When Flexibility is a Liability

June 2, 2018

For much of my life on the yoga mat the aim had been to increase my range of motion (ROM). That part came easy and eventually a physical therapist postpartum taught me about proprioception. The issue was I lacked it! Basically, my brain’s messaging system to respond to my movement or body’s position was on the fritz so my joints just keep going.

Pregnancy was a big strain on my small frame of 5’2". I gained between 40 and 50 lbs with both kid and eventually I was in a lot of pain. Periodically my back hurt, my butt hurt, I couldn’t stand or sit for more than a few minutes at a time. My rectus abdominis was stretched apart due to the babies, weight gain and radical yoga poses I kept up like dropping back to Wheel Pose up into my third trimester with my first. This resulted in diastasis recti that to this day is still 1-2 fingers widths apart. (You do not have to get pregnant to experience the overstretching of the connective tissue between the bellies of your most superficial core.)

When I’d get on my yoga mat to try to combat the pain, pregnant or not, yoga would make it worse. YIKES.

As a dedicated student to the study of yoga and a teacher of 16 years I was not going to sit idly by. I would not show up to class and pretend yoga just worked for everyone and teach as if nothing had changed. That would be untruthful. I decided I needed help from someone outside of the yoga community and was willing to do the kind of work I assumed I would dread- traditional exercise.

Insert chiropractor and physical therapy to my movement routine. No longer was the aim to seek out depth of sensation by stretching but rather by strengthening. No longer was it getting into a radical yoga pose but backing off and reveling in the basic poses. It wasn’t just that I lacked proprioception, had diastasis recti, had strained my joints from some serious weight gain but many yoga poses I thought were strengthening my body simply were not. Particularly my glutes and lateral hip rotators. I often thought I was using my core but was not using the deeper layers like my pelvic floor or transverse abdominis. It really helped having a movement professional help me.

I’ve spent the majority of my life rejecting athletics and here I am with a weekly squat routine. If I don’t I will feel it.

My yoga poses revolve around recruiting muscles rather than lengthening them or passively dropping in. The more I consistently work on backing off the better it is when I do take a break and go deep, which is about once a week.

It’s been an amazing shift. I feel the best I have EVER. My asana practice includes jumping jacks, lunge repetitions, resistance work with a strap, various squats, my kids as weights for leg presses and curls, they sit root my thighs in Virabhadrasana I and II (you could use a kid or a weight). No longer does the traditional, ubiquitous vinyasa sequence serve me physically or mentally 6x a week. If I’m being honest, not even 3×. I need to create boundaries because my proprioceptors don’t and it’s been pretty fun finding different ways of moving.

Conveniently my teachers and the modern yoga world is getting on board with this way of practice. The movement community is getting smart about asana because we simply know more now than ever and see the benefit of integrating other modes of training the body to bend. Overuse is overuse. Marathon runners don’t run marathons daily to train so I haven’t had a strong vinyasa daily practice in about 5.5 years.

Here’s a few things I do weekly on the mat:

Deep Squats
squat start
Deep Squat

Lunge Squat
Step forward from Tadasana.
Lunge Squat

Midline Crossing Jumping Jacks
Midline Crossing Jumping Jacks
step 2

Midline Hugger
Step up from a high lunge.
Midline Hugger

Side Step Lunge
side step lunge
side step lunge 2

Clam Shells with a yoga strap
clam shell with strap

Closed and Open Chain Core Sequence
neutral spine
step 2

In no way am I a fitness instructor or therapist. These are just some wonderful additions to my yoga practice that I’ve found to create more balance in my body. There are super videos out there by personal trainers like Beth Horn (American Gladiator “Venom”) or smart yoga teachers like Carrie Owerko, Rocky Heron, Christina Sell, Noah Maze among many others if this type of work interests you.

Here’s a recent snippet of my home practice illustrating a sequence to work on stability. In each pose I’m trying to use the muscles that create the movement at the joint instead of flopping around in flexibility.

IG hip stability video



Shout out to:

Michelle Steinys of Core Chiropractic in Bucktown, Chicago

Beth Horn, personal trainer and former American Gladiator

Jenni Rawlings, Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist

Noah Maze, yoga teacher

Rocky Heron, yoga conditioning

Christina Sell, yoga teacher

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