I began practicing yoga at age 11. My mom brought home the Jane Fonda workout and Raquel Welch Yoga videos and I became obsessed… especially with the yoga. At first I wasn’t very flexible, couldn’t touch my toes, and was extremely weak in my shoulders and core.

But I was diligent and disciplined and, by age 14, I was religiously reading Yoga Journal and stretching my way into the splits. In college, I would wake up early and practice my poses in meditative silence while my roommate was still sleeping. I stretched all the time … it instantly made me feel better.

My hamstrings were super flexible, but I would wake up in the morning with sciatic pain shooting down my left leg.

In my early 20s, I moved to L.A. and began practicing Ashtanga Yoga and Power Yoga, and I watched as my flexibility continued to improve. I was “that contortionist  girl” in classes, the one who could do ALL of the really difficult bendy poses. Teachers loved using me as a demo and would twist me into origami and balloon puppets with great ease. I loved my exceptional flexibility and its “specialness.” I thought that yoga and stretching were healthy, but I didn’t realize that I was actually overdoing it and creating serious problems in some of my tissues.

My practice and my stretching were bordering on compulsive. My body did not feel good if I didn’t stretch, AND I was fidgety while trying to sit still in a car or airplane seat. I was endlessly shifting around, never quite feeling comfortable.

How can overstretching harm the body?

When a muscle is being lengthened, it’s not just the actual muscle cells being elongated, but also the fascia or connective tissues that surround, encase and penetrate throughout the muscle. These connective tissues comprise 30 percent of the bulk of a muscle. When we stretch a muscle, upwards of 40 percent of the actual stretch is coming from the elongation of its fascia! With too much stretching, the fascial tissues lose their ability to recoil and the inherent elasticity of these connective tissues disintegrates and becomes less functional as a result.

Connective tissues are full of nerves and blood vessels that help supply the muscles with nourishment. Fascia is also loaded with collagen and elastin molecules that help provide anchors for motion and cushions of protection for the muscle cells. If tissues are chronically overstretched, the muscles also become more vulnerable and under siege from the constant stretching. Muscles (and the soft tissues surrounding them, including tendons and ligaments) develop painful “micro-tears.”

The “stretchaholic” signs were there

There were signs along the way that I was overstretching. I had lots of different types of pain; I just chose to ignore them. I wanted to keep practicing the way I was practicing.

1) My hamstrings ached all the time… they were overstretched daily beyond their limit. Practicing always seemed to make them feel better, as the heat warmed them up and dulled the micro-tear pain signals.

2) I felt dull sciatic-related pain down the back of my left leg almost every day, caused by overstretching the sciatic nerve.

3) My shoulders constantly clicked and popped, and I was constantly cracking my neck… true signs of unstable joints.

4) At age 25, I could not straighten my knees in the morning. Upon waking, I would roll out of bed and by the time I “made it” to the kitchen, my knees would crowbar themselves back open to “normal.” A sure sign of overstretched ligaments!

Stretch intervention: strength training

I probably would have just kept stretching myself into oblivion had my yoga mentor and biomechanics expert Glenn Black not stepped in. His diagnosis: muscle weakness due to overstretching. He said that I needed to restore the power in my muscles to stabilize my joints. This explained why I could never quite find a comfortable position or “sit still” unless I was practicing. Stretching would give me a temporary feeling of release and relief, as it is truly beneficial for relaxing the nervous system, improving circulation, etc., but my overall muscle tone had been stretched to the point that I had become terribly unstable at many of my joints.

I had worked with him for four consecutive summers at the Omega Institute before moving to Los Angeles and becoming “Bendy Girl.” After seven years without him, I needed his critical insight to help restore balance in my body. He told me that I needed to complement my yoga with resistance training like lifting weights, using more PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitated stretching) within my practice and even adding Kettlebells.

Since then, I have built my own Yoga Tune Up® format around this concept of galvanizing both the strength that muscles generate along with the lengthening and yielding of the connective tissues that surround them. This has given my body, and the thousands of students who practice with me, a dynamically powerful physique that is truly balanced.

Fine-tuning my Kettlebell technique with Luke Sniewski.

Adding resistance training to my movement practice has been a revelation. My body feels good. I can now sit still on a six-hour flight and walk away without needing to crack my hips or spine! So yogis, if you find yourself with odd aches and pains, I ask you to take a closer look at where you might have actually created weakness from overstretching.

Tissue are living: They heal

Tissues are living; they can change and heal if given the right stimulation, a disciplined approach and the correct exercises to balance them. For some this could mean more stretching; for others it might mean more strengthening, but always a combination of the two. You can consciously recondition your tissues. Just give it time, seek a skilled personal trainer or physical therapist, or join me at one of my Yoga Tune Up® classes or Roll Model Method workshops, and your yoga practice will benefit more than ever!

Find your nearest Yoga Tune Up® Class

Learn about Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Training.

Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.

(Reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life.)

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Charlene Lowe

Thank you for sharing your story. I myself am not a “Bendy” girl but i teach yoga and see many students who are “bendy” in my classes. Providing your symptoms helps me to ask the right questions and to know i can guide them in their practice. Perfirming the adjustments i learned in ytu level 1 teacher training using the pnf principle is a great start.

Katherine Streeton

Such a great article! As an SFG1 kettlebell instructor and avid yoga practitioner I couldn’t agree more that we need both strength and stability as well as flexibility and mobility. I believe kettlebell training/strength training and yoga/stretching complement each other extremely well! Add the consciousness and self-care from Yoga Tune Up® and you’re on your way to a healthier, happier body.


This article should be printed off and pinned to a news board of every yoga studio out there. Holy balance between strength and flexibility.


Awesome article that draws from personal experience and makes it so relatable. A message I try and convey to my very bendy gymnast clients, but have a hard time doing so. This blog might just do the trick. Thanks!


Thank you for using easy to understand examples from your personal life. As a massage therapist I see a huge need in my clients for stretching and fascial release. My YTU Level 1 class really helped me to understand the need for both stretching and strengthening and this article will help me convey this concept to my clients.

Kate H

I doubt I may ever be as bendy as Jill and many other yogis. Part of it I believe is genetic, even as a young ballet dancer, I had to really fight for every inch added to my ROM. But I think even for the tight yogis out there, we have to think of strength is addition to flexibility. Yes, finding a balance between both and not overdoing one or the other. I resisted for a long time to strengthen certain muscles because they were “tight,” but I may have been doing a disservice to my body. I forgot, some… Read more »

Loretta Zedella

Thank you for this great advice for we naturally bendy people! PNF excercises add to much to my routines. I also using a pull up bar in my upstairs hallway. It is such a great way to add some strngth resisstance work throughout the day. Many of your Yoga Tune Up movements such as Raise the Chalice also buid strength. Thanks.


How long did it take for you to heal the overstretched muscles?

Stacey Rosenberg

This article was all too familiar and I am so happy to hear that tissue can heal. I had a lot of pain which I now know was related to an imbalance of strength and flexibility. My experience of my body and my practice has already changed so drastically over the last 2 years by adding a lot of strength building and resistance. I have more to go to be in balance but it is nice not to have pain anymore. I will take being pain free over being able to do a fancy yoga pose!

Elise Fabricant

This is such an important subject, and one we as a yoga community ignores far too often. Needless to say, there’s such an over-emphasis on gumby-ness, as if being able to contort into a pretzel is the end all and be all of enlightened practice. For years now, I’ve had the hunch that obsessive stretching couldn’t be beneficial to the body, even though it creates “beautiful” asana. I wondered, though, if I was perhaps just jealous of my peers who could bend, twist and fold deeper than I? In my own body, I also recently recognized the importance of strength… Read more »

Meredith Brockriede

I think the information in this article is so important for both experienced and new yogis to hear. We think of stretching as good (which it is!), but as with everything else, there can be too much of a good thing. One of yoga’s great gifts is the increased ability to understand and listen to our own body, though this awareness takes time and can be clouded by the encouragements of teachers and other students who may not realize when we are overstretching. Reading some of the recent articles that have been coming out about the hype surrounding Instragram Yogis… Read more »

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Amy Deguio

Oh thank you Jill! This article just completely tied it all together for me as to the how’s and why’s I have been experiencing some of the symptoms you had described! And that proprioceptive piece either with PNF or resistance work is so imperative to the whole idea of nourishing and revitalizing tissue! I have a much clearer direction of how I need to approach movement for myself which is very exciting! All of this information is just going to help and give such purpose when instructing others!!

Claire Miller Murphy

Wow- this article resonates with me and so much of what I have been experiencing for a while now. In professional dance school, I was not the floppy dancer but more the strong but always tight dancer. And so, I was told to stretch, lengthen, stretch, stretch….especially hips/hamstrings.. SO I did, and I believe ended up becoming unstable in my low back. I have the sciatic pain, disk injury and most recently joint issues. Fast forward 15 years, and I am teaching Pilates, Yoga, Dance…..then, I began teaching Zumba…. and all of this came to a head and I had… Read more »


Wow, thank you sooo much for this great article! I typically take dance class about 3-4 times a week and I stretch every day for 1 hour and 15 minutes… I also have OCD and an eating disorder, which certainly don’t do anything for my problem. Anyways, in ballet class I thought I should be doing much better after stretching so much and becoming very flexible but the truth is that I almost felt weaker. Sure, my “dévéloppés” were okay and what not, but I am so weak in every other area. I think I am going to try putting… Read more »


I am that flexi, bendy girl, too. A natural yoga body, a teacher once told me. I didn’t realize until one day in my teacher training intensive at the White Lotus Foundation that I was cheating nearly all my poses. I have good body awareness and the flexibility to be able to mirror my teachers perfectly, but I was lacking true engagement. That day, I was in Urdva Danurasana when one of the teaching assistants came over to me. He stood for a moment, observing, then he said, “You look like you’re in the pose, but I don’t think you’re… Read more »

Caitlin Rotkiewicz

This brings to light possible causes of what I thought were fairly normal, or at least common, habits. I’m addicted to cracking my joints; even as I write this I am resisting the urge to stand up and pop my hips. If I acknowledge my discomfort while sitting, I can’t concentrate on the matter at hand until I stretch or crack… and the cycle repeats. I don’t find this very detrimental, as I enjoy the release, but now I am considering the reasons behind this. But even when I did resistance and strength training, I still felt the need to… Read more »

Linda Webster

I definite recognize some stretchaholic tendencies in myself . I have just recently seen the value of strength training. I love the way that the YTU classes make me feel. You have inspired me to take myself and my students to a more balanced fitness and yoga practice. I can’t wait to go to the rest of your workshops. I guess you could call me a Jill Miller groupie.


Great post! I never had very flexible hamstrings, rather strong ones, and was told it would be difficult for me to overstretch them and that I could basically go ahead and push myself. I ended up with micro-tears in the attachments -“yoga butt” pain- and I was suddenly struggling to keep stable in warrior-poses which I had previously felt so strong in. This also affected my overall stability while walking, jogging and dancing and on top of that I had sciatic pain caused by a super-tight compensating piriformis. It felt like I had given my legs away. Since then I… Read more »


So true! A year ago when I had to seek help from a Dr of naprapathy due to severe pain in my “left gluteus” I first questioned his explanation that my piriformis was to weak. Asanas like the pigeon was the one thing that was giving me some releif, which in my mind meant that I needed to strech my piriformis muscle more – not strenghten it. He quickly proved me wrong by having me perform a few strenthening exercises and after only a couple of weeks the pain was gone. Walking lunges and other strengthening exercises are now part… Read more »


Love this. Thank you. Strength and flexibilitiy, partners. Being a very ‘bendy’ person/body, I have had to learn (re-learn) to stabillize muscles, more than stretch them. I found that not only did I feel a bit floppy, at some points in my life, but also ungrounded. Becoming more stable and strong has allowed me to feel more present in my yoga practice, more grounded, of the earth. And while the hyper flexibility is often lovely, and well received, and greatly appreciated, it really MUST be balanced with a stable core, plus mind, (whole) body, and spirit.

Diane Wrobleski

In dance and gymnastic class I was the bending pretzel in my youth; however, being overly flexible has left me with over stretch muscles that no longer recoil as they should. My thighs have lost their muscle tone and I routinely crack my neck joint and spine. This article actually gave a scientific explanation to what has happened to my “mature” muscles and joints .
Who knew that fascia tissue was so important? I will speak to a trainer about adding resistance training to my practice.

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Great article. I learn something more challenging on different blog posts everyday. It’s always stimulating to read through posts from other writers. I’d love to use a bit of the content on my website if you don’t mind. Obviously I’ll supply you with a hyperlink to your web site. Thank you for sharing.


A good reminder to seek balance in everything! I like the explanation of what’s physiologically happening in the body because of overstretching, and the encouragement of using things like kettbells. We all need our rest days, strength training, AND Yoga.


This is my problem! I have never read anything like this or heard about this before. I am now 23 years old and I can only hope that I can take preventative action before I have any serious injuries. I always thought in the back of my mind that it could be they fact that my muscles weren’t strong enough, that’s why I have random aches, but now this whole thing about fascia and tissue just blows my mind! I will definitely look into Yoga Tune Up practices and would love to attend a conference.

Tiffany C

What a wake up call! Before reading this I had never considered that my extreme flexibility could actually be a liability. I had a vague notion that I wanted to build strength to prevent being ‘floppy’, but did not realize that flexibility could be compromising stability in a pose. As long as I could do a stretch and still feel good (or at least not feel pain), I thought it was a good thing. I have hypermobile elbows (and, I suspect, shoulders) and will now be consciously working to strengthen the ligaments and muscles to ensure that my joints and… Read more »

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Thank you so much for teaching me about PNF. Using PNF techniques to help release muscles and tendons has been a revelation. Before PNF, I kept hitting a wall with certain stretches and risked hurting myself in order to reach that last bit. Understanding how to apply resistance in order to coax the CNS to order muscles to stand down has created new brain cells.

Alissa Aboud

Thanks so much for sharing. This has been really helpful for me to understand the opposite side of stretching. I am an athlete with a strong and stable (well so I think!) and tight body, but have been complementing my strength training with yoga. As I am still far from seeing the light on the other side of the mountain – the bendy girl side, this information is quite useful for some of my students which are very flexible but have limited joint stability and strength. Its fascinating that we can manipulate our bodies this way either increasing flexibility, or… Read more »

Jessica Lesley

This is a great reminder for me to not let youth and my natural bendy-ness (is that a word – it is now) go too far in classes. I just started practicing ashtanga a few months ago and feel all the deep forward folds may be a bit much on my hamstrings. I can do the postures with ease, but lately i do feel the need to constantly stretch my legs. Glad to hear that the over stretching can be repaired and I will make a note to self to chill out with the “ooh I’m so bendy” routine on… Read more »


Wow! As a “bendy” person this is really good to know. I too feel the need to stretch all the time and am constantly cracking my neck, back, and hips. It’s good to know that the strength training I am doing in my yoga, kettle bell, and weight classes is helping to repair tissue… And that the weakness from over stretching is reversible!

Natasha Gurevich

Thanks for sharing, Jill – yet another great point. It’s interesting to see former gymnasts coming to the yoga class – they believe they’re already yogi because they can do the split. I fell into the same fallacy myself, feeling 4 years ago that I can do it all. Now, while I’m still excited to learn new and challenging poses, I enjoy mastering something as traditional as Vrksasana. The feeling of connection with yoga changes overtime – the longer you go, the more it’s becoming emotional and spiritual link vs. physical exercise. I think it’s important that we remind our… Read more »

melanie sloane

I loved reading about how you were so flexible and how you felt better through becoming stronger. I also was more flexible than strong. Now that I have been engaging my muscles more, I also feel much better


Great article Jill. It would need to be more exposed for people love to stretch and don’t understand how it could be bad to overstretch.
As everything in life, there is always a balance to find. But with yoga becoming so popular and the eagerness to come into a certain pose, more and more injuries are unfortunately arising.

dilshad keshwani

Thanks Jill for this excellent article. Having started Yoga at 45 and also being tight in muscles, I found Yoga as a great de-stresser, enabling me to find stretches, which felt so rewarding. However, due to more concentration on stretch, stretch, stretch, my body landed itself in a hamstring pull. The gradual awareness to the PNF technique really brings in the balance of stretch and strength. The training is giving me the tools to be very mindful to contractions of the agonists in a pose, before the antagonists start overpowering. Thanks also for your keen perception, and for giving us… Read more »

Keith Wittenstein

Great article. As both a yoga teacher and a strength coach, I find it difficult to get strong people to stretch and stretchy people to lift. Nonetheless, the necessity for people to do both is clearly there. I think more people need to be educated on the function and purpose of muscles and how to keep them healthy. Sadly we get most of our information on health and fitness from people selling supplements and spandex.

Luckily there are people like Jill leading the charge to educate more and more people. Thanks, Jill.

Kenya B

Wow! I never thought there was a such thing as over stretching before the training and this article. I am always cracking my neck and spine. I did however just begin to incorporate some weight training into my workout routine. So hopefully I will begin to see progress soon.


I definitely know the importance of resistance training having done it for many years and probably became tight because of it. We need to find balance and never try to muscle in to a posture. Let your body and breath be your guide


This is a interesting article! How can you differentiate that whether your muscle is being overstretching or is it just tight?
I cracked my neck all the times and it feels good afterward. How do I know if it is an unstable join?


Overstretching is an interesting topic. We inherently think that the more stretching we do the better. Unfortunately I learned this first hand. I was constantly stretching my hamstrings to loosen up my hip adductors. That led to sciatica issues, which ultimately resulted in the reevaluation of my driving, sitting, stretching, yoga, strength training and cardio routines. I created a daily yoga sequence to lengthen my piriformis, re trained my brain to do stretching that was good for me rather than what I thought was good for me and enlisted the help of a great structural therapist. This allowed me to… Read more »

Nicole Pamukov

Wonderful article! As a fellow Bendy-girl and stretchaholic, it’s a great reminder to build strength and maintain constant awareness of form and when enough is enough in terms of stretch. I’ve been fortunate to be quite flexible, but have had to learn when to reign it in and make that a conscious part of my practice as well.

Basia Going

Very useful article. I come a lot of yoga students that resist resistance training. At least at first. I put a lot of emphasis of stabilizing. Stretching is fantastic. Overstretching can have serious consequences. As a young girl, teenager, and university student, I suffered with debilitating back pain. I tried many things to reduce the pain and hopefully eliminate it. My back was crooked (significant scoliosis) and very week (well, unevenly week). I had to wear corset with metal bars to take away the pain, which in turn weakened my back further. The doctors predicted that I will not be… Read more »

Tune Up Fitness

Hi Janifer,

Thanks for your nice comments and for reading the YTU Blog, we’re glad you’re finding it helpful. We appreciate your offer to write an article but at this point all the blog articles are written by certified YTU instructors. Many thanks again!

Janifer Anderson

I am Janifer Anderson.
I have found your site not so long ago, but try to read every new article as i see your
site as one of those interesting places online (it’s not such an usual case nowadays).
This week i had an interesting discussion about (http://www.yogatuneup.com/blog/2011/03/16/overstretching/) with my colleagues and i’m
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So if you would like that, it would be great if you could post it on your site.
And that’s absolutely free ofcause.

Let me know here [email protected] if you are interested.


Janifer Anderson

Charity Baker

I found this article very relevant to a few situations in my own body, so thank you Jill for posting such a great perspective! I too started stretching at an early age (with the Jane Fonda workout), and with lots of dance classes. Always fairly limber it was a source of great pride for me to show off the results of my work. With my yoga practice I’ve noticed thanks to your article, I show signs of over stretching in my shoulder joints. I too am fidgity if i’m not stretching my arms throughout the day. It’s a cause of… Read more »

Irina Soyanen

Great and useful article! I wish I knew this long ago because I love stretching all my life and really good at it but I never realised that it might lead to overstretching and weakening the muscles and joints. I am generally fit and love moving (dancing, cardio…) but about two years ago, when I started regularly practicing yoga I could not figure it out why my plank pose was so lose with arching spine, dangling belly and shoulders up next to the ears, and even the Downward facing dog was unbearable to keep more than a couple of breaths.… Read more »

Jodi Hurwitz

Thank you Jill for sharing these important insights. Over the last few years, I’ve devoted myself to a daily practice and have become very flexible, but there are days I feel certain aches and pains on and off the mat. I realize after reading this blog that despite my pursuit of mastering some of the more challenging poses, perhaps I need to “dial it back”. I’m currently in Teacher Training and last week we had the great pleasure of watching Gil Hedley dissect a cadaver. I was fascinated as he peeled away layer after layer of fascia and connective tissues.… Read more »

Susan McGurn

As a fitness professional, I knew that you can overstretch muscles, maybe I heard or read in some lecture somewhere what actually takes place. Since their is so much emphasis on the importance of stretching, I never realized until reading this article the damage it can do. I too, amongst countless numbers of yoga students have aspired to get into a pose from the cover of a magazine or gaze with amazement when a teacher twists and binds into shapes that makes us oooh and ahhhh. Now I can explain to my students in an intellegent way why and how… Read more »


This is a really interesting article! While I don’t think I suffer from overstretching, I definitly suffer from the urge to constantly crack my back, hips and necks. Your article taught me taht this is probably a sign of weakness in the joints, and especially in my core. This is very enlightening for me, as i just assumed these “aches” were the result of many years of intense athletics. But since retiring from competitive sports, I’m realizing that I’ve lost a lot of the associated muscle tone and strength, resulting in these “aches”. I am exciting to research this further.… Read more »

Joelene Marinone

Great article! This applies to all of us trying to get into “great shape” as we zealously overstretch our bodies to attain that goal. Those of us with limited flexibility may try to push the muscles into a posture tearing muscle fibers or the connecting tissues that support the muscles and injure ourselves. I really appreciate the YogaTune Up poses and philosophy that introduces poses to warm the muscles, strengthen and stretch them, to encourage balance and alignment in the entire muscular skeletal system which support the joints. This will create good posture and strong flexible bodies that will move… Read more »