Hypermobility: Less is More

In News by Ira Feinstein

by Rachel Hamstra, GCFP

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 all that mobility. It also includes a client who I’ve been working with regularly for a few months. 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 initially contacted me, she was looking for effective stretches. Being hypermobile, what feels like a stretch to you or me just feels like movement to her. She was able to move wildly, yet she never felt comfortable. It was immediately apparent to me 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. She can tell me precisely what she is feeling physically at any given moment and can do so even when feeling disconnected from herself. She uses 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 said, “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 through 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 that their lower back doesn’t have to work so hard.

K is a different story. She is a constant reminder for me of Dr. Feldenkrais’ motto, “less is more.” The simplest movement pattern I can think of holds enormous 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. She delights in finding simplicity where her body doesn’t make it readily available.

After a lifetime of no control, K now revels in her ability to control her movements. She has learned that she can: 1) choose how big a movement is, and 2) that a small movement might be more satisfying or comfortable than a large one. The knowledge has made dramatic changes in her day-to-day life. Hypermobility (both extreme like K’s and milder) can cause serious injury and joint damage long-term. K’s new repertoire of limited movements will help her joints stay healthy longer than they might otherwise, and offer her constant discovery along the way.

Rachel Hamstra, GCFP, offers private lessons, classes, and workshops in Seattle, WA. She finds joy in helping others find curiosity, hope, and ease in movement and life. She has been a student of the Feldenkrais Method for over 20 years and graduated from Seattle Eastside Feldenkrais Training in 2012. Find out more at http://www.rachelhamstra.com/