Yoga: 7 essential tips for joint safety

3 min read

Many aches and pains that we suffer – in our yoga practice and daily life – come not from acute injury but from doing something over and over with poor alignment. The cumulative stress builds until, eventually, the smallest straw breaks the camel’s back.

In my role as a yoga instructor, I correct minor misalignments that, while they may not be painful at the time, can cause serious injury if repeated 100 times. Our joints are at risk of injury.

It’s important to know how to safely support your body weight with these delicate structures during yoga practice. Use these tips to ensure the safety of your joints during your next yoga practice, whether you are trying to avoid an injury or care for one.

Keep your knees in line with the second toe.

It is good to follow this rule of thumb for any pose, whether your legs are straight or bent or if you are bearing weight. The center of the knee should be in line with your second and third fingers.

When standing on your toes, you should shift the weight forward in bent-knee poses.

If you are standing with your knees bent, such as in Utkatasana or Virabhadrasana II, make sure to root into the heel. If the legs are straight (as in Tadasana Ut, tadasana, or Trikonasana), you should press your weight more into the ball and pull the kneecaps upwards.

You can use props to relieve knee pain caused by deep flexion and pressure.

Use a prop if you feel pain when your legs are deeply bent. Sit on a block in Virasana or Hero Pose. In Balasana (Child Pose), place a blanket behind your knees.

Use a blanket if kneeling causes too much pressure on the kneecap, such as in Tabletop or Anjaneyasana.

Engage the muscles to support you and get out of hyperextension at the elbows and knees.

Hyperextensibility of the elbow and knee joints indicates that the ligaments have laxity and allow them to move beyond straight into a “locked” position.

Then, firm up the muscles around the joint to get the bones “truly straight.” Draw all the thigh muscles up to the hips for the knees. For the arms, use the triceps and the biceps.

Hug your arms in 90-degree angles.

It is very important to create a 90-degree angle between the forearm and upper arm when you lower into Chaturanga. It is important to keep the elbows above the wrists (not behind them) and firm the upper arms against the side of the body.

Create a solid and safe foundation using your hands.

Position your hands in weight-bearing positions (like Downward Facing Dog and Plank) so that your wrist creases run parallel to the edge of the mat. Press firmly and widely into each knuckle. This will prevent you from slamming the weight of your body into your wrists.

Modifying will give you a rest.

Consider moving to your forearms or fists in Tabletop or Downward Facing Dog if you have an injury or feel your wrists are sore.

These tips are just a start when it comes to joint safety. You can enjoy a healthy yoga practice and protect your joints by paying attention to alignment and mindfulness.

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