Having bad knees shouldn't keep you from your yoga mat. Yoga teacher Catharine Guthrie writes in a "Yoga Journal" article that to protect your knees in yoga class, you'll need to follow a few basic alignment cues. Always look at your feet and make sure your toes are pointing straight forward. Also, align your knees evenly during standing poses and keep them over your ankles. If you experience knee problems, chose a slow, alignment-based style of yoga such as Iyengar or hatha yoga and ask your teacher before class about possible pose modifications you could do.
On the surface, mountain pose may seem like simply standing, but it's actually a delicate balance of muscular and postural alignment. To perform mountain pose, stand up straight with your legs together and big toes touching. Align your knees directly over your ankles and engage your quadriceps -- thigh muscles -- to help lift your knee caps. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and shift your pubic bone toward your navel. Draw the shoulder blades down your back to open your chest. Align your head directly over your spine. Stay in mountain pose for at least 30 seconds but not more than five minutes.
Legs-up-the-wall pose is a gentle inversion that can give you some relief from knee pain. You may perform this pose using a yoga bolster or pillow or you may set yourself directly on the floor. Place a pillow or yoga bolster on the floor six inches away from the wall. Sit on the floor or on the bolster and lower your torso until you are lying on the floor. Place the soles of your feet on the wall and walk your legs up the wall until your legs are straight. If you have difficult getting down on the floor to perform this pose, try modifying the pose by lying on a bed or couch and extending your legs away from you on a wall. Hold this pose for as long as is comfortable, for up to 30 minutes.
Modified Chair Pose
Using a wall as a modification prop in chair pose allows you to focus on proper knee alignment in a gentle fashion. Stand up tall with your back against a wall. Walk both feet one to two-feet away from the wall. Bend your knees slightly and slowly slide your hips down the wall until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Align your knees directly over your ankles. Depending on your height, you might need to walk your feet further away from the wall to develop proper alignment. Hold modified chair pose for as long as you can, for up to one minute.
Modified Bound Angle Pose
To protect your knees, use several props to perform bound angle pose. This pose stretches tight muscles in your hips and inner groin. Stack two yoga blocks on top of each other and sit on the blocks. The more height you add to your seat, the more comfortable it will be for your knees. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall open to the sides. If you feel any pressure in your knees during this position, stack yoga blocks, blankets or pillows under the outer edges of your knees. Hold bound angle pose for as long as is comfortable for up to one minute.
Nicole Carlin is a registered yoga teacher. Her writing has been published in yoga and dance teacher training manuals for POP Fizz Academy. Carlin received a Masters of Arts in gender studies from Birkbeck University in London and a Bachelors of Arts in psychology from Temple University, Philadelphia.