270: Hypermobility & Yoga with Libby Hinsley

The yoga we see in magazines and online often depicts a contortionist style of yoga and it can give people the idea that only flexible people can or should do yoga. But what comes first – are more flexible people drawn to yoga or does yoga make us more flexible? Where does hypermobility come into all of this? Libby Hinsley answers these questions and more.

Libby Hinsley (she/her) is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Yoga Therapist. She has extensive experience with yoga and physical therapy and in her clinical practice, she specializes in treating hypermobility disorders and yoga-related injuries. Libby also teaches about anatomy in her membership program, Anatomy Bites. Recently diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Libby has a new book coming out on the topic called Yoga for Bendy People.

In this interview, Libby explains more about hypermobility and how it can affect people with this condition. She also shares why people with hypermobility often have tight muscles, how they can benefit from yoga, and some steps they might take to recognize if they have this condition and get it diagnosed. Libby gives yoga teachers some tips on being mindful of their verbal cues and some other things to be aware of with regard to hypermobility in a yoga class.

Key Takeaways:

[4:02] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Libby Hinsley.

[6:40] What does Libby do and who does she do it for?

[8:19] What is hypermobility?

“What we consider it means to be good at yoga is very much tied to an aesthetic that glorifies hypermobility and it’s a problem.” ~ Libby Hinsley

[10:02] Libby was diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. She explains what it is and how it differs from Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder.

[12:08] What are Libby’s thoughts on the idea that bendy people should do yoga?

“Everything about yoga so commonly pushes people to go as far as they can in a posture as if that’s the goal and that is not going to be helpful for a hyper mobile person.” ~ Libby Hinsley

[13:54] Flexibility and hypermobility are two different terms that are often used interchangeably.

[15:31] Why do people with hypermobility often have tight muscles?

[19:40] Shannon and Libby discuss the common message people with hypermobility get around needing to strengthen their muscles.

“Let’s make the practice about the practitioner. Instead of trying to push this practitioner into this certain type of practice, let’s just build a practice that is actually for this person, that’s about this person and that really supports that person.” ~ Libby Hinsley

[21:18] What should people who might be hypermobile do? Libby describes some of the common symptoms people might face with hypermobility.

[25:24] The prevalence of hypermobility may be around 20% of the population and this number may be overrepresented in yoga.

[29:16] Shannon shares some feedback from a yoga teacher who is using OfferingTree for her website.

“Momentum is easy. That’s not a problem. It’s the control that’s hard.” ~ Libby Hinsley

[32:01] Libby shares some of the main aspects of her book on what yoga teachers should be aware of in working with hypermobile people.

[38:44] How does Libby approach her clients dealing with hypermobility to convince them to change the way they practice?

[41:10] What are some things Libby has learned in the process of writing the book that she wishes more people knew?

[47:45] Shannon reflects on what could be happening in yoga classes with very bendy people.

“I remind people your yoga practice is actually for you and that usually really kind of wakes people up a bit like, oh, you mean this isn’t a performance for someone else.” ~ Libby Hinsley

[49:33] Libby’s book also helps people reflect on what our verbal cues are encouraging or emphasizing.

[50:37] Find out more about Libby, her work, and order her book via her website.

[52:05] Shannon shares her key takeaways from this interview with Libby.


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