I’ve been thinking a lot about knees lately – mine have been sore around the outside of the joint - and I’ve been to the chiropractor and doctor, and had an X-ray. The problem appears to be quite simple - they’re too knobbly. Over the weeks and years I’ve been kneeling on them a little too much, and the pressure on the boney parts has brought on a little bit of tendonitis.
In the process I’ve learnt more about just how complicated this joint is, and equally how complex it is finding the best treatment. What most experts agreee on, however, is that knees are happiest when used for standing, running and walking, and really don’t like being knelt on; nor do they like being turned outwards or inwards in relation to the foot.
Yoga can help keep the joint strong and mobile – but it can also be a cause of knee pain especially if we practise without awareness. We can use the postures and stretches to build the leg muscles evenly and maintain flexibility while learning how to keep the knee properly aligned.
If we favour postures with excessive or repeated kneeling, or if we are careless of alignment in triangle and other standing postures, our knees may well suffer increased wear and tear over time.
There are simple things we can do – for example, only kneel on soft surfaces – a thick yoga mat on carpet, rather than thin one on a hard gym floor. Don’t overdo postures where we kneel on all fours (such as cat and child, two of my favourites). And listen to what our bodies are telling us as we practise – for example, focus on the knees in standing postures to ensure the muscles around them engage and keep them stable.
When moving into deep knee bends, such as Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II) and Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose), first align your bent knee over your ankle, then draw your kneecap in line with your second toe. Maintain awareness in your back foot, pressing down evenly, while lifting up from the arch of your front foot.
And lastly, think about how we sit during the day, avoiding sitting on chairs for too long, and crossing one leg over the other.
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