Our body is individually and uniquely designed and our movement capabilities differ from person to person. What works for you may not work for others. But one unavoidable situation in any fitness-related field that affects all body types is hyperextension.
Many Yoga practitioners are amazed when they realize how flexible and mobile their body can be. This often leads to over-practicing or unconsciously developing an improper form that could lead to injuries such as hyperextension.
Hyper. . . what?!
Most people are unaware that they are hyperextending on poses. Hyperextension happens when you lock out the joints as you hold a pose. This makes holding poses easier because you use the muscles less, shifting the strain to the joints.
Two of the most commonly hyperextended joints are the elbows and knees. Hyperextension causes the joint to move out of the socket causing hypermobility. But over time, the movement becomes uncontrollable, leading to injuries such as permanent dislocation of the joint.
The elbow joint serves as a hinge that connects the humerus in the upper arm, and the ulna and radius in the lower arm. These three bones are held together by the elbow joint and the tendons and ligaments surrounding it. Though some people have naturally hyperextended elbows, developing the condition during the practice can damage the joint and cartilage, and wear down soft tissues.
The knee is very vulnerable when it comes to hyperextension. It connects the femur and the tibia, and is stabilized by the lateral and medial menisci cartilages. Hyperextension happens when the back of the knee becomes too open, putting the pressure on the joints instead on the supporting muscles. The cartilages and soft tissues at the back of the knee are overstretched, causing anatomical changes on the muscle ground the surrounds it. Weight is dispersed unevenly, causing unstable balance and pain. The quads become weak, ligaments degenerates and the knee catches arthritis.
Check Your Alignment
To see if your elbows are hyperextended, extend your arms. This should create a 180-degree line. If it is more open, angling from the elbows, it is hyperextended. Knee hyperextension is very easy to recognize. Stand sideways in front of the mirror and imagine a straight line from your hips down to your feet. If your knee is curved back, it is more likely hyperextended.
Managing the pain
It is recommended to put ice on areas that are experiencing pain, numbness or spasm. But if the condition gets worst, surgery may be needed to realign the bones.
The little secret?
Effectively avoid hyperextension by micro-bending during poses. This simple move helps the joint refrain from locking out, allowing the muscles to actively participate in supporting weight and strain. This not only helps the body avoid hyperextending, but it also helps improve the body’s strength and flexibility.
It is still best to practice under the guidance of an experienced Yoga teacher. Always listen to your body and never force any movement that feels painful. It may also be helpful to wear appropriate yoga leggings when practicing; compression clothing is great for improving performance during your practice as well as speeding up your recovery afterward.. Slowly progress. Be patient. Do not rush the process. Remember to always consciously flow with good intentions and an open heart!