How To Protect Your Knees in Yoga

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The knee does a lot for our joints, walking, sitting, standing, moving, exercising, and everything in between. The knee is also a common painful and injured joint in the body. We can often ignore them until they hurt. That clicking, popping, tugging, burning, tightness, and knee pain can really bring some bumps in the road. Especially when you’re walking or moving in a certain way that you really want to do and your knees are giving off a red light. Yoga allows the body, including the joints of the legs and lower body, to move in every plane of motion.

Yoga is great knee therapy (when done safely) and can lubricate joints for increased mobility, but when pain is present it can be difficult to do some of the things your instructor might suggest. First, in any yoga practice, always do what you need to do. That is, say no to anything that doesn’t work for you! Do what works for you and your body – that’s yoga, and it’s your practice. But you don’t always have to completely ignore something uncomfortable when there’s a solution to the problem (in this case, common knee pain). There are often opportunities to use modified techniques and/or aids that provide an approach to your practice. Create a safer form of knee exercise by addressing some of the underlying causes of pain, employing techniques that benefit knee health, and using braces.

The knee acts as a shock absorber, provides stability and mobility, and is the largest joint in the body with some of the most anatomical detail. Each knee is a synovial joint, which means it has a smooth, gel-like fluid that lines and lubricates the surfaces of the bones in the joint. In front of the knee is the patella, which you may know as the kneecap, the small bone where the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (shinbone) meet. There are several ligaments, including part of the knee, and each ligament has its own problems and injuries. They are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), lateral collateral ligament (PCL), and the patellar tendon. Pain usually occurs in one or more tendons of the knee (the type of pain and injury may vary).

The knee is a complex structure and one of the most stressed joints in the body. It is the largest joint, essential for movement and prone to injury. Catherine Davis, FNP

Therefore, depending on the type of pain, knee pain may have different causes or a combination of different causes. Often factors you may not even be aware of contribute; like standing posture and the way your feet land. Tightness and/or weakness in the quadriceps can also play an important role. The quadriceps are important because the quadriceps are not usually as balanced as the knees. Typically, the inner quadriceps are weaker than the other quadriceps (often due to poor stance), because the outer quadriceps often overcompensate and overload the inner quadriceps. The good news is that there are ways to retrain these factors to improve posture, balance and strength for knee health.

What can cause knee pain:

  1. inner quadriceps weakness
  2. manner
  3. unbalanced feet
  4. muscle and connective tissue tone

It is very important to protect your knees during your yoga practice, whether you are in pain, injured or not. Whether it’s injury prevention, rehabilitation or pain relief, protection is key. By protect, I mean both providing safety support combined with healing/adjustment techniques to strengthen and balance (and of course safety).

Healing and Safety for the Knee in Yoga

Healing and Safety for the Knee in Yoga

Strengthens contributing weak muscles (inner thigh):

The inner quadriceps (vastus medialis) is usually the weakest of the quads. This can lead to insufficient support of the inner ligaments of the knee and overloading of the outer quadriceps.

If you want to keep your knees healthy, you need to strengthen your vastus medialis (inner quadriceps). In fact, physical therapists are considering exercises to strengthen key muscles that are neglected in knee injury rehabilitation. doug keller



Sometimes simple prompts to activate specific muscles in the body can help relieve knee pain. The feet, in particular, put stress on the knees when they are floppy or misaligned, causing all sorts of twists, turns, and imbalances. Try these alignment and activation tips to protect your knees:

  1. Flexible feet! Spread your toes! Especially in poses where the hips are externally rotated (like a pigeon).
  2. Passes through the outer side (small) of the foot. Avoid ankle-foot pronation / sickle foot
  3. Push evenly across feet. From the hillock of the big toe through the heel to the sides of the foot
  4. Stand with feet hip-width apart, not close together

There are several yoga poses that strengthen weak muscles that cause knee pain, and others that restore strength.


It is very important that the knees are pressed outwards and not moved towards the center of the body. Always push down through the heel, sides of the foot, and the ball of the foot just below the big toe.

Virabhadrasana – Warrior Pose

Virabhadrasana – Warrior Pose

In every warrior pose, be sure to actively keep your knees in line with your toes and not allow them to bend inward. This strengthens the knees and maintains the integrity of the pose. Plus, keep your weight evenly distributed

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