KNEE STABILITY ANATOMY
The knee is a hinge joint, unlike the hips and shoulders, and is designed for stability much more so than mobility. The primary ranges of motion are flexion and extension (bending and straightening) and there is scope for a limited amount of lateral movement and rotation.
COMPENSATION FOR POOR HIP AND ANKLE MOBILITY
When there is a lack of mobility in the hips and/or ankles, the knees have to compensate—moving into ranges of movement that they are not built for. This can torque the knees and overstretch connective tissue around the joint, leading to pain or even injury over time, especially with the sort of repetitive movement patterns common to athletes.
KNEE STABILITY YOGA POSES
In yoga, we have a number of poses designed for knee stability, that strengthen the ligaments and surrounding musculature (including the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves) whose job it is to keep the knees in good alignment. These include Chair, Bridge and one-legged balancing poses. We also practise poses that improve mobility in the hips as we strengthen the knees. For example, the Warrior poses. Another advantage is that we move the body dynamically, in all planes of motion, which is great for safely acclimating the knee to the multi-directional movements common to sports, thus reducing your risk of injury.
ALIGNMENT IN KNEE STABILITY POSES
Good alignment is important to bear in mind in poses that put pressure through the knees, so as not to exacerbate existing issues and imbalances. For example, when your knee is bent, it should track towards your middle toe. And in the Warrior poses, try to align the centre of your hip, knee and ankle parallel with the side of your mat as you bend your front knee, being careful not to let your hips swing out to the side, as this puts uneven strain on the inside of your knee.
If you’re recovering from injury, it’s important that you do not try to muscle through pain in these poses and that you only work within comfortable ranges. For example, not going too deep in Chair pose and skipping advanced postures like Awkward. Take it slow and focus on gradually improving your proprioception and neuromuscular awareness.