What to Do About Hypermobility and Tight Hamstrings
Just talking with my friend this morning about hypermobility, tight hamstrings, so many years of forward folding in yoga without things getting much better, and this feeling that we’re missing something. I’ve been here a whole lot and my guess is a lot of you know this one really well too. I’ll share a little from our talk below, and please let me know what’s worked for you over the years.
Oh boy it sounds like we have a lot in common here, I understand about the sciatica, as well as tight hamstrings from so many decades of mountain climbing, running, skiing, really most of the things I do for fun.
So to begin, I don’t think you’re missing something, but I also really understand this feeling of missing something. It has me thinking about my first many years in yoga, learning and playing with all the poses. At first in yoga there was a wonderful feeling of opening up parts of me that had never opened up. And then something happens with a lot of us over time. To get that same feeling of opening, we need to go further in the poses, and there’s a downside here that happens with a whole lot of long-time yoga practitioners and teachers. We get hyper-mobile, because this aim for “deeper” in poses shifts from stretching only muscles – things that are ok to stretch a bit – to stretching tendons and ligaments – things that should nearly never stretch. So rather than finding balance, we’re coming out of balance, on our way to these poses.
What helped me here with coming back into balance, was bringing everything I had learned before I started yoga – in mind-body medicine, qigong, tai chi, and pretty much everything else I did – all back into my yoga. In all these martial and healing forms, the focus isn’t on poses or positions. Your focus is on movement. Which is nice because now the forms aren’t just an idea of what looks right – but instead arise on their own from moving well in connection with your environment. Now you’re learning things like – move easy, everything you’ve got, in every direction you can move it – as a more effective path than linear movements and static stretches. And you also learn what it means to “move easy” – by bringing things like softness, mobility, and whole-body harmony into how you get around, in all kinds of places – not just in my yoga or tai chi time.
So now this movement focus gives me something that’s portable, useful everywhere, no matter what I’m doing. Which is different from a lot of what I did back when I was focusing more on the yoga poses. The poses felt good, as did that challenge of learning them – but often didn’t translate into the easy mobility, balance, coordination, and harmony, that is all so helpful in the rest of life, not just for yoga poses. Disconnection and coming out of balance really didn’t work well for mountaineering! But easy mobility and harmony, now you have something that’s sustainable, healing, and enabling, everywhere.
I hope my rambling helps a bit now, maybe if only with where to focus. Maybe also with a sense that whether we’re a mess or not, it’s good to be here. Keeping your knees (and all of you) movable enough to bend when they want to bend is a good thing. Keeping your body relaxed, all working and moving together is a good thing. Forcing a stretch or balance through linear pushing might lead more often to injury and frustration than it does to balance and mobility. Working with these more harmonious and helpful qigong foundations, you get a really different kind of surprise. You don’t need to push for balance, mobility, and flexibility, to have these things show up in your body, and your life.
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