Thursday, 30 June 2016

Protecting your knees in standing poses - Part 1

The knee joint is where the thigh bone (femur) meets the shin bone (tibia).  It is protected by the kneecap.  Strong tendons and ligaments helped by the legs muscles and bones keep the joint in place.  Problems occur when unequal pressures are exerted on the knee joint creating misalignment that can lead to wear and tear.  Below are some ways that you can protect your knees in yoga poses.  

Mountain Pose can create tightness in the outer thighs and corresponding weakness in the inner thighs if your knees are not aligned directly under the hips.  Try practicing the pose with a block between your thighs. To come into the pose stand with your block between your thighs. Lengthen your tail bone down towards the floor to create space in the spine, lift your chest and roll your shoulder blades back and down.  Your chin should be level with the floor, the crown of your head reaching for the ceiling.  Your arms should be relaxed by your sides, your fingers gently curled.

Triangle  -  never place your lower hand directly on the knee joint - your hand should be either above or below and try to use your core strength and leg strength rather than place too much weight on your lower hand.  If necessary place your hand on a block, placed directly under your shoulder. If you have a tendency to hyperextend your front knee try microbending it. 

To come into the pose step your feet  a leg length apart, outside edges of your feet parallel to the short edges of the mat.  Turn the whole of the right leg to the right so that the knee and foot point the same way and turn the toes of the back foot in 45 degrees.  The heel of your front foot should line up with the instep of your back foot for men or line up heel to heel for ladies.  Inhale raise your arms to  shoulder height, lift your chest.  Breathe out, extend over the right leg and bring your right hand to your right leg or a block placed directly under your lower shoulder. Left arm up towards the ceiling.  Microbend your front knee if you tend to hyperextend your front knee. Gaze can be straight ahead or up at the left thumb, depending on your neck.  Do not overreach in order to bring the lower arm further down your leg as this will affect the integrity of the pose, causing the top shoulder to come forward, and the chest to collapse. To release windmill the arms back to shoulder height as you come up, turn your feet to face forward, release your hands to your hips.  Repeat 2nd side.

Warrior 1 and 2 and  Side Angle- in these poses there may be a tendency to collapse the front knee inwards putting unequal pressures on the knee joint. To correct this tendency press the knee towards the little toe side of the foot ensuring that the knee is above the second toe. Also ensure that the knee does not move beyond the ankle, the thigh is parallel to the mat and the shin vertical.  If your knee comes beyond your ankle, take your legs wider.

To come into Warrior 1 stand towards the back of the mat with your hands on your hips and your feet at hip distance.  Turn the toes of your left foot out as if to the 10 to position on a clock and step forward with your right foot.  Inhale take the arms up, exhale bend the front knee taking the precautions above. Gaze is straight ahead or if your neck allows up at the hands. To come out of the pose, exhale take your hands to your hips, inhale step your feet together. Repeat second side.  Alternatively you can come into the pose from downward facing dog.  From downward facing dog, inhale and step the right foot three-quarters way forward, exhale lower your back heel, turning the toes of your left foot out. Inhale come up taking your arms up. Again protect you knee as above. Hold and breathe.  When you are ready, exhale bring your hands down, step back to downward facing dog and repeat second side.

To come into Warrior 2 stand in the middle of your mat with your hands on your hips and take your feet as wide as is comfortable.  Turn your right leg to the right and the toes of the left foot in 45 degrees, lining up the heel of the front foot with the instep of the back foot (men) or heel with heel (women).  As much as possible have the hips level with the front of the mat but do not force the left hip point back because this will strain the SI joint. Inhale, stretch your arms out at shoulder height, lift your chest, exhale bend your right knee taking the precautions above and turn to look down the fingers of your right hand. To come out of the pose, inhale straighten the right knee, exhale hands to heart, turn your feet to face forward. Repeat second side.

To come into side angle come to the centre of the mat in Tadasana.  Step your feet wide and turn the whole of the right leg to the right, toes of the left foot turning in about 45 degrees. Ladies should line up front and back heels, men front heel to back instep. Bring your hands to prayer position.  Inhale stretch your arms out at shoulder height, exhale bend your front knee taking the precautions above.  Inhale bring your right elbow to your right thigh making sure that there is little weight on the front leg (if you need more support use a block placed under your shoulder and place your lower hand on that, remembering that there are three levels), exhale circle your left arm down then up by your left ear. To come out of the pose, inhale windmill your arms up, straighten the front knee, exhale bring your hands to your heart, turn the feet to face forward.  Repeat on the second side.

Next week we will look at protecting your knee in revolved standing poses.

Please see also,

'Protecting your knees in Hero pose'-

Janet x

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