set about building muscle to support my loose joints. Now, ten years removed from my last surgery I have toned abs, inner thigh strength that never existed before and I can do kegels till the cows come home.