Updated: Jan 1
Knee pain from yoga is common and preventable. Here are some tips to keep your knees and pelvic floor safe in your yoga practice.
Causes of knee pain from yoga
Hip alignment - the position of your hips and pelvis not only prevents injury to the pelvic floor, but influence the position of the knee. If the hip is not aligned properly then you cause unnecessary strain and eventual pain to your knees.
Locking out the knees - straightening the legs to the point that the knees are no longer soft causes a lot of strain on the muscles surrounding the knee joint. Doing this even once can make the knees tired, and continuing to do this throughout your practice may eventually lead to pain.
Overextending the knees - allowing the knees to extend beyond your toes creates a lot of pressure on the knees, which is a common cause of injury that will be felt during or after a yoga class.
Allowing knees to collapse inward - if you are in a position like Warrior 1 or Goddess Pose, allowing the knees to move toward the center of the body instead of pressing outward will cause a misalignment that stretches the muscles surrounding the knee in the wrong direction. This causes an instability and weakens the knee joint, which results in pain.
Preventing knee pain from yoga
Knowledge is power, especially when we are talking about yoga and your body. Here are some great tips to prevent your knees from hurting at the end of your practice:
Keep your hips and pelvis in a neutral position - if the hips are not level then the knees will not be positioned properly in your yoga poses. To protect your pelvic floor as well as your knees from unnecessary strain, it's important to keep your pelvis is in a neutral position.
Don't lock the knees - when your legs are intended to be straight in a posture, keep the knees soft. If you focus on keeping soft knees (don't lock them straight) and keeping your hips aligned, you can usually prevent knee pain from yoga practice.
Keep your knees above your ankles when lunging or squatting - when you are getting into a squatting posture, stick out your booty and pull the tailbone back while maintaining a straight spine (to protect your pelvic floor). Take a quick look down at your feet. The knees and feet should always be pointing in the same direction, and the knees should never extend beyond your toes.
Open the hips - when lunging or squatting, also pay attention to your hip position. The legs should be moving the knees outward and away from the center of the body.
Build strength in the knees - take some time outside of your normal yoga practice to deliberately focus on proper posture and breathing as you squat and lunge to strengthen the knees. Stronger knees will take longer to feel tired and sore.
Know your limits - it's okay to modify every single pose in a yoga class so that you are helping and not hurting your body! If lunges hurt your knees, stand tall and keep the knees straight (never locked). Instead of focusing on bending the knees, focus on proper alignment of the hips and spine as you breathe deeply.
It is very common to experience knee pain from yoga. In most cases, it is also preventable with proper modifications and techniques to keep your knees healthy.
Pelvic floor yoga focuses on breathing and the alignment of your pelvis & hips.
Guess what? EVERY posture in yoga that focuses on your hips and pelvic floor is also focusing on the health of your knees! They are a wonderful compliment to each other, so it's important to understand how to move in a way that strengthens your muscles below the belt without causing pain or stress at the end of your exercise session.