When you regularly deal with knee pain, developing an exercise routine can be difficult. However, with the right choice of activity, certain exercises can actually help improve your knee strength, reducing the chance of further injury.
Yoga is a great low-impact activity because it can be modified in accordance with your skill level and level of joint pain. While some yoga poses certainly do exacerbate knee pain, others can help boost your range of motion, relieve joint pain, and build strength in the surrounding tissues. In this article, we’ll cover some general tips for modifying yoga poses to ease your knee pain, as well as a few specific tips for modifying popular yoga poses.
Remember: exercise may leave you sore after the fact, but it shouldn’t cause you pain. Always stretch before exercising, even before low-impact exercises like yoga, and stop immediately if the pose causes you pain. Lastly, if you’re dealing with a recent injury or recovering from a past one, always ask your doctor before making changes to your exercise routine.
Tips for Practicing Yoga with Knee Pain
Keep a micro-bend in your knees when doing straight-leg poses. A micro-bend is a slight bend in your knees, barely visible to those around you. It helps to avoid hyperextension and to work the tissues surrounding the knee instead of putting the weight on the joint itself.
Use supports and props. Many yoga modifications suggest adding a yoga bolster, but it’s not necessary to go out and buy one. Depending on what you have available, substitute a pillow, rolled or folded blankets, or a soft exercise block—anything you can comfortably rest parts of your body on to reduce the poses’ stress on your knees.
Move slowly. When transitioning through yoga poses, move slowly to avoid twinging your knee. Make sure your body is aligned correctly before fully settling into the next pose.
Modifying Yoga for Sensitive Knees
Chair pose is one of the best moves to help strengthen the muscles around the knee, but the traditional pose calls for a deep squat, which can be difficult for those with knee pain.
To modify: only deepen the squat as much as your knees will allow—discomfort is good, but pain is bad—and don’t allow your knees to go over your toes. Keep your hands in a prayer position at your chest to help retain balance and shift your weight to your heels. Place and squeeze a bolster between your thighs to further reduce pressure on your knees.
Child’s pose can help ease lower back pain and stretch the hips and thighs.
To modify: place a bolster behind your knees and/or beneath your buttocks to lessen the bend in your knees. A bolster beneath your torso also negates the pressure that comes from lowering your chest to the ground.
Downward-facing dog is a classic pose and a staple in many yoga flows. It’s a great full body stretch and can help strengthen your quadriceps.
To modify: maintain that micro-bend in your knees. Instead of keeping your heels flat to the floor, shift onto the balls of your feet.
Don’t let knee pain hold you back from the activities you love. For more advice on exercising with knee pain, visit us at the Mid-Maryland Musculoskeletal Institute.