The knees are one of the most commonly injured joints. Even in yoga, which doesn’t cause a lot of impact, the knees can be very vulnerable to injury. Since the knees are a weight bearing joint (and a very important part of walking!), it’s important to keep them healthy and injury free.
There are two really important things to consider in any pose when dealing with the knees:
1. Don’t lock your knees
2. Keep the muscles around the knee (quads, hamstrings and calves) really active. This is so the weight can be distributed throughout the muscle instead of directed straight into the joint
In Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) the knees can be particularly vulnerable. Focusing on the front and back legs individually will allow you to train your muscle memory so optimal alignment can be practiced, even in a fast-pased vinyasa class.
The Front Leg
The most important point about the front leg in Warrior I is that the knee should be tracking directly over the foot. Letting the knee drop in towards the midline or out past the outer edge of the foot puts a lot of stress on the joint.
The calf should be really working in the front leg. While in the pose, try to point your front foot’s toes into the ground, as if you’re trying to dig into the ground with the ball of your foot. This will activate the calf muscle.
The Back Leg
The tendency in the back leg is to simply lock the knee and be done with it. When your knee is locked, the knees take on all of the weight and impact, instead of distributing it through the surrounding muscles. Remember to put a tiny bend in your back knee to avoid locking them.
Secondly, drag your back foot towards your front foot and keep your calf strong and activated. The isometric dragging action of the back leg will activate your inner thigh, helping keep all the muscles around the knees active, which will help protect them.
Taking the time to focus on optimal alignment will keep you from injuring, or re-injuring your knees as you grow in your yoga practice. Always let your teacher know if you have any knee injuries, or even if your knees are just feeling tender - so they can help you modify in ways that will keep them safe. Over time, your knees will thank you!
Becca Kocher is an engineer turned yoga teacher who blends her experience in engineering with her yoga practice to create a therapeutic yoga experience that offers both spiritual and physical alignment.
Website: Becca Kocher Yoga
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