Group of men and women doing outdoor pilates class

The Amazing Benefits Of Pilates For Hypermobility

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The benefits of pilates for hypermobile joints are plentiful. But one of the main benefits is that pilates helps to stabilize hypermobile joints which are naturally excessively flexible. This can then reduce pain levels, lower your chances of subluxating or dislocating your joints, and improve your balance.

In this article, we will explore the advantages of pilates for hypermobile joints and discuss its benefits in comparison to yoga. We’ll also provide insights on how to strengthen hypermobile joints effectively and introduce 3 Pilates exercises specifically designed for individuals with hypermobility.

Is Pilates good for hypermobile EDS?

Yes, pilates is good for people with hypermobility and hEDS. Pilates works by focusing on strengthening the core, improving stability, and enhancing body awareness. It also helps to provide support and reduce the strain on hypermobile joints. The controlled and precise movements in pilates can improve joint stability, helping individuals with hypermobile EDS gain better control over their range of motion. Furthermore, pilates can aid in developing muscular strength and flexibility. These are important for maintaining joint stability and preventing injuries.

Research encourages hypermobile people to try pilates too. One study of just under 1000 hypermobile people placed pilates in 3rd place for the types of exercises that are most helpful for hypermobility. 

It’s not just the physical symptoms of hypermobility that pilates can help, either. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders are common among hypermobile individuals. Research shows that the principles of pilates reduce these conditions. 

Helen O’Leary, a physio-led Pilates instructor and clinical director at Complete Pilates previously told The Metro that “‘If you are suffering from anxiety or stress, often your breathing is faster and shallower. By breathing slowly and deeply, you activate the parasympathetic system by stimulating the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from your head, through the neck and chest to your colon.”

Is Pilates better than yoga for hypermobility?

Yoga can be beneficial for hypermobility. However, our over-flexibility also puts us at risk when doing yoga. For this reason, it’s recommended you work closely with a yoga teacher to ensure you’re performing each move correctly. Otherwise, you could overstretch and damage your body. 

On the plus side, pilates has advantages over yoga. Pilates exercises are specifically designed to target the core muscles, which provide support to the spine and joints. The emphasis on core strength helps improve stability, preventing excessive joint movement and reducing the risk of injury. Plus, pilates exercises can be modified to suit individual needs, making it easier to tailor the workouts for hypermobile individuals.

For individuals with hypermobile joints, pilates provides a more controlled and targeted approach to strengthening and stabilizing the body than yoga. 

The majority of people with hypermobility also find pilates easy to do. Just 6% say they find pilates gives them discomfort

How do you strengthen hypermobile joints?

Strengthening hypermobile joints requires a balanced approach that focuses on improving stability, muscle strength, and flexibility. Pilates is recommended as it does all of these things.

As a general rule, you should do pilates 3 to 4 times per week as this will strengthen your hypermobile joints. You do need to listen to your body, though. If you experience pain or discomfort during, immediately afterward, or in the days after exercising, you need to reassess your pilates moves.

But when pilates is done right, it strengthens hypermobile joints as follows:

  • Core Engagement – Strengthening the core is crucial for providing stability to hypermobile joints. Focus on exercises that engage the deep abdominal muscles, such as the transverse abdominis. Pilates exercises like the Hundred, Single Leg Stretch, and Plank variations are effective for activating and strengthening the core.
  • Alignment and Posture – Maintaining proper alignment and posture is essential for hypermobile individuals. Pilates exercises that promote spinal alignment, such as the Spine Stretch Forward, Swan, and Shoulder Bridge, can help strengthen the muscles that support the spine and improve overall posture.
  • Muscle Control and Stabilization – Hypermobile joints tend to have an excessive range of motion, making it vital to work on muscle control and stabilization. Pilates exercises that emphasize controlled movements, such as the Pilates Reformer, can assist in activating specific muscles to stabilize hypermobile joints effectively.
  • Proprioception Training – Enhancing body awareness and proprioception is beneficial for hypermobile individuals. Pilates exercises that challenge balance, such as the Tree Pose, Standing Pilates Legwork, and Single Leg Circles, help improve proprioception, joint stability, and overall strength.
  • Functional Movements – Incorporate functional movements into your pilates routine. Include exercises that simulate everyday activities and movements, such as lunges, squats, and reaching exercises, to strengthen the muscles used in daily life and improve joint stability.
  • Gradual Progression – Start with exercises that match your current fitness level and gradually progress as your strength and stability improve. It’s important to avoid overexertion or pushing beyond your comfortable range of motion, as this can potentially strain hypermobile joints.

For optimum comfort and safety, make sure you buy a good quality Pilates mat.

Is reformer Pilates good for hypermobility?

Reformer Pilates involves the use of specialized reformer equipment and can be an excellent option for individuals with hypermobility. The reformer provides resistance, support, and assistance, allowing for controlled movements and precise muscle activation. It offers adjustable resistance levels, making it suitable for various fitness levels and joint conditions.

Reformer Pilates provides a stable platform that helps individuals with hypermobility focus on alignment, control, and muscle engagement while minimizing the risk of injury. The equipment can also facilitate modifications and variations to suit individual needs. As a result, it’s an effective and safe exercise option for hypermobile individuals.

3 Pilates exercises for hypermobility

When Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates 34 pilates moves were created. Today, these moves have been adapted so that almost anyone can do pilates.

With so many moves to choose from, it can be tricky to know where to start. So, here are 3 pilates exercises for hypermobile people to try.

  1. Supine Toe Taps: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly lower one foot to tap the floor while keeping the core engaged. Alternate legs and repeat for 10-12 repetitions. This exercise strengthens the core, hip flexors, and stabilizes the lower back.
  1. Standing Arm Circles: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and arms extended to the sides. Engage the core and perform small circles forward and backward with your arms. Maintain controlled movements and focus on shoulder stability. Perform 10-12 circles in each direction. This exercise improves shoulder stability and strengthens the upper body.
  1. Side Plank with Leg Lift: Start in a side plank position with your forearm on the ground and feet stacked. Lift the top leg upward while maintaining stability and alignment. Lower the leg and repeat for 8-10 repetitions on each side. This exercise targets the core, hip muscles, and improves stability.

Best pilates moves for hypermobility

There are no best moves for pilates as each move has its own benefits. However, if you’re looking for a place to start, I recommend the below pilates class by Jessica Valant which is designed especially for people with EDS and hypermobility.

You also can’t go wrong with hypermobility classes taught by Jennie Di Bon, like this one:

Pilates offers numerous benefits for individuals with hypermobile joints, including those with hypermobile EDS. It helps improve core strength, stability, and body awareness, all of which are crucial for maintaining joint health. Compared to yoga, pilates provides a more controlled and targeted approach to strengthening hypermobile joints. By incorporating pilates exercises and following a balanced strength-training program, individuals with hypermobility can enhance joint stability, reduce the risk of injury, and improve overall functional movement.

Author

  • Amy

    Amy lives with hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD). She spent years not knowing what was wrong with her body, before eventually being diagnosed in her 30s. She has two young children - both of whom are hypermobile.