Get some tips to strengthen and assist your knees.
Understand factors that contribute to chronic knee pain, prevent further knee pain during your yoga practice, and learn some exercises you can do for healthy knees.
Risk Factors for Chronic Knee Pain
Obligatory Discretion Advised Always consult a doctor with any chronic pain you might be experiencing.
Having a previous knee injury makes it more likely that you\'ll injure your knee again. You may also experience knee pain due to a previous injury in your hips or feet, because of muscle imbalances.
Being overweight increases the likelihood of osteoarthritis by accelerating breakdown of joint cartilage. You might even experience pain in your knees after walking or going up and down stairs.
Lack of muscle flexibility or strength.
Weak leg muscles and lack of mobility are among the leading causes of knee injuries. When muscles are tight or weak, they offer less support for your knee. Your knee ends up absorbing all the stress. (Mayo Clinic)
Certain sports or overuse with exercise.
While exercise is typically encouraged to prevent injury, some sports are associated with greater stress on your knees than others. Alpine skiing with its rigid ski boots and potential for falls increases the change of knee injury. Tennis and basketball with the high amount of jumping and pivoting may also be potentially damaging to knees. Repetitive movement such as running or cycling also can contribute to chronic knee pain-- these two sports in particular have high rates of tendonitis and IT band syndrome. (WebMD).
Tips For Avoiding Knee Pain During Yoga
- Avoid poses that aggravate your knees - Depending on where your knee pain is coming from, certain poses can make knee pain worse. Be careful with poses like pigeon, reclined hero, or camel.
- Don't lock your knees or hyperextend - Locking out the knees can be healthy if you aren't suffering from any knee pain. However, if you are recovering or rehabbing your knees, locking out can put a lot of tension on ligaments in the knee. Try using a rolled up mat under your knees in forward folds if you tend to lock out your knees.
- Think about lifting the arches of your feet - Try lifting your toes while your ground through the balls of the feet in standing poses like Warrior I. You'll feel small muscles in the legs engage and help align the knee over the ankle.
- Track your knee with your middle toe - You should be able to see you big toe and pinky toe in any standing pose for healthy knee alignment. (Yoga International)
"Standing poses can strengthen and stabilize your knees, helping you to overcome structural imbalances that might otherwise lead to chronic wear and tear (and ensuing pain) in your knees." -- Yoga International
Yoga Poses & Exercises For Strong Knees
If you are experiencing acute knee pain or recovering from an injury, some of these options may be too intense. Start slow and remember to RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) your injury.
Inner thigh lifts (not pictured)
From a side lying position, lift and lower your bottom leg to activate the inner thigh muscles.
Keep the foot flexed with toes towards your face. Be sure to rotate your leg open so that you are lifting from your inner thigh.
Do 12-20 repetitions of inner thigh lifts.
Outer/Hip thigh lifts
From a side lying position, lift and lower your top leg to engage your outer thigh and hip muscles. Make sure the foot is flexed. Keep leg completely straight. Do 12-20 repetitions of outer thigh/hip lifts.
Don't switch legs just yet! Continue to the next exercise below.
Continue lying on your side. Begin to circle your leg in a clockwise rotation.
Keep the leg completely straight and try not to roll open your hips.
Do 10-15 circles clockwise and 10-15 circles counter-clockwise.
You should feel the outer thigh and hip engage.
Try pointing your toe as you circle backwards. You'll definitely feel a burn at this point 🙂
Quad activation lifts
Lie onto your elbows. Keep one knee bent with the foot flat to the floor.
Raise your extended leg to almost knee height, then lower it to hover over the floor.
Again, the leg should be completely straight with the foot flexed.
Do 12-20 repetitions of quad lifts.
Bonus: add a pulse halfway up and down for 10 reps.
Low lunge knee lifts
Enter a runner's lunge. Place hands on the floor or on blocks.
Make sure you are on the ball of the foot with the heel pointed to the ceiling.
Lower your back knee so it hovers above the floor, then extend through your back heel to straighten the leg completely.
You should feel your thighs activate. Repeat 5-10 knee lifts.
High lunge knee lifts
A more advanced version of low lunge knee lifts. Be sure you can comfortably balance on one leg before attempting these.
Keep your front knee stabilized over the ankle and centered with your middle toe.
Lift and lower your back knee a few inches above the floor. The front knee should not move.
Engages your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Repeat 5-10 knee lifts.
Bridge with block
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place the block between your knees.
Engage your hamstrings, not just your glutes, to lift your hips and back off the floor.
Squeeze the block to activate your inner thighs. Hold the position for at least 3 slow breaths.
Slowly release your back and hips to the floor and repeat up to 5 times.
Chair with block
From a standing position, place a block between your knees and inner thighs.
Begin to sink your weight back into your heels to engage the backs of the legs and glutes.
Squeeze the block between your legs and draw your navel to spine.
Option: lift your arms upward to engage the back. Hold for 3 slow breaths and repeat up to 5 times.