Lax Ligaments

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Bernie
Posts: 1212
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Lax Ligaments

Post by Bernie »

I received this questions recently: "I have a student who wants to do yin but has been told she has loose joints and I don't want to do more harm than good. I hope you can help. Debra."

Yin Yoga targets the deeper connectives, which include the ligaments and the joints. There are many reasons and benefits for doing so: to help increase range of motion, to stimulate production of synovial fluid, to reduce degeneration of the tissues and to enhance the movement of energy. However, as with everything in life, you can do too much and there are times when even a little is too much. Everybody is unique and what is useful for one person may be harmful for another.

If a student has been diagnosed with lax ligaments, applying a yin-like stress to those joints is probably not a good idea. The joint is already overly (hyper) mobile and what it needs is stability now. Yang yoga targeting the muscles around the joint is probably the best way to go: with stronger muscles, the joint can be held more closely bound. However, this does not mean that no Yin Yoga should be practiced, it does mean that great care should be taken when working near the loose joint area.

Yin Yoga can also benefit students by stimulating energy movement and through its deep meditative aspects. You may want to design a flow for your student that doesn't touch the joints where the problem is, but work other areas, such as the upper body or the big muscles of the lower body. For example, Sphinx or Seal may be quite safe and your student could benefit from the stimulation of the kidneys. Kidneys, in the TCM philosophy, send energy out to all the other organs and also help the bones stay strong. Caterpillar may help to stress the stubborn hamstrings, without affecting the knees or ankles.

You didn't mention which joints are the problem, so I can't give you a specific flow for your student, but if you follow these principles, she should still be able to benefit from both yin and yang forms of yoga.

Cheers
Bernie
Renee
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Post by Renee »

Thanks Bernie and Debra for bringing this up. I was thinking about this a lot passed week because of one of my student's misfortune of doing too much yin. In the case of Debra's student, and many more, you need to know your body, of which many people are not even aware of. So this is a tough one I think. Even with the fact that connective tissue has a contractive nature, one will want to know his bones before doing yinyoga and maybe aggravating something that is already there. When doing yinyoga, how can one feel/know these "sleeping"issues. And will (lax) ligaments shorten again after doing ( too much) yinyoga by taking a break? Another student of mine is very flexible. She loves the yin but now I am wondering if may be, someday, it will lead to back problems ( very flexible back) I do encourage my students to do both types of yoga I offer ( ashtanga and yin) but as you know, people often tend doing the things they love to do instead of what they need to do. So I just be firm?
My students asked me last week, knowing of this "doing too much of a good thing" 'when do we know what is too much'.
I tell them that they need to be able to relax the muscles as much as they can and most importantly to watch their breath in the poses. The other student of mine, who is seriously hurt now ( diagnosed with spondylolisthesis) admitted that at one time during the poses her breath became irregular and that the pose hurt. She is taking a break now but waiting to start yoga again. Do you think, Bernie that,her taking a break, can bring her back in the condition she was before?
Big story, sorry.
Do hope to hear some answers, for this is pretty important to know.
Have a nice day and thanks again.
Renee
Bernie
Posts: 1212
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Pain and Yoga

Post by Bernie »

Hi Rene

Your post has so many questions and thoughts I hardly know where to begin. Can I just summarize your theme through the question "how you do you know if you are doing too much?"

The first clue is pain. Pain is always a no-no. Unfortunately pain is always a very subjective experience. Paul Grilley likes to use an analogy in the form of a spectrum. People in pain range from the Black Knight of Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail to the Panda Bear. The Black Knight is one who may suffer a leg being cut off and claim that it is merely a scratch. These people don't react to pain in a healthy manner: they would rather ignore it and force their bodies to carry on. At the other extreme are the Pandas for whom even the slightest sensation is too much, invoking fear and anxiety. They may say something like, "I felt a something, you know? A thing. And I am not sure if it is a good thing or not but I don't want to feel that thing anymore!"

Everybody is different and their subjective experience of pain is also going to be different and on top of that is their ability to tolerate pain. But let's try to define unhealthy pain: this is any sensation that can be characterized as sharp, burning, stabbing, electrical or tingling. Generally these kinds of sensations indicate that the tissues are being damaged or are about to be damaged. On the other hand, dull achy sensations is generally what we want to feel in our Yin Yoga poses. We do ask a lot of our tissues and we need to feel something, but not too much. (See the Goldilocks' Position article for more on this.)

Sometimes the pain occurs long after the yoga practice has ended, especially with nerve damage. Be alert to these pain sensations at any time: if you do feel pain think back to what you may have been doing over the last 24 to 48 hours and see if there is a correlation to the current sensations/tingling/pain and your yoga practice. If you can find a correlation, be extra cautious in your next practice and avoid going so deep in that area.

In the practice, any pain at all is a demand to back off or come out of the pose, but sometimes we don't have to wait for pain to arise. If the breath becomes short or choppy, you may be working too hard (in a yang practice) or beyond your edge (in a yin practice). The body's own wisdom knows when you are dangerously close to harming yourself, and in self-protection the body will tighten up. This tightening up is to reduce the dangerous stresses so that damage doesn't happen, but tightening up is the opposite of what we want in a yoga practice. We want to open up, but if you are too deep, you won't be able to open up.

Read the section in YinSights about playing your edges for more on how to approach your limits safely.

Intention plays an important role in preventing injuries. Be clear with yourself about why you are doing the practice. Are you seeking maximum performance or optimal health? If it is the latter, then there is never any need to go past your edge in a pose or stay when pain arises.

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For the super-flexible students, the intention is not more flexibility or more mobility, but rather stability. For these students there are still tremendous benefits to doing Yin Yoga: the deep calmness of the mind and the energetic benefits can be found even without going really deep into postures. Remember always, in Yin Yoga, time is more important than intensity. Just find an edge, it doesn't have to be a deep edge, and stay there. Even if the edge recedes, you can still benefit from the stillness and from the breath.

For students who are injured, it is good to mobilize and stress the wounded area but only mildly. It is a trade-off: we want to stimulate the damaged area so that healing can be assisted but we don't want to go so deep that we re-damage the area. I can't tell you how deep that is - the student needs to work with her teacher, her health care provider and her own inner guru to figure that out.

I hope this helps!
Bernie
Renee
Posts: 47
Joined: Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:18 am
Location: geldrop
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Post by Renee »

Thanks for your time Bernie. I will make this help.
Greetz,
Renée
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