Knees are our body's delicate shock absorbers. What’s interesting however is that even exercise wrongly done can cause irreparable injury to these intricate load-bearers. Yoga is among the most sensible exercise form -- it not only prevents knee injury but also hastens its rehabilitation in such an event.
The major causes for knee pain include:
~ Obesity, which overloads them.
~ Bad posture, which, through misalignment, forces harmful muscular tension and pressure.
~ A sedentary lifestyle which denies such important joints necessary blood flow, nutrients and repairing agents.
~ Jobs that require you to be on your feet the whole day, eg stewards, reception staff, nurses, policemen, supervisors, security guards, etc.
~ Over-use or misuse through daily routines that overload the knee, such as constantly bending work like swabbing the floor, stair-climbing, cycling etc.
~ Wrong exercises that overload the knees, especially when done without having adequately preparing the leg muscles for such activity, like jogging without adequate stretching before and after, or treadmill running where the speed may not match the practitioner's ability or muscular strength.
~ Jarring movements like dancing where the surrounding muscle-structures are not supple or elastic enough to protect the knees.
It was found even worn-out cartilages (which cause painful rubbing of bones) can revert to their original sponginess with a holistic healing therapy like yoga.
Given this list of causes, this is how yoga helps: it strengthens the surrounding thigh and calf muscles, thus helping to ease the pressure off the knees. It rectifies postural defects and helps reduce weight. Also the muscle tone you get with yoga is supple and elastic.
It is important here to remember that having strong muscles by themselves do not guarantee knee strength. Runners can have extremely stiff muscles and such muscles can cause serious harm by misdirecting muscular pressure. In fact, if you are an avid sportsperson or fitness enthusiast, you must ensure yoga complements your other passions, to ensure that you never cause long-term damage to your knees.
Even with yoga there are certain precautions to heed if you have chronic knee pain. The priority must be directed towards healing the pain. All poses requiring you to bend the knees must be avoided during the healing phase. When doing standing twists, ensure proper alignment to avoid harming the knees. Resting the knee, by lying on the floor, with feet propped on a low stool (in the cardiac pose) can help greatly. Straining in any of these poses will be counter-productive.
Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, shows you five knee strengtheners from yoga.
Text: Shameem Akthar
Also read: 5 yoga poses to build stamina
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff Saisuresh
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings and about her upcoming workshops at jaisivananda.blogspot.com