5 Ways to Protect Your Knees in Yoga1. Avoid Hyperextending
When joints are overly mobile and flex too far back, they’re hyperextended. Your upper leg, knee, and lower leg should all be in line with one another when standing, and not making a concave shape. In the knees, hyperextension often occurs in poses in which the legs are straightened, such as Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow Pose, putting an unhealthy tension on the ligaments. If you’re prone to hyperextension, keep a slight bend in the knees during standing poses (while keeping it "locked" by engaging your quads) and keep your weight evenly distributed among the four corners of your feet.
2. Start With Your Feet
Proper alignment through the feet is the key to building strength evenly in the ligaments on both sides of the knee; when all the ligaments are equally strong, the kneecap glides effortlessly up and down and the cartilage doesn’t get worn down. Separate your toes and press actively through the four corners of your feet, especially in postures like Awkward Pose. If your feet are out of alignment, your knees are going to suffer.
3. Keep Your Knees in Line
When moving into deep knee bends such as Triangle Pose, first align your bent knee over your ankle, then draw your kneecap in line with your second toe. Maintain awareness in your back foot, pressing down evenly, while lifting up from the arch of your front foot. If you let the arch drop, the knee falls inside the big toe, and you’re set up to suffer a number of different kinds of overuse and acute knee injuries.
4. Tune in to Subtle Signals
Oftentimes, the knees don’t give immediate feedback. Only later do you realize you’ve gone too far. When it comes to the knees, the sensation that would normally proceed the red flag is the red flag. If you feel achiness when you come out of a bent-knee pose, you may have worked too hard. If you feel any pain going into a posture such as Fixed Firm Pose, back out of it.
5. Build Strength by Balancing
Balancing postures, especially those that require moving through a bent standing leg, such as Garudasana (Eagle Pose), are especially beneficial. Very dynamic balancing protects the knee against future injury by training the functional alignment, not just working the muscle.
For some more information on proper knee alignment and isometric exercises for your knees, go to Tip of the Week: Yoga Therapy for Your Knees.