Avoid Knee Injury during Yoga

You love yoga class, but your knees aren't so crazy about it. They're tender, achy, and feel less like downward dogs and more like underdogs. When done properly, yoga strengthens muscle to prevent injuries and slows progression of some musculoskeletal diseases. But if you're not careful, your yoga practice can ruin a perfectly good pair of knees. Here, four ways to keep your knees happy during your yoga practice.

1. New props.  If you've always gone for the gusto with your yoga practice, it may be time to go for the Zen. Mellow out a bit with props to make yoga poses easier on your knees, safer and more comfortable. Grab straps, blocks, blankets and padding and ask your instructor how to modify your practice to avoid knee damage and pain.

2. New clothes. Try yoga pants with padding sewn into the knees. The padding is thick enough you so won't need any additional padding or blanket and discreet enough that no one will notice. 

3. New style. Some types of yoga are more challenging, athletic and fast paced than others. If the routine you're currently doing is too tough on your knees, try something new.  Vinyasa, Bikram, and Ashtanga styles change yoga poses quickly to provide a cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility workout along with the mind-body benefits of yoga.  Other forms of Hatha yoga, like Iyengar, are gentler, more slow paced and focus on individual adjustments that can accommodate achy knees.

4. New moves. Yoga poses that include lunges, squats, kneeling and balancing on one leg can be tough on knees.  Pay attention that your knees are properly aligned with your feet and don't jut out any further than your toes.  If you feel any pain or pressure, especially on the sides of your knee or notice any unusual clicks or noises, pull back, shorten your stance and ask your instructor for an adjustment. 

Yoga is not a one-size-fits-all type of exercise. It's intended to be a mindful, personal practice, individualized for each person. While a healthy yoga practice can strengthen your legs and keep your ligaments and tendons flexible, don't push your knees further than they can go. You'll need them for a lifetime.


Yoga Journal, Knee Deep in Yoga by Catherine Guthrie