Damage to the knee is common, especially in the older people. The knee is highly prone to injury because of the amount of weight it supports and its complicated anatomical function. If your knee has been recently injured or is recovering from an operation, chair yoga may be the ideal form of exercise. As you begin to heal, you may prefer to practice yoga on the mat. Remember that gentle movement after knee injury is necessary to work the surrounding tissue and begin the healing process.
It is possible to adapt traditional mat poses to the chair and conduct your entire practice while in a seated position. According to Lakshmi Voelker, creator of Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga, “The chair replaces the yoga mat and becomes an extension of your body allowing you to take full advantage of yoga’s amazing fitness and health potential.” (See Reference 1) If you cannot find a chair yoga teacher in your area, determine what muscles are worked in each mat pose and activate the same ones while sitting in a chair. Practicing yoga in a chair is gentle on your knees because they are not bearing much weight as you hold each position.
You may want to begin practicing on the mat once your knee is a bit stronger. Restorative poses with bolsters and other props passively stretch the muscles and open the body. It is likely your local yoga studio offers restorative yoga classes. If you would rather practice at home, backbends over bolsters or blocks are more kind to the knees than traditional backbends. Also, place blocks under the knees during Baddha Konasana to eliminate any unnecessary pressure and strain.
Once your knees are strong enough, Yoga Journal recommends standing poses with the appropriate alignment that is healthy for the recovering knee. To avoid straining ligaments as you heal, practice standing poses where the knee is bent at a 90-degree angle directly over the ankle. (See Reference 2) Parsvakonasana, Virabhadrasana I, and Virabhadrasana II are all good examples. These poses strengthen the knee by reinforcing the surrounding tendons, ligaments and tissue.
While your knee is healing, stay away from poses that strain the connecting ligaments, such as Virasana. Also avoid poses like low lunge that place too much pressure on the knee by requiring it to be placed on the ground. As always, listen to your body and back out of a pose if you feel inappropriate pain. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regime, especially post-surgery.
Stephanie Soscia holds a Ph.D. in anatomy and neurobiology from the Boston University School of Medicine. She has studied the molecular mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade, publishing her work in several peer-reviewed journals. Soscia is also a Yoga Alliance-certified yoga teacher and CrossFit level 1 trainer.