Hypermobility: Less Is More

The term "hypermobility" covers a whole spectrum of excess joint mobility. It refers to everything from being able to bend your hand back towards your forearm to being a contortionist with the skill to control and coordinate all that mobility. It also includes a client who I've been working with regularly for a few months. Here's a little about the story of working with her. I'll call her K.

K is a middle-aged woman with full-blown hypermobility. She can bend and move in ways that most people never will. When she originally contacted me, she was looking for effective stretches, because being so hypermobile, what feels like a stretch to you or me just feels like movement to her. She came in with this ability to move wildly, but never able to be comfortable. It was immediately clear upon meeting K that she needed two things: to find her connection to the ground to stabilize her, and coordination to be able to control her movement.

K is a fascinating person to work with on many levels. Despite this deep sense of disconnection from herself that she felt when she first came in, she could, and still can, tell me precisely what she was feeling physically at any given time. She uses continually surprising language to describe her experience, often with sound effects. (To give you an idea of her language, during her first lesson, we started doing some hands-on work and she told me, "I thought I was coming to a class. It's like I was expecting a cupcake and I got a WHOLE GIANT BOWL of tiramisu!")

The majority of people who come in my door need to learn how to add extra movement to what they're already doing. For example, someone with lower back pain often needs to learn how to allow more movement in their legs, pelvis, and lower back so their lower back doesn't have to work so hard.

K is a different story. She is a constant reminder for me that "less is more". The simplest movement pattern I can think of holds huge power for her. Early in working with her, I introduced her to the idea that her torso and pelvis could move as one unit, like how a barrel rolls, and it was stunning to her. After a lifetime of no control, K revels in being able to control how she's moving, no matter how small.

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In her lesson this morning, K started talking about how limiting herself to these tiny, simple movements is in fact a way of being kind to herself. We decided that in her movement, her full mobility is kind of like eating a entire bag of M&Ms, while limiting herself to a tiny exploration is like eating one spectacular truffle. Because of how giant and confusing her movement can be, that limit opens up the possibility of exploration by giving her a place to start. She is continually relieved and delighted to have the opportunity to find out what could happen instead of trying to chase what's already happening. I hope we get to work together for a long time, because she's got as much to teach me as I do for her.