A couple of weeks ago, yogis from around Portland and Beaverton filled the studio to learn how to take better care of their knees and how to reduce the pain they are living and practicing with on a daily basis. We had yogis from our advanced Power Vinyasa classes and yogis from Senior Yoga, because frankly, knee pain can happen to all of us. Here's a few things we learned on what to do about it.
The knee is a hinge joint that moves front to back and has a little bit of side to side movement. The knee works in conjunction with the ankle, feet, and hip to move the leg around in every which way an asana, or life, can take you.
Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Get the Body Rolling! Oh my!
After reviewing the bony landmarks of the body, Nina immediately got people to work rolling out the major players that work with and around the knee: gluteus muscles, Deep 6 rotators, tensor fascia, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the calves. Nina explained the importance of "fluffing" the muscles and connective tissue, the fascia. Using the Yoga Tune Up® balls can make all the difference because they have the grip and grab to move the fascia around plus they are small enough to get into the smaller areas, such as the gully between the tail bone and the pelvic bone where you access your Deep 6 rotators.
Fluffing your muscles...
As Nina shared, muscles like the hamstrings can become pretty flattened or tacked down because of how much we sit. When the hamstrings are tight and tacked down, they start to pull. And where do they pull? The hamstrings pull on the knee which can result in knee pain. Check out this video of Nina showing how to move your leg around with a ball between the back of the thigh and the chair to get into all of the hamstrings and attachments. It hurts so good!
How do you fluff? By rolling out the muscles listed above and then moving the ball down to the lower part of the leg and practicing different moves such as shin rolling, foot rolling, and the calf mash. The calf mash is when you keep both of the Yoga Tune Up balls toted in their mesh bag, you place your calf on top of the balls on top of a block and you roll the toted balls up and down the length of your gastroc muscle. (see photo above).
Sometimes the knee pain can come from the inside of the thigh, when the knee cap isn't tracking correctly. Perhaps the knee cap is puling to one side, or the quadriceps aren't able to release the knee cap down. Try placing one ball on either side of a block in between the knees. Breathe and compress the thighs towards each other and then try moving them around, rotating one thigh at a time in and out. (see photo below).
Nina comes up with fun and interesting names of moves to get the body moving through exercises and stretches that will balance out all the major players involved in knee health. She used humor and funny pop culture examples (e.g. Shakira's hips, twerking) to help people picture what their body should be doing in a certain move.
A few moves we used to train the leg muscles to navigate and tone in the right way:
- Imaginary Gas Pedals (with or without a ball under your thigh)
- Quad Stretch
- Hip Hinge (with a back leg raise, similar to Warrior III, to engage the gluteal muscles and the psoas.
Check Up on Your Knees
Stand where you can see your lower half in the reflection of a mirror, with the pant leg up above the knees (or wear shorts). Come into Tree Pose vrksasana on one side. Once you've found your balance, bring your gaze to the knee cap of your standing leg. Is it pulled up? Is the quadricep drawing your knee cap up? Try to relax the quadriceps and release the knee cap down. This is an important test to see how well your knee and surrounding muscles are functioning together. The knee cap should not be lifted. Then, test the other side.
If you missed the Yoga Tune Up® workshop with Nina to learn about Pain Free Knees, you can always set up a private yoga session with her or sign up for the next workshop she'll offer in the fall.
Be kind to you! Be kind to your knees!
More information on Nina and her work can be found at www.yogapitzel.com