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How Do I Modify Yoga Poses That Hurt My Knees?

Yoga | Yoga Poses

The Question: Is there any way I can modify poses or are there any other asanas that might help correct the discomfort I'm feeling in my knees? (Heather)

The Answer

I wanted to start this article with a joke about the “bees knees,” but then I realized I couldn’t because I’m not funny or clever enough.

Anyway, knee pain is something that’s complained about a ton in yoga classes. Especially with poses like lunges, where your knees are on the floor, or Warrior II, where your back knee is turning in a unique direction, yoga brings different opportunities for the knees to feel a bit tweaky.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be an issue! There are tons of things you can do, whether you have chronic knee injuries or not, to take your poses out of pain and into pleasure.

First of all, use props. Most studios offer blankets to their students, which are great to use to pad the knees. Especially when your mat is thin, it’s a great idea to slide something super cushiony under to protect the sensitive parts of your legs.

Blocks are always great to avoid hyper extending in Standing Forward Folds. Hyperextension (when joints flex too far back) is a huge problem I see in yoga classes. This is super unhealthy for the ligaments of the legs (even if you don’t feel when you’re hyperextending), so be aware when you’re doing it and protect yourself.

When you’re aligning yourself in your poses, start from the feet and work up. As you know from the infamous bone song you sang in elementary school, everything is connected, so, spread your toes, press your feet actively and evenly into the ground, and you’re on track to taking care of your knees.

You can prep the health and strength of your knees by working on balancing and the openness of your hips. Don’t just shy away from certain poses because you feel like your knees aren’t “good enough.” Take ownership of your bodies and get healthy!

Additional Information

The most important thing is to respect your limits. Make sure you tune into a sense of bodily intelligence. Knowing your body and what it can do is an incredibly important part of being a yogi — imagine just pushing yourself to any and every pose, even if it totally killed your muscles, joints, and bones? Not good. Understand your own anatomy and how it works. Namaste!

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