Activating my front leg quad and back leg glutes to protect my hypermobile joints, like a good girl.
I teach a class called Flex Fit, which is a mix of yoga, active flexibility, and mobility exercises energized by breathing. I teach seven Flex Fit classes a week to a variety of different age groups, body types, and fitness backgrounds, and every so often someone will ask me how long it will take them to get their splits/backbends/etc. There is no good answer to this question because everyone’s body is different. Some bodies hold on to tension more than others, and some bodies are hypermobile.
Taking more than one of my classes every week will of course increase your flexibility and range of motion, but for a person like me who has hypermobile joints (aka Ehlers-Danlos syndrome), flexibility comes easily. I used to feel lucky my body was this way, but now I realize my super flexible joints can easily become overworked unless I teach my muscles to work smarter.
Every so often in class, I’ll see a body like mine — elbows and knees that bend backward, or shoulders that dislocate to get a pole trick. I wish I knew about Ehlers-Dalos syndrome when I was a young dancer so I could have worked to saved my body from damage. Luckily we know what we know now, and when I have hypermobile students in my class, I am eager to help them gain better control of their muscles to protect their joints while they practice.
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome affects connective tissue, primarily the skin, joints, and blood vessel walls. Symptoms include overly flexible joints that can dislocate, and skin that’s translucent, elastic, and bruises easily. In some cases, there may be dilation and even rupture of major blood vessels. It requires a blood test to diagnose, and you can find more info at the Ehlers-Danlos Society.
After a lifetime bad posture habits mixed with forcing myself into splits without using muscles to help, I tore my right ACL in the summer of 2017. There it is in the photos above all torn up on the left, and then what it looks like now, reconstructed using my hamstring tendon.
look how high my leg can go!
I was just yanking my legs into the air using my strong arms to hold them in place. No core or hip engagement, just forcing my ligaments to stretch — and those things are not supposed to stretch. I did this for so many years. On the left photos below you can see my terrible form, taken a month before my injury.
On the right, you can see me and my smarter body, taken 3 months after ACL reconstruction surgery. I’m using my hips, engaging my core, and activating quads and glutes to protect my hypermobile knees like a good girl.
For me, I need daily reminders to activate my muscles to protect my joints when I walk, sit, stand, and pole. Teaching my Flex Fit class really changed my life and how I think with my body, helping me stay on track to protecting my body so my joints will stay healthy throughout my career.
If you have EDS and are an athlete or dancer, how do you deal with your hypermobile joints?