A sharp pain in your knee can bring any runner to a halt – or at least slow us down significantly! Unfortunately, as runners, we are prone to knee injuries. The issue is not necessary the knee itself, but from thigh muscle imbalances and overuse. We run on uneven surfaces and curved tracks which can cause one knee to pronate which is hard on our knees. When you do start to feel pain in your knees, it’s a good idea to take a rest from running and evaluate the injury.
What about your yoga practice? Certain yoga poses can be hard on your knees, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your practice. You can still reap the same benefits from stretching and yoga, but you may have to modify your practice. Moving through a safe practice can actually make you feel better. They can help to stabilize the knee by strengthening the surrounding muscles. Dynamic movement can also help to bring fluid into the joint to promote healing.
If you are suffering from knee pain, or have recently recovered from a knee injury, keep the following in mind before you get back on the mat.
Check your alignment
Your standing yoga poses like low lunge and warrior II can be hard on your front knees, particularly if you are not practicing with proper alignment. Anytime you are lunging or moving through a warrior sequence, check that your knee does not extend past your ankle. The knee should stack right on top of your ankle to be fully supported by your ankle and foot. Your knee may also tend to lean left or right depending on the strength of your legs. Always double check that your knee is over your ankle and to check throughout your practice that it remains as centred as possible.
Minimize extreme bending
Many yoga poses require extreme bending of our knees. If you are experiencing knee pain or knee injury, any kind of squatting or kneeling pose can aggravate and potentially slow down your healing. Child’s pose or hero’s pose can be particularly hard on your knees because of the added body weight to your shins and knees while bent. In order to realize the same benefits of these poses, minimize the bend in your knees. Squat only halfway down. In tree pose, do not lift your foot up to your thigh, but rather leave it below your knee, or near your ankle.
Use props and extra support
Props are your best friend if you are practicing yoga with an injury. There are so many modifications you can make when you are feeling pain, beginning with something as simple as putting a blanket, towel or cushion under your knee while kneeling. Props can also be used to help support some of your weight in kneeling or squatting positions, alleviating some of the pressure on your knees. Try sitting on a block while kneeling or cross legged, beginning at the highest height. If your knees feel okay, gradually lower the block, and eventually sit just on a towel or blanket.
Listen to your body and modify
As you would in any yoga class, be mindful of your body and how you are feeling throughout your practice. If you move into a pose and your knee isn’t feeling it, slowly move out of that pose and come into a support seated pose or simple stand in tadasana (mountain pose) and check in with your body. You can usually do that tricky pose and you love a challenge, but give it a rest today. The last thing you want to do is magnify the pain by ignoring it. Instead, make a small modification and enjoy the benefits! If you aren’t sure how to modify a pose you love, try asking your favorite yoga teacher. Or, shoot us an email at email@example.com and we would be happy to help!