I love Top Chef. My wife and I have seen every episode. I love Padma Lakshmi. A lot. But her posture kills me. I know it is sad and my poor wife has to put up with me commenting on everyone’s posture all the time, but I literally scream, “look at that hyperextension”, every time Top Chef shows full body shots of Padma. Of course, I should be focused on her beauty but such is my lot in life—all I see is the back of her knees and a tucked under pelvis.
Hyperextension is when a joint moves past its normal range of motion. The body is capable of flexion, extension and for some poor few hyper extension. For the most part the use of the word hyper implies a negative or so it seems to me. Hyperextending the knees, which was my main problem for the first forty years of my life, is an all too common postural trait that most people aren’t even aware they are doing.
When someone like me stops hyperextending it literally feels as if the knees are bent even though the legs are actually straight. This, as with many things relating to posture, becomes an issue of perception. If your legs are straight and you think they are bent you have to figure out how to think they are straight.
Changing one’s perception is an invitation to change that isn’t always of interest to people. I heard an interview with a scientist on my way home from teaching tonight that contained a gem. He talked about the willingness to acknowledge that you are wrong about an idea or theory is the main thing he looks for in students as it shows him they are capable of an open mindedness which is a trait that is all too uncommon in people but required for a scientist.
We crave permanence in an impermanent world. I think the Buddha said that and if he did he was right on. We resist change to our own detriment on a daily basis. At least I know I do and I’d like to think I’m fairly open minded (though my wife might disagree).
But back to Padma and Top Chef— the hyperextended knees and the tucked under pelvis in the pictures above scream for relief. I know she is a workout fiend and probably has a very strong core but hyperextension will win out in the battle for the health of the spine and no amount of strength and tone can compensate for the damage that hyperextension can cause to the body. I can’t tell you the number of people I know who have gotten back pain relief simply by unlocking their knees. If you are a hyper extender like Padma and me, give it a try.