Yoga Warning: those who are “too flexible” at risk

Via Roger Wolsey
on Mar 2, 2011
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A report just came out indicating that people who are “too flexible” at risk of suffering migraines.

… an excerpt from the story:

NEW YORK — People with severe forms of double jointedness have a greater risk of suffering from migraine headaches, a new study finds. They also tend to have more severe and more frequent migraines.

Researchers say that the two conditions — “joint hypermobility syndrome” and migraines — may have causes rooted in the same problem.

People who fit the profile for having joint hypermobility have contortionist-like flexibility. They are able to bend their thumbs back to their forearms, overextend their elbows, and place their palms on the floor without bending their knees, for instance.

“It’s a disease of collagen, basically,” study author Dr. Vincent Martin, a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio, told Reuters Health.

Collagen is one of the body’s basic building blocks, helping to form myriad structures, including the joints and blood vessels.

Martin’s hypothesis is that if the collagen is too elastic, it leads to both flexible joints and stretchy blood vessels — problems involved in joint hypermobility syndrome and migraine, respectively.
Martin had noticed in his clinical practice that double-jointed patients seemed to suffer from migraines, too. He also pulled from his own experience, having both hypermobility and migraine headaches. ….


It isn’t clear what the implications are for yogis and yoginis, but it may be wise for yoga instructors to ensure that their “too bendy” students not go too far into their poses, and to instead emphasize  “the masculine” by extending energy from hara through their limbs.



About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


21 Responses to “Yoga Warning: those who are “too flexible” at risk”

  1. Yogini5 says:

    I've been castigated for being not flexible "enough" by yoga teachers (in the past) … they could barely control their disdain … guess every downward dog has his day …

  2. BrotherRog says:

    i'm not sure what you call it, but Jim's shoulder seems, "special"

  3. BrotherRog says:

    in all fairness, i'm not sure that becoming flexible has a causal relation to migraines. it seems more of a situation for persons who may have a certain genetic predisposition to not having stable joints.

  4. Bethany says:

    Does no one else think this video is absolutely bizaree? It is from a website for flexible girls who will perform in questionable amounts of clothing… Not sure what to think about i.

  5. Cynthia says:

    I was expecting a spiritual metaphor somewhere in here…

  6. YesuDas says:

    I wonder if Hildegard was "bendy."

  7. cojoyo says:

    Im not double jointed but I can place my palms on the floor without bending my knees. And I do suffer from migraines. My migraines have been a lot less often as I have gotten older (and more flexible). However, as a yoga teacher, I would never look down on a student for there level of flexibility. I also agree with yogini5 :1- Feeling all the poses more without having to bend into tomorrow 2- Stable in their joints. That is TRUE. I have had to work hard to gain the strength to stay in a pose.

  8. lighthasmass says:

    Not sure how hyper mobility and yoga go together… yeah we both stretch … but okay . I read the article and hands on floor is not hyper moble. Head on the but… that is hyper moble.

  9. BrotherRog says:

    It would appear that the condition was not CAUSED by yoga; people who are born with the condition may aggravate it by doing certain poses. There appears no reason to think that people who were not born with the collagen disorder are somehow going to get it from doing yoga.

    It does looks like careless yoga can aggravate pre-existing conditions in certain people.

  10. Yogini5 says:

    I was castigated because I have needed bent knee to get my hands on the floor. Hands on the floor with straight knees, and standing backbending so you saw the wall behind you, seemed to be a prerequisite for All Level classes taken at a studio that I no longer go to for obvious reasons. Hands on the floor with straight legs has always been hypermobile for MY baseline, even when I had been 20 years old …

    Would that yoga classes be like this again and being hypermobile as an ideal, would be a dead issue …

  11. AMO says:

    Hmmm. I'm noting a disconnect between the experiences listed and the actual result of the study. The study DID NOT say that doing yoga causes headaches. Bending doesn't cause the migraines, if I understand correctly, it is BEING bendy that is RELATED to migraines. It may not in fact be CAUSAL at all. Studies like this rarely show cause, though they allude here to a link to collagen.
    That doesn't mean wall stands can't cause a migraine, it also doesn't mean they can…

  12. Charlotte says:

    Thanks for the informative article. I was born with hypermobile joints, and although I do not suffer from migraines, I do have a strong tendency toward headaches. When I was practicing asana in my 20s and 30s, I enjoyed doing "advanced" backbends as well as extreme hip- and shoulder-opening poses, simply because they were easy for me. Now in my 50s I realize that there is definitely such a thing as too much flexibility. Many years of not balancing my flexibility with containment have caused instability in my joints, especially my SI joint. Now I practice to contain my energy and flexibility. My body is still flexible, but I feel much more balanced.

  13. Nancy A says:

    how interesting .. says the very bendy and prone to migranes me. thanks!

  14. Michele says:

    I too am fairly hyper mobile (can bring my thumb to my forearm) and I completely agree with David, the Anusara UPA's especially muscular energy has transformed my practice and allowed me to feel safe and contained within my own body while at the same time expanding outward from a place of better alignment. I don't get migraines btw. Former dancer also.

  15. Yogini5 says:

    Anybody's principles of alignment worked wonders with my not-so-bendy body, too. It had been a matter both of finding the right venue(s) [at long last] and being receptive to the teaching of same … alignment does involve the channels of energy flow.

  16. Jason Gan says:

    There are many advanced yoga poses that are only possible for those who are hyper-flexible. However, what is the point when they cannot be taught and they are too scary.

  17. Charlotte says:

    I agree with you that too much strength is also a condition of imbalance. The middle way is healthiest, and of course, that middle way varies from person to person, and also varies as we age. Whereas in my youth I practiced to increase my bendability, I now practice to create a balance between flexibility and strength in my particular body. I still enjoy backbends and hip and shoulder openers, but I also focus on creating stability.

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  19. Karen says:

    As a hypermobile former gymnast I was drawn to yoga because I was so flexible that alot of asana was easy for me. After years as a gymnast I became a instructor/coach/judge.After enrolling in teacher training a with an Iyengar yoga instructor I quickly found that I lacked strength (especially core) and was falling into poses.With her help I was able to experience the strength that I had been lacking.It was extremly hard to find stability in poses and I was often unable to engage the muscle group being explored.Rodney Yee was one of the first instructors able to help me keep from hyprextending my knees.Yoga taught me valuable lessons to take back to the gymnastics studio, and my students defienatly benefited from the long hours of Iyengar study.At 51 I still hyperextend (especially the elbows) but have found the strength to balance it out.

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