How to Do Yoga Exercises for the Lower Back & Knees

Protect your lower back and knees while practicing yoga.

Protect your lower back and knees while practicing yoga.

The only sounds you want to hear while practicing yoga are "Om" and the occasional sighed “Ahhh” of pleasure -- not popping, grinding or cracking noises. Unless you have hyper-mobile knees and can bend your back like a circus contortionist, remember to put safety first. Employ the other, larger muscles of your body, such as your abdominals, glutes and legs, to help you perform yoga exercises for the lower back and knees.

Lower Back

Use your abdominal muscles when performing yoga exercises for your lower back. You’ve got a set of four trusty back supports in the form of the rectus abdominus, the obliques and the transversus abdominus. Find the perfect balance between strength and length when working your abdominals. If your abdominal muscles are too tight, they can compress the disks in your lower spine, so include back bends to lengthen them as well. You’ll need these muscles when straightening up from poses like standing forward bend. Keep your back straight and use your abdominal muscles to help you rise up into a standing position.

Create space between your disks, especially in poses such as seated forward bend. The rule of thumb for a yogini like yourself is to keep your back straight. The lumbar disks in your lower back are not meant to be folded like a Slinky or accordion. Stretch forward from your waist while keeping your back straight in seated yoga poses.

Follow the curve. Your lower back has a natural inward curve and the trick is to find the right balance between exaggerating it too much or flattening it outward. The tendency in seated poses is to go for the fully erect look. But you’ll be much better off if you keep your natural curves and you can do that by sitting on a folded blanket for poses like cobbler’s pose or easy cross-legged pose, and by pressing your hands into the floor to take the pressure off your back for staff pose.

Knees

Strengthen your quadriceps and lengthen your hamstrings. The best way to protect your knees from hyper-extension in seated or standing yoga poses is to make sure your quads are strong and your hamstrings are not too tight.

Watch yourself. It’s often helpful to stand in front of a mirror to observe what your knees are doing in a pose. In mountain pose, it’s easy to get overly enthusiastic and straighten every limb until you resemble a poker. That can result in your knees jutting backward. Instead, relax your knees and draw your quads up and away from your knees. Do that with all standing poses.

Watch your alignment. In poses like warriors I and II, triangle and intense side stretch, make sure that your bent knee never juts forward past your ankle. You’ll put too much pressure on the ligaments and tendons in your knees. Either stack your knee over your ankle or ease it back an inch or so and use your trusty quads to support you.

 

About the Author

Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.

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