If you have chronic pain in your knees, if they 'snap, crackle and pop' when you bend or extend them or if they tend to hyperextend, you may have improper tracking or 'dislocation' of the kneecap. This misalignment causes the most common kind of chronic knee pain and damage to the knee joint, which develops slowly over time.
Hatha yoga has a lot to offer to correct this misalignment; the standing poses are especially effective. But be forewarned: Misalignments of the knee in various asanas can amplify the imbalances that lead to injury and can aggravate existing problems instead of correcting them. The good news is that good alignment and proper tracking are easy to achieve once you know what to pay attention to.
Here's a simple anatomy lesson: The kneecap is designed to slide along a groove in the femur, and it has to move smoothly within that groove to do its job well. If it goes 'off track' (and it often does), it grinds away at the cartilage underneath and destabilizes the knee. The ensuing wear and tear is a key reason for knee replacement surgery, which a lot of people believe is necessary because they think the cartilage is gone. But the truth is that cartilage can grow back, albeit slowly. The main problem is that if we don't correct the imbalanced pull of muscles on the kneecap, we will continue to grind our cartilage down faster than out body can replenish it.
Sit in dandasana (staff pose) with your legs extended forward. Support your upper back against a wall if that's more comfortable. Roll up a small blanket or sticky mat and place it under your knees to prevent hypertension. Next, rotate your right leg out 10 to 15 degrees (if the sole of your foot were on a clock face, your toes would be pointing to one o'clock). Hold the contraction for 8 to 10 seconds, then release. Repeat this for two more rounds. Repeat this exercise with the left leg. Next do the same exercise without rotating the leg out. Keep your leg aligned so that your kneecap faces straight up towards the ceiling. Extend your leg fully and see if you can engage the inner part of the quadriceps - where you're touching with your fingers. Repeat on the other leg. You can do these exercise several times a day.
Stand erect with two and a half feet apart, raise arm sideways to form one straight line. Turn the body to the right, bring right hand to right foot. Keeping the arms in line with other, look up at the outstretched hand. Return to standing position. Keeping the arms in a straight line, repeat to the opposite side. Practise five times each.
Stand to attention and then spread your legs, around three feet apart, stretching arms sideways as shown in the picture. Bend your right knee to form a right angle, Keep your left leg stiff and gaze at the right finger tips, repeat on left side. Practice five times.
These yogic poses provide powerful and effective means for strengthening and stabilizing our knees, helping us to overcome, structural imbalances that might otherwise lead to chronic wear and tear in your knees. A little extra mindfulness in aligning and working our legs will enhance the natural therapeutic benefits these poses offer.
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