Knee power, with yoga

Knee power, with yoga

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.

Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-knee pose)

Sit on the floor, with your legs stretched out in front. Fold right leg lightly. Inhale, raising your hands overhead. Exhale, bend forward as if reaching for the wall in front of you, moving head towards the left knee. Hold the left foot or leg with both your hands. Continue breathing with your head on left thigh. Hold for a few seconds. Release. Repeat thrice. Relax. Repeat for the other side.

Points to note: Those with knee pain must keep the legs slightly apart instead of bending one leg. This will ensure there is no stress overload on the injured knee.

Avoid: Those with lower backache and inflammatory conditions must avoid all forward bends.

Benefits: The leg muscles are strengthened, to act as good support to the knee. This is a preparatory forward bend, preparing you for more advanced poses. All forward bends are de-stressing, help control diabetes and are anti-aging. They also aid weight loss by impacting metabolism, and rectify postural defects by the toning the spine.

Paschimottanasana (Seated forward-bend)

Sit on the floor. Stretch out both legs in front of you. Inhale, raising both hands overhead. Exhale, lowering your hands as if reaching for wall in front of you. Reach with hands where you can on the legs. Touch head to thighs. This may not be possible initially but is assured with regular practice. Continue breathing normally, learning to relax in the pose. Hold for half a minute or so. Release. Repeat thrice.

Avoid: If having lower backache, inflammatory conditions, heart or blood pressure problems.

Benefits: The same benefits of the previous pose, only more enhanced.

Trikonasana (Triangle pose, variation 1)

Stand with your feet a meter apart. Adjust feet so right foot is flared out, and left is slightly flared. Inhale, spreading arms out at shoulder level. Exhaling, slide right hand along the right thigh till it reaches the right ankle or foot. Left hand remains overhead. Continue looking ahead or at the left hand, breathing normally. Hold for a few seconds. Release. Repeat thrice. Relax. Repeat entire sequence for opposite side.

Avoid: If having lower backache.

Benefits: It rectifies postural and spinal defects and is a preventive for most back problems. It strengthens limbs powerfully, including inner thigh muscles. It aids weight loss by tweaking the metabolism through the abdominal pressure and trimming fat at the waist.

Trikonasana (Triangle pose, variation 2)

Stand with your feet a meter apart. Adjust feet so right foot is flared out, and left is slightly flared. Inhale, spreading arms out at shoulder level. Exhaling, twist to the right, reaching left hand to right foot as right hand is raised up. Look at the raised hand or ahead. Hold the pose, breathing normally. Release. Repeat thrice. Relax. Repeat entire sequence for other side.

Avoid: If having lower backache.

Benefits: This pose offers the same benefits as the previous pose.

Trikonasna (Triangle pose, variation 3)

Stand with your feet a meter apart. Adjust feet so right foot is flared out, and left is slightly flared. Inhale. Exhaling, turn torso to the right. Inhale, raising both hands overhead. Exhale as you lower your hands to floor, towards right foot. Place hands on either side of right foot. Reach head to knee. Hold pose, breathing normally. Relax back to starting position. Repeat thrice. Relax. Repeat entire sequence for other side.

Avoid: If having lower backache, heart or blood pressure problems.

Points to note: Since this is a more intense stretch it may be attempted only after regular practice of the first two variations. Also, beginners may attempt to move the head and hands only as far down as possible till flexibility is achieved. The benefits are the same as for the previous two positions.




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