I just spent two weeks skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho. I have pretty strong quads from all of my Warriors and standing poses in my yoga practice, but after the hitting the bumps hard for days, I sure felt my knees.
I have many students who complain about their knees or who’ve had knee surgery and can’t do certain poses. If you need some knee pain relief or have difficulty doing yoga because of bum knees, these postures can help strengthen your legs, give your knees some relief, and help you stay pain free in your daily life.
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 emphasis on the breath while doing poses also keeps us focused and aware of how we are using our body, so we are mindful of overstretching or overdoing any poses.
Try to practice each one of these poses three to four times a week. Make sure to hold each pose for at least five breaths and back off if you feel any pain or pulling on the knee.
1. Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose is an excellent posture for knee pain relief. It helps us track our knees evenly and teaches us how to engage our leg muscles isometrically.
Start standing with big toes touching and heels together. Engage your lower abdominals and stretch your fingertips towards your toes. Open up your chest and take deep, full breaths. Now bring all of your awareness to your feet and work on spreading through the toes and pressing them in to the floor evenly.
Make sure your weight is centered in the arch of the foot, and imagine lifting up from the inner arch, through the ankle up through the knees. Engage your quadriceps muscles and energetically lift up above the kneecaps. Microbend the knees if you feel that you are locking them.
Make sure to draw the muscles of the legs upwards, instead of jamming the legs back.
2. Triangle Pose
Triangle strengthens the quadriceps, inner thighs, and abdominals while stretching the waist, hips, and hamstrings.
Start standing in Mountain Pose, and then open to the side on your mat one leg’s length apart. Turn your right toes forward ninety degrees, and your left toes in about seventy-five degrees. Hinge to the right over your leg and place your hand on your ankle, shin, upper thigh, or a yoga block.
Imagine you’re between two narrow walls, and bring your body back in space with your hips. Actively engage the legs and draw up the kneecaps and inner thigh muscles. Hold five to eight breaths then switch sides.
3. Warrior II
Warrior poses, and especially Warrior II, is a safe pose to do for people with knee issues. Warrior II helps to stretch, strengthen, and stabilize the knee.
Start standing sideways on your mat with your legs open at least three feet, or your own leg’s length apart. Turn your right toes out ninety degrees, and your left toes in seventy-five degrees. Bend your right knee until it is directly over your right ankle.
Use your leg muscles to keep tracking the knee and make sure it doesn’t roll inward. You want to keep bringing the knee open and towards the pinky toe side of the foot. You’ll strengthen the outer gluteal muscles, inner thighs and quadriceps as you hold the pose for eight to ten breaths.
Stand up and turn the feet the opposite direction for the other side.
4. Hero's Pose
Hero’s Pose is the ultimate knee pain reliever, although it can also feel pretty intense. One of my old teachers used to swear holding this pose for five minutes every day completely reversed his running knee injury. If you feel too much pull on the knees here, you can sit up on as many blocks or folded blankets or towels as you need.
Start kneeling and pull your calf muscles out to the sides as you sit your hips between your ankles. Pull your buttocks flesh back and also pull up on the knee, then settle everything down again.
Hold for five to eight breaths or longer if you can.
5. Downward Facing Dog
From Hero's Pose, you want to immediately push back into Downward Facing Dog to stretch the knee in the opposite direction and track the knee properly. Make sure your feet are only hip width apart in the pose, and walk them in until your heels touch the floor so you can feel Mountain Pose legs in Downward Facing Dog.
Lift the kneecaps up, engage the quadriceps, pull in the lower abdominals, and feel the stretch in the hamstrings and behind the knees. Press firmly into your hands, and lift your shoulders up away from your ears.
Hold eight to ten breaths.
Practicing these poses on a routine basis can make a world of difference in the health of your knees. Again, always stay connected to your breath and make sure to back off if you feel any sharp pain.
Yoga teaches us how to notice when there’s discomfort, which we can breathe and move through, as opposed to pain, which isn’t good for the body. Our knees are very tricky joints and we need to keep them lubricated, strong, and flexible in their range of motion. Yoga is a tool that keeps us moving pain free and happily, and allows us to listen to our body and hopefully repair and protect it as much as we can.
Do you practice these yoga poses for knee pain relief? Which are your favorites? Share with us below!