Pain-Free Poses for Peaceful Knees
Imagine feeling strong, aligned, and peaceful in your yoga practice.
Picture having knees free from pain or sensitivity, supporting you through every movement.
It’s possible, but before we dive into the specifics, there are a few things you should know about practicing yoga for strong, peaceful knees.
First, a yoga practice that is good to your knees is always compassionate, always kind, and always supportive. Just as in life, there is a big difference between pushing limits—challenging ourselves to do and be more—and going past our edge, causing serious damage. Tune in, and learn to tell the difference between growing pain (slow, muscular, and dynamic) and destructive pain (anything in your joints, and anything sharp or sudden).
Moving mindfully—with slowness, awareness, and deep compassion for your body—is truly the kindest choice you can make for your knees… in yoga, and in life.
Second, it is always a smart practice to add support for your knees when placing them on the mat. Most mats are thin, which allows for good balance during standing asanas; however, they do not provide adequate cushion for sensitive knees. Putting on your yogaknees before class can cushion and support your knees throughout your practice—no need to stop and fuss with a blanket or cushion as you focus on your asana. Yogaknees or no, any support is healthier than placing your knees between a rock (your body) and a hard place (earth/mat/paddleboard)!
Third, it’s important to understand that knee-pain or instability is often linked to other imbalances in the body. Tight hips, weak quadriceps, and tense leg muscles will all put undue stress on an already vulnerable joint. Explore poses that open the hips, strengthen and stretch the legs, and stabilize the knees (think standing balances). As long as you keep kindness first, an asana practice might be exactly what your knees need.
Lastly, alignment is key. It is crucial to protect your knees while you strengthen them—otherwise it’s easy to do more harm than good. Knees are pivotal hinge joints, which allow only minimal medial and lateral rotation. Therefore, they are particularly susceptible to injury with undue twisting or tension. Keep your knee directly in line above your ankle in poses like Virabhadrasana I and II (Warrior I and II), engage your quads in straight leg poses like Trikonasana (Triangle) and Padangusthasana (Standing Forward Fold) to avoid hyperextending your knees, and always maintain focused awareness of your joints in intense postures like Virasana (Hero Pose) and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon Pose), easing away from any pain if it arises.
Keeping those tips in mind, here are 8 of our favorite yoga poses for peaceful knees. These asanas build strength in the legs, open the hips, improve balance, and align the body for a beautifully kind practice, as a part of your ongoing yoga journey.
- Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Feet together or slightly apart, sink your hips back and down as if sitting on a chair. Hands can come to heart center, or arms can extend straight past the head, as wide as the shoulders. When practiced correctly, this pose strengthens the quadricep muscles—a necessary component for healthy knees. You must maintain good alignment here, or you risk putting too much pressure on your knees and damaging them instead. If you look down while in the pose, you should be able to see your toes; if your knees are in the way, take the weight back until they’re over the ankles—still pointing straight ahead—and your toes are visible.
- Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose). Legs wide, turn one foot to face the top of the mat—you could draw a straight line from your front heel to your back arch. Bring the arms up parallel to the ground, then hinge sideways over your forward-facing leg, bringing your lower hand to the shin, ankle, or ground, and reaching the top hand straight up toward the sky. Press the feet into the ground to engage the leg muscles and protect the knees. This pose improves balance and strength. Hold for up to five breaths, lift up gently on an inhale, then repeat on the opposite side.
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Feet together or apart, stand straight and strong, a microbend in your knees. Hands can come into prayer position at your heart center, or stretch down at your sides, palms facing forward. With proper alignment, you should feel your hips floating above your ankles; shoulders above your hips. Keeping all of that alignment, come onto your tiptoes. This will challenge stabilizing muscles, improve balance, and support strong, peaceful knees. Lift up as you inhale, stay up for one breath cycle, then use your full exhale to lower your heels back to the ground. Repeat.
- Garudasana (Eagle Pose). Bringing the hips down and back as if into chair pose, cross one leg over the other, and try to slowly wrap the foot around the back of the standing leg. If accessible, hook the toes of the lifted leg around the standing calf or ankle. If not, you will still receive benefits from even a slight wrap. Bring the hands into prayer pose if feeling unstable, or eagle arms (see linked photo). Squeeze the legs together and focus your gaze on a fixed point for greater stability. Breathe deeply, and keep awareness on the muscles around your knees. Repeat on the opposite side.
For Hips & More:
- Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose). Sitting squarely on the ground, bring the soles of the feet together and allow the knees to gently fall outward, toward the earth (it doesn’t matter if they touch the ground!). Cradling the feet, gently hinge forward at the hips until you feel a stretch in the hips and/or inner thighs. Back should remain straight and long for the first few breaths, but then you may gently drop the head toward the feet if it feels good to you. Move slowly, and stay conscious of your knees, moving out of the pose if you feel any pain.
- Supta Gomukhasana (Reclined Cow Face Pose). Lying with your back flat on the ground and your knees bent, cross one leg over the other. Clasp your hands around the back of the thigh, and gently draw your knees into your chest. Keep the feet flexed to protect the knee joints, and breathe into the sensation in your hips. If you are seeking a deeper hip stretch, you may enjoy moving into...
- Happy Baby Pose. Grasp the outer edges of your feet and lift them up, soles pointing toward the sky, then draw them down toward you—always keeping the feet flexed. Your shins should be parallel to each other and perpendicular to the floor. As you practice these hip openers regularly and your muscles become more supple, you may benefit from increased flexibility to rotate your femur (upper leg) bones at the hips.
- Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold). Standing with your legs wide apart and feet facing straight ahead, fold forward and bring your hands to the ground (or a block on the ground). Maintain a microbend in the knees to keep your leg muscles engaged and avoid hyperextending, and breathe into the sensation in the backs of the legs. This pose both strengthens the quads (if you properly engage the front of the leg to avoid hyperextension) and invites length and suppleness into the hamstrings—two key ingredients for healthy knees.
We recommend Yoga Journal as an excellent source for comprehensive details on many yoga postures. Here we have provided YJ links to Garudasana and Utthita Trikonasana, and are grateful for their ongoing expertise.
In addition, if you feel any confusion about any posture, we strongly advise consulting with an experienced yoga teacher. A teacher can provide personalized modifications, and even slight physical adjustments might make all the difference to bring you peace and comfort in a challenging asana.
Psst…. If you are inspired to enjoy your yoga practice with extra peace for your knees, select your favorite yogaknees HERE.
Important Note: Our blogs are not intended to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, diagnosis, opinion, or treatment to you or anyone else. While we hope our blogs on yoga will help you with your practice, these should not be considered a substitute for your own yoga teacher and health care professional.
We gratefully sat on our chairs or the floor, and quickly opened our lunch bags. We all were famished. Our intense yoga teacher training session had started promptly at 7:00 a.m. and continued until 1:00 p.m. with only a ten minute break in between. Yet we were flooded with a sense of camaraderie, enjoyment, and shared purpose. Led by our masterful yoga teacher, Christopher Baxter, we felt the joy of going in-depth with the ancient practice of yoga, as well as appreciation for each other.
Our conversation was light and delightful as usual during our lunch break…until someone mentioned a controversial political name. Did someone turn off the air? Among our small, but wonderfully diverse yoga group of all ages, gender and race: a woman engineer who worked for NASA in high security, a male aircraft mechanic, a vivacious school counselor, a devoted mother of five, and an experienced yoga teacher. Each person voiced strong opinions which evoked a heated debate, and the peace, so easily cultivated by our group before, disappeared. There was palpable anger, and incredulity of each other’s opinion. And, with it, came the sad realization that our close-knit group was unraveling.
When the gong sounded for the end of lunch, we gratefully sprang for the door, but there was nowhere for our group to go but back to the yoga room. Ouch! Four more hours of yoga. How could we survive the afternoon?
By 3:00… a reluctant smile or two
4:00… helping each other understand the benefits of trikonasana
5:00… earnest discussion
6:00… Thai everyone?
During those four hours our focus on the mat brought our awareness beyond ourselves. Shared community replaced discord.
And with it, a realization that our deep friendship and caring for each other was much more important than our difference of opinion on any issue.
The next time you find yourself losing perspective over an issue with a friend, family member, or even someone you don't know well, don your yogaknees and invite him/her to a yoga class…
Enjoy the peace.
This blog is dedicated on International Day of Yoga to Christopher Baxter and Lynn Willoughby who live their yoga on and off the mat, epitomizing kindness, peace, and creativity. They give heart and soul to everything they do. Christopher is a master yoga educator (ERYT500) and a founding member of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and Lynn is a publisher, author, and life creative. Their most recent gift to yoga and the world is their innovative sky styx system www.skystyx.com.
Having New Eyes
Starting a company has been interesting to say the least. We started out with grand plans to change the world … to try to be an advocate for peace for every knee, by providing comfort and support for two knees at a time on the earth, mat, or paddleboard and generous donations to good causes which help humanity.
Yet slowly we have felt the world changing US … we have seen overwhelming generosity, inspiration, and pure kindness flowing all around us towards infinite wonderful causes to help our world.
And, as we have faltered and made plenty of mistakes along the way, we have seen that same generosity of spirit extended to us. We are grateful beyond words.
For instance, many in the retail industry pretended they didn’t know we were neophytes, and gently tried to steer us along the way, even as we didn’t know the difference between a stretchy knit and lycra mesh. Thank you, dear friends.
The yoga community has backed us fully, giving us time and wonderful feedback along the way. You are our prana.
Our web developers and video producer worked those extra hours and answered endless questions patiently, to get us up and running. Our hats are off to you.
Inspiration flows from our customers who took the plunge and love their yogaknees…
And, recently inspiration came unexpectedly from the strangest place:
Television, that bastion of vitriolic comment, as an artform.
And, from a commerical, no less!
Amazon gets two thumbs up from us for their brilliant Prime service ad which features an Episcopal priest and Muslim Cleric, who are obviously good friends, discussing their knee pain from kneeling over the years on hard floors to pray. As they leave, each orders bulky gardening knee pads as a gift for the other (because they don’t know about yogaknees yet!) We love this commercial for its enduring message and shared intention.
While acknowledging the pain and sadness that appears in many forms in this world, we now see how imperative it is to appreciate all the good.
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes." -Marcel Proust
We now have an inkling of what this means.
Sweet Rivers Team
Inspired by Miracle on 34th Street
One of our favorite movies of all time, Miracle on 34th Street, inspires the spirit of Christmas and the holidays like no other. How wonderful for Santa Claus, sitting in his grand chair in Macy’s sending customers to Macy’s fiercest competitor, Gimbels, if he thought they might find what they truly wanted there.
At first Macy’s CEO was aghast at losing customers to his arch rival…until he realized that doing the right thing for the customer, as exemplified by Santa, was thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed by everyone. Including the boss himself!
In that very same spirit of goodwill, we are taking the plunge (without pretending to be as magnanimous as Santa Claus and with some Grinch-like trepidation, we admit) to telling you briefly about our yogaknees®, and then alerting you to products, other than ours, in case these suit you better.
We want to be in the spirit, and also are very serious about wanting you to take better care of your knees. As we know the statistics…over 25% of Americans are affected by knee pain in the United States ( knee pain is the #2 cause of chronic pain in adults). We’ve met too many yogis - many of them college students - who are ignoring the fact that their knees feel sensitive, or worse, painful, when placed on a mat or paddleboard.
If you know we have your best interest at heart, we hope to gain your loyalty so you will come back to our site, and tell your friends. We desperately need more peace in the world, and each of us can start by giving more kindness and peace to our very own knees (and hearts and minds).
In our opinion, the ancient practice of using blankets under your knees is not enough support. Yes, a blanket is wonderful for elevating your hips while sitting or covering you in shavasana, but a blanket does not offer the support that your knees deserve on hard surfaces.
After months and months of testing numerous options and materials, our optimal solution, yogaknees®, combines athletic performance fabrics with proprietary cushioning, offering your knees comfort and firm support as you move through your practice or sport. Yogaknees® are contoured to fit closely to your legs, and allow you to freely enjoy your yoga or favorite sport comfortably anytime you want, on the earth, mat, or water (surf/paddleboard). We like to think we offer kindness, peace, and freedom for your knees! We welcome you to our website.
Other products, offered by competitors, also provide firmer support to one’s knees than “the gold standard” for yoga… blankets.
For instance, YogaJellies are firm discs that are sold in pairs; you can place under your knees, or other joints, that need padding, as needed. Other manufacturers sell strips of mat, or make cushions, that you also move on and off the mat, as needed. Having firm padding on a mat, when and where you need it, is always a good thing.
We wish them well, as the key is to get you to think about adding support for your knees in your practice. If you are experiencing sharp joint pain or have a knee injury, it is always wise to check with a doctor before practicing yoga even with the knee comfort solutions suggested above. At the very least, you might need to modify certain asanas (poses) on the mat. The objective is to have a pain-free practice and enjoy your yoga fully.
Our hope is you treat your precious knees with extra kindness on and off the mat, and then flow your peace into the world!
Sweet Rivers Team