I fell in love with yoga in my mid-twenties. Having retained my flexibility from many childhood years as a gymnast, yoga fit like a glove. I practiced with determination and, I'll admit, a bit of ego, silently gloating about how easily I could "go deep" into the asanas.
Little did I know my flexibility would eventually be my downfall.
My lack of understanding of the true nature of yoga led me down an inevitable path toward injury. Instead of paying attention to the inside form of each posture, I would set up the pose, then physically and mentally "check out." Without the muscular energy needed to support my body through gravity, I hung on my joints until my ligaments were too overstretched to perform their job.
By the time I was 30, I was the begrudging owner of a stiff, aching lower back and chronically sore hamstrings.
What was missing in my practice was balance. My flexibility greatly outweighed my strength, and core conditioning was essential. It was then that I began practicing Pilates, which taught me about my body's mechanics, its habits, and its incredible capacity to change. I began to heal my injuries by shifting my focus away from mobility and toward stability.
My chronic injuries have disappeared and I am now much stronger, more aware and more humble in my yoga practice. Although I was afraid Pilates would reduce my flexibility, I found that it allowed the tighter areas of my muscular system to open, making my body more balanced overall.
I invite all yogis — especially the super flexible — to perform the five exercises below to protect your joints from injury. These movements will galvanize your core strength so you'll be able to practice yoga safely for many years to come.