Lately, I've been addicted to practicing Yoga in my livingroom using DVD's from YogaDirect.com (of course!). However, I have been noticing that some of the demonstrators in the videos have hyper extended elbows and knees and don't really pay attention to correctly aligning their joints while they practice. Not only does it look gross to see a backward bending knee or elbow, but it is very dangerous to put pressure on an overly extended joint.
Caught dancing with hyper extended elbows
I have hyper extended elbows and knees myself, and as a dancer, I've had to train myself to become more aware of correct placement so I don't get injured (or look disgusting on stage...I have had a few photos shot of myself during performances with my arms looking backwards...see above!). So I did a little research about hyper extension and how to deal with it in Yoga class.
My gross hyper extended elbows
Hyper extended joints, or joint hyper mobility, is hereditary and is mainly caused by loose ligaments around the joint. If you stand with hyper extended knees, your body weight is no longer evenly distributed in your feet, and the weight of your body becomes held up by your heels. Over time, this pressure in your heels will cause flat feet, or even pronation (when your feet roll in). Plus, once your legs get used to the hyper extended stance, your vastus medialis obliques (the muscles toward the inside of your thighs) become weak and the quads take over. Hyper extension of the knee also causes hip problems. Remember, once one part of your body is misaligned, other muscles will try to compensate, leaving you with more to correct later on than just your overly flexible knees. Over extended elbows are also problematic in postures that require you to put weight on them such as plank pose.
Your joints are connected by delicate tissues and over time, if you continuously over extend, the tissues get worn away. Once the tissue is gone, you may get arthritis, or another painful joint injury. Also, when you hyper extend your knees in a standing posture, you are actually slightly cutting off the flow of blood to your feet, which is the opposite of what Yoga is trying to do in your body.
If you know that you have hyper extended joints, you should wear something to Yoga class that will expose those parts, like shorts or tight-fitted pants, so you can keep a close eye on your knees and elbows while you are in class. Make a conscious effort to keep your knees and elbows slightly bent in postures. It will feel weird at first, but relying on muscles for alignment is much better than relying on some connective tissue to keep you on your feet!