There are many reasons for knee pain –overuse, arthritis or an injury that damages the structures in and around the knee joint. Aside from the obvious direct hit to the knee, often knee injuries are caused by more subtle forces such as overuse, twisting motions and overstretching. A stress from one direction may result in a sprain -an overstretching or tear in one of the ligaments, while a twist of the knees often causes a tear in the cartilage or meniscus. Taking the knee joint through a greater range of motion than it can tolerate, such as in hyperflexion or hyperextension, results in a strain or an injury to the muscles and tendons surrounding the knee. Knee pain in yoga can also be caused by the joint above or below the knee –tight inflexible hips or unstable, poorly aligned ankles. Below, are some yoga poses to avoid with knee injury.
1. Lotus Pose (Padmasana): Flexible hips in external rotation are needed to assume a full lotus pose where the feet are placed on the opposite thigh. Forcing your foot into this position without the rotation available in the hips will put extreme sideways stress on the knees and can result in a ligament tear or complete rupture. Modify lotus pose by sitting as comfortable as possible in a crossed ankle seated position, if necessary on a raised surface and support the thighs / knees with blocks or rolled up blankets. With the outer thighs fully supported the legs and hips muscles can relax and gradually stretch so flexibility improves.
2. Hero’s Pose (Viransana): In Hero’s pose the hips need to internally rotate in this kneeling / sitting pose, which is the the opposite hip action of Lotus pose. Assuming this position without the flexibility in the hips creates torque on the inside of the knees and can result in damaged or torn cartilage of the medial meniscus. If Hero’s pose causes discomfort, a compressing or twisting sensation in the knees then modifications are needed to avoid injury. Spread the knees slightly apart, align the lower leg bones under the thighs and place a block or blanket under the buttocks to promote better alignment and enable you to relax into the pose.
3. Tree Pose (Vrksasana): In some yoga poses it’s easy to hyperextend or over straighten the knee joint, particularly if you have hypermobile knees. When the knee joints are ‘locked’ this is a passive action without full engagement of the quadriceps muscles. This compresses the joint and puts excessive strain on the knee cartilage, especially the medial meniscus, which can result in a tear if you twist or suddenly move. Ligaments and tendons can also be over stretched and subject to micro tears. It’s especially import to place the foot above or below the knee in Tree pose and never directly on the side of the knee. In Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) there is also the tendency to over straighten and lock the knee of the front leg. To avoid hyperextension in the knees strongly engage the quadriceps muscles and slightly bend your knees. Even a slight micro bend where your knee is actually straight, rather than over extended will help protect the knee joint. Shifting the weight slightly forward from the heels to the balls of the feet will help to avoid locking the knees.
Gradually work towards increased flexibility by going to your edge, but not beyond it. Make your yoga practice a safe, healthy and mindful one by modifying poses that are not accessible to your level of flexibility. Order our WAGs Yoga Wrist Support Gloves for added wrist comfort during yoga. Check out these workout gloves with wrist support.