Yoga for Knee Pain - The Ultimate Guide

Knee pains are one of the most common problems that middle aged people suffer with. The modern lifestyle has only added  to the problem.

Our knee marks the meeting place of three bones: the shinbone (tibia), the thighbone (femur), and the kneecap (patella). Two crescent-shaped pads of cartilage, each called a meniscus, sit between the shinbone and the thighbone and act as cushions between the bones and shock absorbers during movement. Two sets of ligaments—the cruciates and the collaterals—strap all three bones in place. The cruciates crisscross below the kneecap; the collaterals run alongside the outside of the kneecap. The leg's substantial muscles help these ligaments keep the bones properly aligned.

There are several specific yoga poses that can help provide relief. Studies shows that people with knee pain can get some much-needed relief by practicing yoga a few times a week.  Research also shows that certain yoga poses (especially single-leg balances) can be stressful on the knees, while squatting and lunging postures can improve leg strength and minimize knee adduction.

Vigorous physical movements aggravate the knee pain. What we need is a slow and controlled movement to lessen the pain. Yoga does this with gentle stretching, keeping the knees healthy and flexible. It also strengthens the muscles surrounding the knees. 

Our knees are hard-working shock absorbers. Yoga helps to keep knees healthy and strong by lengthening and strengthening the surrounding thigh and calf muscles, thus helping to ease the pressure on the knees. Injuries and knee problems are often due to mechanical issues with the kneecap, which then impacts the ligaments and the joints, but most exercises fail to equally develop the inner, outer, upper and lower muscles.

Injuries can happen if a person:

  • does not warm up before or after exercise or works too hard in an activity
  • participates in some sports, especially without using protective equipment
  • has a road traffic accident or a fall

Accidents, falls, and physical activities are common causes of traumatic knee injury. They can put the knee under extreme strain. If the knee does not heal properly, chronic pain can result.

Some lifestyle factors can increase the risk of knee pain.

Trauma: Starting physical activity without stretching properly first can increase the risk if a traumatic knee injury. People who play intense sports, such as basketball and football, have a higher risk of traumatic injury.

Gout: Disorders like gout may be caused by lifestyle choices or genetics. Excessive alcohol use, obesity, and dietary factors may contribute.

Degenerative disorders: These often happen with ageing, although there are other factors. The risk of osteoporosis increases with age, specific genes, lack of exercise, and dietary factors.

Obesity: This increases the risk of OA, especially in the large joints such as the knees. Excess weight can put strain on the knees, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Bacterial infections: Cellulitis can occur in a person who has a weakened immune system, skin conditions, long-term swelling in the arms and legs, and obesity, or if they use drugs that require needles.

As mentioned above the patients of knee pain require slow and controlled movements. If there is no or less movement, the condition may worsen. With the help of Yoga one can do possible stretching movement. Yoga is good to avoid knee injuries by keeping the knees healthy and flexible. Knee pain management through Yoga, in fact, is possible by stretching and strengthening the surrounding knee muscles.

Some yoga poses to strengthen your knees are:

1.Tadasana (mountain pose)

Mountain Pose improves your posture and body awareness, strengthens your legs, and establishes good alignment. Tadasana may not look like much, but keeping your body active and aligned is hard work. Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Press your weight evenly across the balls and arches of your feet. Breathe steadily and rhythmically. Draw your awareness inward. Focus on the present moment, letting all worries and concerns fade away.

  • Press your big toes together (separate your heels if you need to). Lift your toes and spread them apart. Then, place them back down on the mat, one at a time.
  • Draw down through your heels and straighten your legs. Ground your feet firmly into the earth, pressing evenly across all four corners of both feet.
  • Then, lift your ankles and the arches of your feet. Squeeze your outer shins toward each other.
  • Draw the top of your thighs up and back, engaging the quadriceps. Rotate your thighs slightly inward, widening your sit bones.
  • Tuck in your tailbone slightly, but don’t round your lower back. Lift the back of your thighs, but release your buttocks. Keep your hips even with the center line of your body.
  • Bring your pelvis to its neutral position. Do not let your front hip bones point down or up; instead, point them straight forward. Draw your belly in slightly.
  • As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist.
  • Broaden across your collarbones, keeping your shoulders in line with the sides of your body.
  • Press your shoulder blades toward the back ribs, but don’t squeeze them together. Keep your arms straight, fingers extended, and triceps firm. Allow your inner arms to rotate slightly outward.
  • Elongate your neck. Your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles should all be in one line.
  • Keep your breathing smooth and even. With each exhalation, feel your spine elongating. Softly gaze forward toward the horizon line. Hold the pose for up to one minute.

2.Trikonasana (triangle pose)

This asana is known to stretch the muscles and improve the regular bodily functions. Unlike most other yoga asanas, this requires you to keep your eyes open while you practice it to maintain balance.

  • Stand erect. Now, keep distance between your legs about 3 to 4 feet
  • Extend your arms at the shoulder level.
  • Inhale and raises your right arm by the side of your head.
  • Now, bend your right arms with exhaling towards the left side by keeping your body weight equally on both the feet. You should ensure that the right arm become parallel to the ground.
  • Maintain the position as per your comfort with normal breathing and come to the original position by inhaling.
  • Do the same procedure with the left arm.
  • Perform three to five rounds of trikonasana.

3. Virabhadrasana II (warrior 2)

A powerful stretch for the legs, groin and chest, Virabhadrasana II also increases stamina. It helps to relieve backaches, and stimulates healthy digestion.

  • Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), standing with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Let go of distractions. Notice the quality of your breath. Draw your awareness inward, to the center of your body. Turn to the left.
  • Exhale as you step your feet wide apart, about 4 to 5 feet. Check to ensure that your heels are aligned with each other.
  • Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, so your toes are pointing to the top of the mat.
  • Pivot your left foot slightly inwards. Your back toes should be at a 45-degree angle.
  • Lift through the arches of your feet, while rooting down through your ankles.
  • Raise your arms to the side to shoulder height, so they’re parallel to the floor. Your arms should be aligned directly over your legs. With your palms facing down, reach actively from fingertip to fingertip.
  • On an exhalation, bend your front knee. Align your knee directly over the ankle of your front foot. Your front shin should be perpendicular to the floor. Sink your hips low, eventually bringing your front thigh parallel to the floor.Make sure your front shin stays vertical. Widen your stance as needed to make sure that your knee does not move forward past your ankle.
  • Press down through the outer edge of your back foot, and keep your back leg straight.
  • Keep your torso perpendicular to the floor, with your head directly over your tailbone. Do not lean towards your front leg.
  • Turn your head to gaze out across the tip of your right middle finger. Broaden across your collarbones and lengthen the space between your shoulder blades. Engage your triceps. Drop your shoulders and lift your chest.
  • Draw your belly in toward your spine. Keep your torso open, not turned toward the front leg.
  • Hold for up to one minute.
  • To release, inhale as you press down through your back foot and straighten your front leg. Lower your arms. Turn to the left, reversing the position of your feet, and repeat for the same length of time on the opposite side.

4. Virasana (hero’s pose)

Hero Pose (Virasana) is a seated pose that is a great stretch for the quadriceps. Virasana is conducive to keeping your shoulders over your hips, which helps align the spine so that your back doesn't ache while you are sitting.

  • Begin in a kneeling position with the tops of the feet down on the mat, bringing the knees together to touch.
  • Come up to stand on the knees, and separate your feet just wider than hip-distance apart. Point your big toes in slightly and press the toenails and the top of each foot evenly into the floor.
  • Use your hands to move the flesh of the calves out of the way, and slowly sit down between your feet. Note that this pose can be intense on the knees, so be sure to have a bolster, block or a thick book handy to place between your feet in case sitting down causes any pain in the knees or if the sitting bones don’t reach the floor.
  • Relax your shoulders away from your ears and lengthen up and out of the crown of your head. Rest your palms face up or face down on your thighs, or take your hands into the mudra of your choice.
  • Remain in the pose anywhere from 5 to 30 full, deep breaths, depending on your level of comfort. To come out of the pose, plant the palms on the mat in front of you, slowly make your way onto hands and knees, then swing both shins over to one side and extend both legs straight out in front of you

Yoga is actually very beneficial to those who suffer from weak knees or pain in their knees. Certain postures help stabilize the knee and strengthen the muscles that support and hold the knee in proper alignment, such as the vastus medialis, which runs down the inner quadriceps muscle and helps to extend the leg. Yoga also helps stretch tight muscles that can pull on the knee, mainly outer hips and hip flexors.

The best thing you can do for your knees is to strengthen the surrounding tissues, specifically the inner thighs. Knees are naturally an unstable place as they sit between a wide joint (the hip) and a tiny joint (the ankle) putting the kneecap at an angle.

To combat and prevent knee pain, you can work on strengthening the interior thighs to align the patella and strengthen the ligaments using yoga postures like the Warrior Poses and Triangle. But the very first thing you will need to do is to realign all your basic postures using these three cues in every pose.