Having bad knees shouldn’t keep you from your yoga mat. If you experience or have knee problems, chose a slow, alignment-based style of yoga such as Iyengar or Hatha yoga and ask your teacher prior to class about modifications you could do. Taking care of your knees in yoga will help you enjoy your practice more and move around more happily in your world. Yoga strengthens the muscles in the lower and upper legs, which protects and stabilizes the knee joint. Performed correctly, yoga’s fluid movements allow swollen or otherwise painful joints to glide smoothly over one another, increasing mobility and strength without excess wear and tear. Yoga is a safe alternative to weight-bearing exercises that could worsen knee joints because yoga strengthens the muscles around them, which reduces tension and increases mobility.
4 tips to counter knee pain:
1. Don’t disregard pain
This may also seem very obvious, but actually it isn’t. Many of us suffer through a lot of things when it comes to our exercise. A good rule for the knees is no pain. When you practice yoga, you should not feel pain in your knees. You should feel no little “twitch”, nor do you want to feel pain in the front of the knee, under the kneecap, or deep inside the knee. If you do feel pain, you need to stop, realign, and try again. Sometimes, you may not get a pain during a pose; you may feel pain in the knee afterward, or the next day. This could be a sign that you have overworked your knee, or have been out of alignment. Remember it the next time you practice.
Often knee pain is a result of our hips lacking flexibility. Therefore, warming up your hips joints prior to beginning your practice is essential for maintaining good knee health. Your knees may hurt in cat/cow or various lunges, and other poses where one knee is on the floor. Your knee caps(patellas), have no padding, and a hard floor offers virtually no support for aching knees.
3. Use Your Feet
Paying attention to where and how you place your feet is crucial for knee care. Place your feet with care, following instruction to keep the muscles in your feet engaged in your practice, whether standing on them, sitting on them, or when they are in the air. Simply lifting and spreading your toes in standing poses engages the muscles in your lower legs and, in turn, protects the ligaments in your knees. Flexing the feet and engaging all toes, especially the baby toe, is a great way to protect your knee joint. This is a really good yoga mat for proper alignment in poses especially if you practice at home.
4. Micro Bend Your Knees
In standing, straight-legged poses, give your knees a little bend, this will allow your muscles to support you, not your knee joint. Don’t lock your knees! Some styles of yoga teach locking the knees. There are ways to do this that are safe, but the mechanics are complicated and often not taught properly. In addition, when your legs are bearing weight, never hyper-extend your knees. What does this mean? Never let your knee bend backwards, it is not good for your knee joint, or the tendons and ligaments in the knee. In addition, when you are in wide legged poses, energetically draw your legs toward each other, this will engage your leg muscles more actively, drawing muscles to bone, thus protecting your knees.
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