As any good runner—newbie or not—will tell you, maintaining strong, healthy knees is an absolute must. As you run, the majority of stress falls on your ankles and knees. If you aren’t mental enough to become a runner, you’ll find that you use your knees so much in the course of your exercise program so much that keeping them strong is must.
Knees are tricky to rehab because while they’re easy to injure, they are also difficult to operate on and comparatively slow to heal. And as anyone who’s suffered from a knee injury knows, they’re vital to daily life.
Two of the best ways to keep your knees healthy are by weight training and stretching them. Even if you’re new to yoga, there a several stretches targeted to keeping your knees in top shape.
This pose is usually part of a standing sequence, but you can easily insert it in your stretching routine. This one also requires a bit of balance, so this is a good time to grab a block.
Warrior 1 Pose:
Believe it or not, there are three poses labeled, “Warrior,” but today we’ll be looking at the benefit of Warrior 1.
Pigeon is one of those poses that makes new yogis wince in fear. If your hips are tight, this can be a challenge, but even if you’re terminally inflexible, even the slightest bend is good for your knees and your spine.
Forward bend is also pretty popular, usually appearing in the Sun Salutation sequence. So if you’re in a yoga class, count on doing it several times during the class. It’s also a good stress buster if you want to just hang out for a few seconds. If prolonged standing is hard, there is a seated version.
Chair pose not only strengthens your knees, it also works most of the lower body. If you have weak quads, this is a great way to make them stronger since they’ll take a lot of the weight of your body during the pose. A word of caution; this is one of those poses that looks deceptively easy.
Hero is one of those poses that’s always been uncomfortable for me, because it feels as if it puts more pressure than relief on my knees. I put it in because, as with all yoga poses, each body is different and what is uncomfortable for one person can be the pose that gives you the most relif.
A word about those suffering from knee pain:
Many people turn to yoga as a way to rehab after an injury or if they’re already suffering from pain in some area of the body. And most knee injuries are due to injury or over use from daily life.
If you’re already suffering from knee pain and either haven’t seen a doctor or haven’t been cleared to do light exercise, by all means don’t try to do any poses. You’ll most likely do more harm than good.
Also remember that knees don’t exist in a vacuum. For many people, weak knees are a symptom of a larger problem—namely, tight hips. (full disclosure: my hips have always been tight, so I can totally relate).
The most common reason for tight hips are the long hours that many of us spend sitting in an office chair, plunking away on a computer keyboard.
If you suffer from tight hips, the muscles in your hips don’t allow you enough rotation so that you are able to bend forward in a seated pose. As a result, your knees will try to overcompensate by rotating in a way that it unnatural for them.
If your “knee problem” actually originates in your hips, don’t worry. We’ll look at ways to help loosen your hips in an upcoming post.