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Yoga for Your Knees

On your Knees If you've ever experienced knee pain-or, worse luck, a chronic knee problem-you know how frustrating and limiting it can be. The alignment in your hips and/or ankles may be the culprit? It's not unusual for yoga students to practice their postures with small mis-alignments in the knee. Repeated over months and years, these small mis-alignments can contribute to pain and long-term joint problems. Yoga poses practiced with conscious good alignment of the leg bones and joints can be a therapeutic tool for building strong, healthy knees. The knee is an unstable and shallow joint, so you can understand why it is vulnerable and sensitive to mis-alignment.

Imagine two long columns stacked atop each other, and you've got the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia). The flat surfaces of the bones make the knee dependent on ligaments (which join bone to bone) and tendons (which join muscle to bone) to hold it together. Side-bending or twisting can endanger these supporting tendons and ligaments. For example, standing poses done with improper alignment can put great strain on the knee. The best indicators of knee alignment in standing poses are the relative positions of the foot and kneecap. The foot acts like a pointer showing the rotation of the shin and lower leg, while the kneecap shows the rotation of the femur. For alignment ~ Remember the knee always follows the foot!

In Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), for example, the front leg kneecap should point over the center of the foot. If the kneecap points toward or even inside the big toe, you know that the columns are twisting. In Trikonasana, all yogis need an outward rotation of the femur bone in the hip socket to align the femur with the shin and foot. Bent-leg standing poses can also stress the knee. As the knee bends, it should function like a hinge, with no sideways movement.

In Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), a common misalignment is for the front knee to point inside the big toe. In this position, the columns of the leg are not only twisting, they are also bent to the side at their junction. This widens the gap between the bones at the inner knee, straining the ligaments there, and compresses the outer knee, which erodes the joint surface and contributes to arthritis. As in Triangle, an outward rotation of the front leg femur is needed.


Knee Alignment

To learn proper knee and leg alignment, it can be helpful to practice a simple exercises before incorporating the action into more complex yoga poses. In both of the following exercises, standing in front of a mirror will help you examine your alignment.

In the first exercise, lean back against a wall, with your heels about a foot from it. Slowly slide down the wall; as the knee bends, make sure the kneecap points straight out over the center of the foot.

In the second exercise, stand with your left hand on a counter or the back of a chair. Put your right foot on the broad side of a yoga block. Make sure that the right knee stays centered over the foot as you step up onto the block and as you set the left foot back on the floor.

If your knee is displaced inwardly, bending and straightening it over and over can cause pain and injury. Practice of this simple exercise can help train the muscles to hold the leg in proper alignment, preventing repetitive damage to the knee ligaments and cartilage during standing poses—and during everyday activities like going up and down stairs.

These simple exercises also help to strengthen the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh. Quadriceps strength is very important in supporting the knee joint, including the kneecap, which is actually embedded in the quadriceps tendon. A strong quadriceps helps to stabilize the femur and shin bone in proper alignment, and the inner quad is especially important in stabilizing a fully extended, straight knee.

To learn how to contract the quadriceps in a straight-knee position, for example in Trikonasana, try sitting on the floor with both legs stretched out in front of you. Find your kneecap with your fingers; slide one finger down the kneecap to the bottom edge, toward the shin bone. As you slide the finger just over the edge of the kneecap, you will be on the quadriceps tendon, which attaches the muscle to the top of the shin bone.

With little effort to straighten the knee or lift the foot off the floor, you'll feel the tendon become firm under your finger. Continue to contract the quad and try to move the kneecap around with your fingers: The contracting quad will prevent the kneecap from moving. If you then consciously relax the quad, you can move the kneecap around.

Now come back to standing and move into Trikonasana to the right. Press out through the right foot and draw up with your quadriceps. Put your right fingers on the kneecap and try to move it. If it stays still, your quadriceps are contracting as they should, helping to stabilise the knee. Never lock your knees tight, simply lift the kneecap to engage the quads. Remember the knee always follows the foot!

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Testimonial
Maya Tampilang
from : Jakarta - Indonesia
Kate Nirlipta is an inspiring beautiful teacher, she taught me how to balance my unbalanced guna's, she gave encouragement with her compassion and I had special emotional moment through her session class. Thank you for guiding me to understand the "Svadhyaya" and the yoga lifestyle about "cleaning the mirror" and "spreading the light". Always love her meditation, relaxation and evening activity. Love the healing power of song "I am the light of my soul" every time I hear the song my heart & soul feels like a blooming lotus flower. I feel so blessed to have you as my teacher and you have helped me to spread my wings…absolutely transforming. Terima kasih banyak ibu cantik. Love always


Robyn Sedgwick
from : Australia
I am delighted to recommend Kate Nirlipta to anyone at all who is interested in experiencing heart based wisdom through embodied yoga. She is simply the best yoga teacher I have been fortunate enough to learn from. Her approach remains influential in my own practice and teaching. Kate first inspired me fifteen years ago to practice yoga. I was an ex dance teacher still grappling with issues resulting from a car accident and a crushed T12. Her sensitive and knowledgable teaching helped me discover a new way of experiencing my self and my body and began my love affair with the transformative power of yoga on all levels. She also introduced me to the incredible practice of Yoga Nidra . Last year in 2012 I attended a yoga teacher training intensive in Bali largely for the opportunity to again learn from Kate. Her mastery as a teacher and her heart felt warmth and compassion was acknowledged and highly valued by all in the course who were wide ranging in age and cultural backgrounds. She embodies her teaching and has encouraged us all to find our own authentic way to do this in our practice and the classes we offer. I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to learn from her and would encourage anyone of any age or experience to take to opportunity to learn from this outstanding teacher.


Jacki, Narooma
from : NSW, Australia
I love yoga with Kate! Yoga day is my favourite day of the week, a special time I dedicate to myself.
Kate has shown me that yoga is so much more than postures and stretches.Her knowledge and experience is shared gently with love and kindness.The Breathing Space studio is filled with loving, healing energy. Natural light floods the room, the birds sing in the garden and the ocean waves area gentle sigh in the distance. A very special place to practice yoga and meditation.
I feel blessed to have found Kate and her classes. Her yoga is the real deal, truly a mind, body and spirit experience. Thank you Kate.


Kate Nirlipta

 
 
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