Knee, as a joint, has a simple range of movement i.e. of bending and extending. But the moment it assumes the role of a weight bearer, the whole equation changes, wherein, movements like walking, running, jumping etc. increases the pressure on the knee. It is mainly at this point that one loose string in form of weakness or stiffness of the supporting muscles or postural misalignment may lead to complete unraveling of the strength of the knee, thereby, making it susceptible to injury.
One needs to focus on the optimal strength and flexibility of the surrounding muscles which supports the movement of the knee. It is also important to analyze that any movement performed has the complete engagement of right group of muscles. Knee as a compensating tool, for the tightness of other muscles, is one of the common reasons for knee pain among athletes. Knee pain can be easily controlled with a few simple practices:
- Keeping the legs elevated
- Resting the feet on the floor or on some support while sitting on a chair
- Placing pillows under your knees / heels while lying down
And by avoiding any practice which can further add on to the pain, such as:
- Climbing stairs
- Wearing high heels
- Avoiding high impact activities
- Extreme bending of knees
Simple Stretches, Effective Results
One Leg Up against the wall
- Identify a door frame
- Lie down near that in a way that one hip (say right hip) is touching the wall and the other hip is on the floor
- The right leg is upright on the wall and the other leg is stretched out on the floor
- Maintain the position for a few minutes, and then begin to slide your right heel up to the ceiling and push the back of the leg on the wall specially the back of the knee. You will a gradual release of the stiffness from the back of the knee; release the stretch; continue few rounds of this stretch
Strengthening of the inner thigh muscles
- Lie down on your back
- Bend your knees. Your knees are hip width apart
- Place a yoga brick / a pillow in between your thighs, squeeze it tightly and hold for ten counts; release; continue for 10 rounds
- Stand straight
- Squeeze your knees; push the back of the knees to the back and simultaneously lift your thighs to the groin, hold for a few seconds and release; continue for 10 rounds
- Do 2-3 times a day
- Sit in Dandasana – pull the cheeks of your hips apart with the respective hands, keep your spine neutral and your legs stretched out, heels sliding out and your toes rolled in.
- Inhale and raise your arms up; hip bones are grounded to the floor, spine elongated and arms slightly pushed back. Raise your head up and look at the ceiling. Slightly push the upper part (holding the stretch intact) of your body to the back. This will engage your core muscles a little more. Maintain as much lift as possible of the upper body. Exhale and while looking up at the ceiling, start bending forward slowly. Make sure you start your bending process by jutting your hips out on the floor and not from the mid back. Your hips may not show any distinct movement but mentally your source of stretch has to be the “hips.”
- You have begun to bend forward now; one step at a time by pushing the back of the legs down to the floor with your quadriceps, thereby, lengthening your hamstrings. The back of the knees and calves firmly on the floor, heels sliding out and toes flexed in.
- Half way through your bend, pause , take a breath ,hold your right big toe with your right index and middle fingers and the left big toe with the left index and middle fingers; pull the big toes towards you so that the back of the legs are fully stretched on the floor specially the back of the knees. Lengthen your spine further. This will get your back in a concave position; begin to slowly and yet firmly bend your elbows; elbows pointing away from the body as well as the floor.
- Exhale and focus on your abdomen, suck your abdomen in, to push upper part of the body further out and try to rest your abdomen on your thighs.
- Next, rest your chest on the knees; remember you are still looking slightly up; it is only at the end that your head comes down on the shin (looking up constantly maintains the length of the spine whereas looking down reduces the range of movement).
- Hold the posture for 30 seconds with normal or deep breathing. Once you progress into your practice, increase the holding time to 3 to 5 minutes.
- Release the posture slowly in the reverse order by raising your head and creating concave back, straightening your arms and then slowly moving back to Dandasana.
Role of toes in this posture
Keeping your toes relaxed fails to recruit the back of the legs and allow the legs to fall apart. Stretching or swinging the toes away from the body will rotate the thighs laterally whereas flexing the toes in will rotate the thighs medially. So be attentive about flexing your toes in.
Hamstrings: Paschimottanasana stretches your hamstrings. This stretch can be manipulated, even in case of very tight hamstrings, by adjusting the range of forward bending as per your capacity. Make sure to press your hamstrings constantly on the floor in the process of bending forward.
Calves, Plantar Fascia and Achilles tendon: Pressing your hamstrings, sliding your heels away from the body and flexing your toes towards the body engage your calf muscles and releases the tension from that area. In fact, this also works in relieving pain caused due to plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
Spine: The spine and the vertebral column feel an amazing stretch. This lengthening also works on releasing tension and stiffness from the lower back.
Abs Muscles works on diabetes: There is extensively core engagement in this posture which, in turn, massages internal organs like the spleen, stomach, and intestines etc, due to which there is an extra flow of blood to the abdominal nerves and muscles. Hence, the asana is also recommended for people who suffer from diabetes as the placing of the abdomen on the thigh massages the kidneys and helps move the stagnated blood from that area, thereby, allowing the flow of oxygenated blood.
Arms : Stretching out the arms releases the tension from the arms. Stretching the arms at the back works in case of tight / frozen shoulders whereas stretching forward works on the sides of the body. In this posture, when we hold our toes with the fingers and bend our elbows out, it also works on strengthening the shoulders.
Calms you down: Forward bending has a calming effect when performed effortlessly. It calms your brain nerves and reduces tension both from the mind as well as the body. Recommended for high BP, stress, tension, headache.
Avoid in case of back pain
Usage of cabbage leaves is said to relieve mild pain. Take out the leaves, wash them, let them dry and bandage it around the painful area with an adhesive tape. Leave it overnight. You should use fresh leaves every night.
Knee pain can affect quality of your life. A few stretches, twice a day, for few minutes can go a long way in healing your knees.
Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.