Yoga and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD)

Yoga and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD) A while back, an article by osteopathic physician Dr. Joseph Mercola caught my attention. It was entitled “What Happens to Your Body When You Do Yoga? Discover how yoga can improve your overall well-being.”

There’s no question that exercise and movement are necessary to maintain a healthy body. However, it is essential to remember that not all exercises are good for all people. What is safe for a healthy body may not necessarily be the correct choice for those with preexisting health conditions, often the result of years of poor posture and body mechanics. In other words, movement in and of itself is not the answer to promoting health and well-being. To have real and lasting value, that movement must be performed with careful attention to form and positioning.

Young Gymnast
Young girl gymnast in various poses, isolated on white.

Examine the picture of the young woman executing a supple back bend, a much-admired position that is commonly performed by female Olympic gymnasts. For all its grace and beauty, this end range yogic move can damage young, healthy bodies. I sometimes wonder why this fact is never pointed out to the public. We need to be more aware that these seemingly harmless exercises can cause ongoing neuro-musculoskeletal problems in our young people.

An estimated 40 percent of all children display some degree of joint hypermobility, a genetically caused condition in which a person’s joints extend well beyond their normal range of motion. This exaggerated flexibility can be relatively benign. Over time though, postural positions and movements performed repeatedly at end range can permanently overstretch ligaments, increase joint looseness, and even destabilize the spine causing chronic pain, impairing balance, and negatively impacting mobility.

The tendency towards joint hypermobility can be observed in the very young. When children are required to sit for prolonged periods make sure they are checked for proper body positioning. Training children to use their muscles to hold themselves in correct alignment is essential to producing healthy teenagers and adults.

The secret to good health lies in maintaining the entire spine in a neutral position to protect the nervous system. Before you commit to performing the prolonged and repetitive movements that are part of any exercise program, get advice from a healthcare professional who specializes in movement disorders. You will be happy you did!