Guest Author - Terri Johansen
The knee is considered to be the largest and most complicated hinge joint in the human body. Practicing standing poses in yoga can help you have healthy strong knees. A hinge joint is one of a class of joints where two or more bones move along one axis to flex or extend. The knee joint consists of the femur, tibia, and patella (knee cap) and it is also the most used joint in the body, therefore it is more likely to be injured.
Structural problems can be caused by muscular imbalances, and/or muscular weakness. Conditions of the knee joint can often be related to movement patterns, such as a habitual activity that has created stress in the joint or related joints and muscles.
To prevent and resolve minor knee problems you should try strengthening the thigh and hamstring muscles. Making these muscles strong provides extra protection to the knee. If you are suffering from knee pain that has not been diagnosed as serious then practicing standing yoga postures can be great therapy.
Fifteen minutes a day of standing yoga postures is enough to strengthen the muscles that insert and surround the knee. They also place a healthy stress on the knee joint as well as the knee tendons and ligaments. After a few months of regular practice the connective tissues of the knee joint will have gained enough strength and integrity to withstand reasonable stresses on the knees when they are flexed as well as the stresses of sitting in a cross-legged position such as Easy Pose.
How Yoga Helps Knees Stay Healthy
•To begin any yoga poses you must be in reasonably good health. You should be checked by a medical professional to make sure yoga postures will not harm you and so you are aware of any medical disorders of your knees. The effect of yoga on the knees has much more impact if the knee is in reasonable good health.
•Always begin your yoga session with some warm-up poses. These will be gentle movements that are held for short periods of time and maybe repeated. Mild hip openers are a great warm-up for standing poses.
•Be careful of what type of yoga class you choose. Classes that focus on structural alignment will be good as well as classes that have a more gentle healing approach.
•Watch that you never hyper-extend your knee.
•Balancing poses will strengthen the legs. Don’t be afraid to try them. You can always use a prop for balance until you are able to do it on your own.
•Use props and modifications. Not every person can do every pose the same way, or sometimes not at all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a little help, that’s what they are there for.
•Keep your mind tuned in to what your body is feeling. Don’t push yourself into a pose that is uncomfortable or painful, that’s when it’s time to back off. Even a little pain now can cause greater pain later.
•Poses that are particularly beneficial are:
o Triangle Pose and Reverse Triangle
o Warrior I and Warrior II
o Mountain Pose
o Side Angle
o Reclining twist with top knee bent
In a yoga practice you want to introduce simple movements that increase circulation, stretch what needs to be stretched and strengthen what needs to be strengthened. This approach will make the problem area more stable and flexible, including the knees. Once this is accomplished you will work on integration of the problem area with the rest of the body done with larger and more complete movements of the entire body. In doing this type of therapy it is especially important to work with a trained, experienced yoga instructor.
Live well, practice yoga.
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