Modifying Yoga For People With Knee Problems

Yoga for Knees

Modifying your yoga poses in order to protect your knees is simple and easy. From group instruction to personal yoga at home we’ve got some great advice for you. Check out our list of ways to modify yoga for people with knee problems below.

 

The Basics

Know your limits. If you do group yoga, just let your teacher know you have a knee problem and you may quietly sit out a Warrior II pose or something with a lunge. This is why it is important to meditate before a yoga session, even for three to five minutes, so you can get in tune with your body and let it tell you when your knees just aren’t in the mood for a particular pose.

 

Alignment

Align yourself into each pose from your feet, working up your body. Spread your toes, ground your feet flat and firm to the floor, and focus on opening up your hips in each pose. Avoid locking your knees. You want to engage your muscles, but keep the knee slightly soft and bent.

 

Props

If you’re serious about yoga, invest in a good mat. If your gym or class provides mats use a towel or blanket to cushion the knee in poses like the Puppy or Gate. Blocks are also a good prop to keep from hyper-extending in poses, too. You’ll want to support poses like the Half Moon and Triangle pose with a block, and Child’s Pose with both a blanket and a block. To protect your knees from the pressure of being pressed against the floor, our yoga knee pad is the perfect prop!

 

Yoga Poses For Knee Injury Contraindications

Inform yourself on what poses to stay away from and what poses are great for strengthening knees. The Yoga Journal has a great list for contraindications by ailment. While, The BeachBody Blog can show you 8 Yoga Moves to Strengthen Your Knees.

The Art of Balance

When we consider the concept of balance, we tend to think of it as a set destination, a singular attainable goal that is fixed in it’s position. We also associate balance with a sense of peace, calm and focus. Balance does in fact invoke a feeling of calm and centers the mind, essentially, bringing together all of the scattered pieces of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and energy.

However, the true nature of balance is not fixed but is a journey; an ebb and flow. It truly can not be something that we continue to strive for in as in a goal, rather embrace the up and down, the left and right, and to also embrace it’s polar opposite; imbalance. When we say things like, “I lost my balance” or “I’m off balance”, we set ourselves up into believing that “balance” is something that we have in our possession. 

The art of balance rests, in it’s opposition, “imbalance”. And what is imbalance? Imbalance is the unfixed side of what we consider balance in general as being fixed in position. The art of balance is a dance. It is an evolution of energy, emotion, thoughts, actions, words, deeds, and so on. It is the cultivation of these things to promote a collectively harmonious rhythm of life, through the means of patience and perseverance! 

The art of balance is to also accept falling. Like wise, there is an art to falling. Falling and balancing are just currents of energy, an up and down, left and right, centered and not centered, and ebb and flow nature. There can be a gracefulness to falling. It is simply a matter of accepting that falling is another counter part of balance itself. That with falling, comes the understanding of how to pull together our energy, stream line it and focus it so as to experience a sense of balance. 

Upon your next yoga class and you find yourself in warrior 3 pose or handstand, consider these aspects, and allow yourself to “feel” all that comes with the ceaseless flowing nature of balance itself. You will begin to feel the sensation of peace, calm and focus, you also feel the erratic, chaotic, and fragmented portions of yourself as well. Allow all of it to become a collective harmonious rhythm in your yoga practice! 

Knee Deep!

Yoga Knee Pad

We do not always consider the complexities associated with knees unless you have actually suffered or sustained an injury. The knee is the single most delicate joint of the human body, responsible for our ability to move freely, walk, stand, pretty much everything! In yoga, there are so many postures which affect this area, which if not practiced with awareness and alignment can cause more harm than good. Many of us currently suffer from some orthopedic problem, be it Arthritis, Anterior Cruciate, Meniscal and Collateral Ligament tears, Stress Fractures, Osgood-Schlatter Disease, Runner’s Knee, etc.

Yoga is a wonderful way to help strengthen knees, in that, there is an opportunity to understand your knee anatomy a little better. While practicing, there is a chance to relieve pain, tone the surrounding muscles which attach to the the distal portion of the Femur and Proximal portion of the Tibia and Fibula. The overall make-up of the knee is comprised of a handful of very important ligaments, a floating bone (Patella) and Synovial Fluid to keep the joint lubricated and functioning properly. So when you actually put it together, a few ligaments, some fluid and floating bone, is responsible for our very ability to walk!! It’s pretty mind blowing when you think about it.

Which brings me back to my point…

There is no room for error when it comes to the delicate nature of our knees. In the practice of yoga, there are several yoga postures to help strengthen the knees such as Lunges, Warrior Poses, Standing Balancing Poses, as well as poses to help create flexibility such as Pigeon Pose, Lotus Pose, Fire Logs (Double Pigeon), Child’s Pose and others. There is however, one key ingredient, which facilitates a smooth and supportive experience during practice. And that my friends, is the oh so amazing SukhaMat!

The SukhaMat yoga knee pad is a tool best used to support the knees, in addition to other areas of the body which are bit more superficial such as the ankles, tail bone, cervical bones, elbows, pelvic bones and tops of the feet! The SukhaMat allows you to get “Knee Deep” in beneficial postures such as Lunges, with one knee to the floor, Camel Pose, Child’s Pose, Cobra pose, and other’s, in which the knee is directly on the mat and hard surface. In addition to the SukhaMat, there are other props to use to support ones practice, which includes, straps, blocks, blankets, bolsters and chairs. All of these elements, create a solid practice, rooted in alignment and health of the body along with strength, flexibility and balance.

When it comes to the complexities of the body and nuances of a yoga practice, it best to practice with patience, learn the art of listening to your body, be mindful of your limitations and accept exactly where you are in your current level of physicality and yoga practice. Injuries happen even while practicing yoga, simply because we want to do more than what our body is prepared to do at any given time. One of the main benefits of practicing yoga, particularly if you have a health concern, is that yoga can be used as a healing tool. Yoga can be used as a means of assisting the body in it’s ability to heal.

Practice wisely, use yoga props, be mindful of injuries and accept where you are, so that you may enjoy the growth of your yoga practice!

Is Yoga the Answer?

A few years back, I was a horse trainer and I loved to run. That’s all I had to do to keep in shape. Well, the horse training slowly started to be replaced by children and running for myself was getting replaced by running after kids. I needed to do something.

So what did I do? I joined a gym. I made the investment in a personal trainer for a couple of months and worked out on my own a few days a week. I was sore periodically and was feeling ok about working out. I didn’t see the results I was expecting (granted, on my own, it was hard to motivate myself). But something didn’t feel right. It took me a while to figure it out but it felt unnatural to me. I was forcing myself to go to the gym because I thought it was the right thing for my well being at the time.

After about a year and a half, I gave up on the gym and started to do bootcamp with some friends. I started to enjoy exercising again! That was short lived. About 4 months into it, my body decided IT didn’t like bootcamp any longer (years of being thrown around by 1,000 pound animals had taken it’s toll).

One of my dear friends, who had been bugging me for a year prior, convinced me to join her for a yoga class. After my first class I was hooked! The instructor kicked my butt and I loved every minute of it! I couldn’t walk for a couple of days but I went back for more. That one class showed me it was ok to not be flexible, it will come with perseverance and hard work. I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, I think that’s why yoga appealed to me so much. It was challenging mentally and physically, plus, you have the opportunity to learn something new about yourself every time you step on to your mat.

Namaste and Practice in Comfort,

Barbara Merrill

How did you discover yoga?

What Are You Trying To Tell Me?

When I started practicing yoga, I knew that my body was not ‘bendy’.  I would watch the ‘bendy’ people with complete awe and I’ll admit it, jealousy.  I thought that the more I practiced yoga, the more flexible I would become. Well, it is true to a point. What I didn’t take into consideration is that I’m not built to be a ‘bendy’ person.  I would struggle with a common pose, such as pigeon. The pigeon pose would trigger pain in my knees and I never could get a good stretch. It was my nemesis for a long time. I kept trying different positions of the knee, lifting the hip up, out, down, etc., but with no luck. Finally, an intuitive teacher (maybe the tears of frustration running down my face gave me away) showed me a modification, figure 4 on my back. Eureka!! A modification! Wow, what a concept, it hadn’t occurred to me that when the instructor said ‘Listen to your body’, they actually meant you should do what your body NEEDS and not what your brain WANTS to do. This was one turning point in my practice, the acceptance that I cannot change how I am built physically, but how I need to find ways to get the most out of each posture to the best of MY body’s ability.

The hard part is, checking your ego at the door and accepting your limitations. But, don’t confuse acceptance with giving up. I might not be able to do Eka Pada Koundinyanasana right now, but I will always keep trying!

Tell me your ‘Eureka’ moments!

Namaste and Practice in Comfort,

Barbara Merrill