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Get Knee Deep In Knee Knowledge – Yoga for Knee Rehab and Prehab

in YD News, YogaDork Ed

By Christine Jablonski, a certified Yoga Tune Up Teacher

Knee pain, ranging from general discomfort to consequences of traumatic injury, is one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention. Treatment often includes physical therapy and sometimes includes surgery (according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 600,000 knee replacements are performed every year in the United States alone). But people are also  increasingly looking to yoga. A recent Yoga Journal survey suggests over 15 million people currently practice yoga and at least that many more are very interested in beginning a practice. These populations will likely collide. If you do not have a client with knee issues in class now, chances are you will. And soon.

If you are a yoga teacher you are uniquely capable of helping your students address the pain, fear and frustration associated with injury, surgery and recovery. You can be even more effective, however, whether you are a Yoga Teacher or just someone who wants healthy Knee joints, if you understand some knee anatomy and mechanics. There’s a lot going on in that hinge between the thigh and shin.

Let me introduce you…

Four bones: the femur, tibia, fibula and the patella are all held together by a few ligaments. The collateral ligaments hug the knee joint from thigh to shin to stabilize the side-to-side movement. Two cruciate ligaments cross under the kneecap like an “X” to stabilize the knee’s forward and back movement. Two crescent-shaped cartilage discs (aka meniscus) sit between the tibia and femur to distribute weight.

Eleven muscles act upon the knee joint. The quadriceps lift the kneecap, extend the knee and converge above the kneecap to become the quadriceps tendon. The quad tendon flows over the kneecap and becomes the patella tendon (like when street names change across an intersection), which attaches the kneecap to the tibia. The three hamstrings flex the knee, run down the back of the thigh from the sit bone and attach at different points on the tibia. Two adductors (gracillis and sartorius), the popliteus (a small muscle behind the knee that runs to the ankle) and the gastrocnemius (your prominent calf muscle) are also knee flexors. All of the flexors except the gastroc medially and laterally rotate the knee a little–only when it is bent–if you can rotate your knee when it’s straight, get thee to a doctor. Now.

In short, the muscles on the front of your knee straighten it, the muscles on the back of your knee bend it; muscles that attach on the sides of the knee move your shin side to side. The entire structure is held together by a few ligaments and padded with a few discs.

Injuries you might see as a yoga teacher include cartilage tears caused by poor alignment, ligament tears due to side impact when the knees are bent, or joint replacements to relieve arthritis and long term degeneration.

Whether your clients are turning to yoga to “pre-hab” as a way of avoiding surgery, or have gotten the green light to resume yoga after surgery, consider what poses and exercises will be complimentary to their healing process. Knee rehabilitation often includes stabilizing the knee by strengthening and tightening the quads and hamstrings, but it is equally important to stretch those muscles as well as attend to the adductors so the knee doesn’t become imbalanced by being overly tight on one side and slack on the other. In addition, breaking up scar tissue and improving circulation in the knee will help the recovery process.

The Yoga Tune Up KneeHab video is a great place to start! You can also check out my video below and use your Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls to help break up your scar tissue.


About Christine: Find her Yoga Tune Up schedule here or learn more at her full website.



12 comments… add one
  • Recently had surgery on my knee. The doc carved out most of the meniscus, inner and outer. For the first two weeks the knee felt like jello with lots of stabby pain. For the last week or so its felt like wood – stiff and achy with occasional stabs of pain and not much flexibility. So for nearly a month I’ve been limping around and whining like a baby. Does this make me a bad yogi?

    • No, it makes you a liar

      Cuz nobody “carves” out medial and lateral menisci anymore. Prove it by posting the redacted op report, les. Ur story has a lot of holes in timing too.

  • bo

    Christine, Love you, Love your Knee Knowledge. Sing it out woman!

  • Yeah, Girlfriend! and since we're

    on the subject of simulated collisions…


    You go get ’em!!

  • Yiyi incredibly worried, how to do?.

  • RosalbA

    I am a yoga instructor and since 6 months ago , i am experiencing some pain in the in my right knee but this pain is more to the inner part on my knee cap sometimes to painful to even go in child pose What do you think is doing this??? Or what can i do ?? Thank you for your attention 🙂

    • erin

      Could be you are hyper-extending your knees too often, also could be a result of trauma (that maybe you didnt even notice!) from the outside of your knee which pushed it medially…physical therapy and ultrasound to the area will work wonders and FAST!

  • Lisa Nguyen

    Fantastic article, thank you! I’ve had great success recovering from my scooter accident with yoga. I couldn’t walk properly for 5 weeks, although my doctor told me it would rather be 3 months 🙂
    I started of doing Kris Fondane’s Yoga beginner lessons (from Juli’s blog: sugarfreejuli.com/yoga4all/) and I started appreciating y newly discovered body awareness and calmness.

    Great referral – I’m planning to do the Anamaya Adventure retreat this year 🙂

  • This is a great article! My knees are fine but they are definitely a weak point, due to past injuries and I think I need to exercise all those muscles and tendons.

  • Michele

    I have had both knees replaced. Would like to know what type of yoga moves I can do.

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