Q: I do a lot of yoga, and it’s made me wonder: Can yoga cause hypermobility or excessive looseness in my joints?
A: “It depends on how you practice yoga,” explains physical therapist Stacy Barrows, co-owner of Century City Physical Therapy in Los Angeles. Occasionally, yoga classes devolve into “posture races,” in which students rush to achieve advanced positions in the shortest possible time — and that can lead to overstretching and injury. “The point of yoga isn’t to win anything,” she explains. “Students should strive for smoothness and quality of movement rather than just an extreme range of motion in each pose.”
To determine whether you’re pushing too hard, pay attention to what’s happening in your body as you move. “You should feel your muscles working, not your joints,” explains Los Angeles–based physical therapist and longtime yoga teacher Juliana Gildesgame. By contracting the muscles around the affected joints as you practice, she explains, “you’ll make your joints more stable, rather than less so. It’s possible to be very flexible — without overstretching — if you work up to it slowly, pay attention to how you transition in and out of each pose, and practice good technique.”
Strength training a few times a week can help you build strength to support your joints, while giving your body a different movement pattern, says Gildesgame. So think about adding strength training to your regimen.
Serious yoga enthusiasts, who may be hesitant to miss a day in the studio, can benefit from yoga cross-training by trying classes from different traditions on a regular basis. “You’ll learn about each pose from a different perspective,” says Gildesgame, which keeps your practice engaging and prevents you from repeating the same movements in the same way too often.