Yoga for Knee Health and Strength

Ivy Markaity Health Guide
  • Yoga can help protect and strengthen your knees when practiced properly and with precise alignment. Yoga strengthens the thigh muscles, which in turn helps protect and stabilize the knees. If practiced with proper alignment it will help make the knees less susceptible to injury.


    When practiced without proper alignment, instruction and mindfulness, yoga can actually injure the knees as well as aggravate existing injuries. Many students injure their knees by not aligning properly or by forcing themselves into advanced poses like The Lotus Pose. Be sure not to push yourself or have an instructor push you beyond your limits.

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    The knee is the most operated on body part. Every year nearly 11 million Americans complain of knee pain. Some have simple injures and others degenerative disease.


    In this blog I will share with you how to protect your knees against injury and also how to strengthen them with simple yoga poses. As always it is best to have a doctor evaluate your condition ahead of time and get his or her advice before starting classes. Yoga should be practiced during recovery and not when the injury is new.

    *The first thing you need to do is find a very competent, experienced teacher who is a stickler about alignment, preferably with knowledge of yoga therapeutics.

    *Second, find a style of yoga, which puts the focus on alignment. I recommend Iyengar and Anusara yoga.

    *Thirdly, you may need to evaluate if your injury would allow you to take a group class or if you need private instruction until you are on the mend. Being in a group class may push you beyond your limits if you are not careful and re-injure the knee. Also, you will not receive the careful attention you may need from your instructor.


    Some important tips before we begin:

    1. Always tell your teacher ahead of time about your injury.
    2. Try not to hyperextend your knees. Always have a "breath" of space in the knee joint.
    3. Use props such as blocks whenever necessary. Blocks can be very useful in Triangle/Revolved Triangle, Side Angle, and Half Moon pose for example.
    4. Never force yourself into poses where the knees are deeply bent such as the lotus pose. Hips openers such as Fire Log Pose require very open hips and can also be very hard on the knees. Ask your teacher for modifications.


    The Poses

    Poses such as Warrior (especially Warrior II), Triangle and Side Angle strengthen the thigh muscles. But, you must be very careful to first make sure your foot is facing forward, and then align your knee right over your ankle in the Warrior and Side Angle poses. Not to the left, to the right, in front of or behind the knee. Have your knee precisely over the ankle pointing toward the second or third toe. This is extremely important!


    * Be sure to practice your poses with out increasing hyperextension. If you tend to hyperextend be very cautious in stretches and poses with a straight knee as they can aggravate the problem. You must engage your quadriceps (front thigh muscles) in poses such as Trikonasana and Mountain Pose and make sure not to hyperextend the knee at the same time. The Warrior poses and Side Angle will help strengthen your quadriceps.


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    Utkatasana works your quad and buttocks muscles. With proper alignment you work the muscles of the outer thighs, hips, abdomen and upper body. You need to have the inner and outer thighs engaged equally to keep your knees right over your ankles. Do not let the knees splay out or in.


    Eagle Pose

    Eagle pose has been both indicated and contra indicated for knees in my research for this blog. I have been teaching Eagle Pose to my students with knee injuries and weak knees and so far they seem to be benefiting from this pose. It is a very challenging and energetic pose which teaches proper knee alignment which can protect against future injuries.


    Other Recommended Poses

    Revolved Side Angle Pose, Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, Parivrtta Utkatasanan, Supta Padanghustasana, Low Lunge (with back leg bent)

    References: Yoga Journal

Published On: May 10, 2011