Yoga for Healthy, Happy Knees
Week 2 of my "Healing Power of Yoga" series focused on keeping our knees healthy, happy and pain free!
Did you know that knee pain is the number two cause of chronic pain? Typical causes of knee pain include an injury to a ligament, weak quadriceps or hamstrings, or a chronic condition like arthritis.
Sitting at a desk all day can create imbalances in the body by weakening the muscles surrounding the knees and causing muscular imbalances and joint mis-alignment.
Knees joints can also be affected by:
Wrong alignment of the knee
Lack of proper rehabilitation after an injury
Overuse of the knee joint
Repetitive strain injury
Weak muscles around the knee
Yoga has immense benefits for knee pain patients, some include the following:
For arthritis patients yoga helps in reducing pain and stiffness from the knee
Yoga can help persons to lose weight which is helpful for knee patients
Yoga helps persons to recover from injuries and to manage conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
Yoga helps to strengthen and maintain flexibility in the muscles surrounding the knee joint
One of the best things you can do for your knees is to strengthen the surrounding tissues, specifically the inner thighs.
Our knees are naturally an unstable place as they sit between a wide joint (the hip) and a tiny joint (the ankle) putting the kneecap at an angle.
If you want to keep the knee healthy you need to especially strengthen the vastus medialis (the inner quadriceps). In fact, physical therapists consider exercises that strengthen this neglected muscle key in the rehabilitation of knee injuries.
For the patient of knee pain, slow and controlled movement is required. If there is no or less movement, the condition may worsen.
Because weak muscles are a leading cause of knee injuries, you'll benefit from building up your muscles surrounding the knees. That means strengthening everything above and below the knees. The stronger the muscles around the knees, the more support the knee joint can have.
Interestingly, strengthening the core as well as the hips has also been shown to be effective at lessening knee discomfort as better control over these muscles may reduce the load on the knee.
Standing and balance yoga poses done in correct alignment helps the muscles around your knees work together more effectively.
And because tight muscles also can contribute to injury, stretching the muscles around the knees is important.
Many yoga poses that help relieve knee pain are simple, effective and easy for people of all abilities to practice. You can do these anytime of the day consistency is key. For the yoga poses/exercises to work, you’ve got to do them often.
Overall, yoga is a safe and healthy way to improve strength, flexibility, endurance and balance.
When practicing yoga for the knees here are some alignment cues to keep in mind:
1. Make Sure You Can See Your Toes
Make sure you can see your toes in front of your knees in Warrior 1 or 2 poses or Chair pose variations. This ensures that your knee is stacked over your ankle and takes the stress out of the knee, while aligning the hip and strengthening your inner thighs.
2. Don't Hyperextend
If you hyperextend at the knee, you generally cannot fully engage your thigh muscles.
3. Avoid Kneeling if cause pain.
Generally speaking, if you have knee pain, avoid kneeling. When you do decide to kneel down, push the weight in to the top of your feet whenever possible to relive the meniscus of additional pressure.
Many of the poses that stretch your legs and hips tend to torque the knee in a way that can be quite painful for those who have knee weakness and pain. So always be mindful of your body and remember a gentle stretching sensation is good, pain is not!
Here are some poses suggested to help keep our knees healthy and happy.
Mountain Pose squeezing yoga block/fat cushion in between the inner thighs.
Warrior I, II, II
Hamstring and quad stretches
Some poses to avoid include:
Here is a video that shows some more knee stretches that I like: