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Season 1 - Episode 10

Squat Modifications

15 min - Tutorial


In this tutorial, Patricia demonstrates squat modifications to allow for deep knee flexion movement without hurting the joints. Working with blocks, gurdy balls, and a folding blanket, these modifications are designed to help create space, support, and relief for the knee joints, especially if you are experiencing inflammation or pain.
What You'll Need: Mat (3), Blanket, Block (3)

About This Video


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(ocean waves) One of the things that I really came to miss when my knees decided to become inflamed, was sitting in hero pose, squatting, even child's pose became less accessible and mostly painful. And I'm going to show you some practices that helped me to be able to do all of those. The body really, my body, really appreciated being able to get these deep flexion movements without hurting the joints. So, here we go. We're going to start with the blocks.

I'm going to start with two blocks for behind the knees and maybe that way we'll use that in a moment for the Virasana, hero pose. So I get into a semi squat but there's still a lot of openness behind the knees, not very low yet. And I take the blocks and I push them very firmly into the knee space and I keep pushing them firmly in there as I come down into the squat. And this makes space in the joint so that the knee bones do not rub together on their cartilage missing bones. In other words, there's not that bone to bone, deep pain.

It's just glory (laughter). And, although it's a bit, it's a bit harsh on the musculature to have these blocks here, it isn't as harsh as the bone pain, which is very harsh. Okay. So and what I notice, is that while I hang out here, that harshness on the muscles starts to ease. In other words, the muscles are being given a little shiatsu treatment here and they're relaxing. Hallelujah.

And I feel my hips relaxing, and I'm getting the deep flexion in the hips as well as the knees. It's really great. Then, one day I thought, oh this long enough, I need to do something but I want to keep my knees flexed, so rolling forward, I come down and stretch the ankles out in the other direction. Still have this deep knee flexion. I happen to have a block back there and I'm in Virasana, I'm in hero pose.

It's very nice. Then, some of you may or may not want to do this one. But I do this little rolling thing, I'm pressing the block into my calves, sometimes I'll pull it up into the hamstring. And just giving myself a little calf massage. It's that really nice deep release of something that's been gripping for quite a little while.

Okay. So that's my Virasana, my hero pose, with the blocks. And then I discovered that I can come forward into child's pose. For child's pose, getting the head down on a block in front and then moving the knee blocks back a little bit, and you can experiment with how far because if you go too far you might get back into that bone on bone again, so I'm going to bring the blocks a little further forward right there and sometimes I need the block for my head and sometimes not, this feels better right now. You can have the hands trailing back. You can turn your head to one side.

You don't have to stay on your forehead. And just let go. Again, that ability to get this deep knee and hip flexion. It's such a great release. Sometimes you might feel more comfortable with the arms over head.

I like the added weight into the pelvis and low back by having the hands back. (inhales) (sighs) So, now I'm going to bring my hands up right near my head and push the body back up. I'm going to come to hands and knees removing the blocks. And I'm going to push back up to standing just to feel into all that. Now when I first stand up from that, I let my knees stay a little bit bent because they've been straight for a while and if I rush it, it doesn't feel so good.

So, after these ten or fifteen seconds, I can one leg at a time, push back into the knees. Very nice and just tuning in again to how that feels. It's lovely. (sighs) So, now let's explore how to use gertie balls. Gertie balls are balls that kids play with and adults as well.

So I'm coming down, I'm going to get a hold of my two gertie balls and move the two blocks away. And I'm going to use that other ball at some point, too. And this is going to be back here for the hero pose when I get to that. So it's the same thing as using the blocks. You're going to place, you're going to push the two gertie balls very firmly towards the center of the knee joint.

And keep pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing in as you slowly come down and explore whether or not this is going to be enough support for you with whatever degree of inflammation you have. You could do this with bigger balls. I've sometimes done it with balls this big when I've had a lot of swelling behind my knees. Right now, these feel perfect. So again, just being able to hang out here for a while.

The lower back gets a wonderful release here. And you're also pushing inflammation out of the knees by being here. (sighs) And then, coming forward, getting the knees down and taking the feet back, stretching the toes straight back and coming towards a Virasana pose. I almost don't even need the block behind me. I can tell, I can just float here.

But I'm going to put it there anyway. Maybe the bigger ball would be the right, oh that's nice. Even though the balls have air in them, they feel, they feel like water, like you're floating on water. Which is really a lovely feeling because I don't know, it's just very easeful. From this hero pose, I can curl forward and down and I often like to put this bigger ball either at the chest on the floor and even though the hips are lifting quite a ways off of what, you know, someone that didn't have inflammation in their knees, it still feels really really good and you can always pull the balls back from the knees and experiment with how much flexion, how much bend of the knees is comfortable for you.

I love having this ball at my heart center because I can feel, I feel like my lungs and the ball are hugging my heart when I breathe in. And that just makes me, that just gives me so much comfort. (content sigh) Okay. Pushing up again. Moving the big ball, moving the big block away. Taking away the two gertie balls.

Sometimes, before I stand up, I come to my forearms and I stretch and straighten the leg and roll over the toes a little bit. If you walk the knee forward, the front knee forward, you get a nice calf stretch. So after all that folding a little calf stretch, a little straightening of the leg before bearing weight can be a nice thing to do. Doesn't take long. You can hold that as long as you want.

And then, when you come up, again, back up to standing and just a soft gaze of the eyes, feel the presence of everything around you and especially the sensations in your legs and feet and hips. Your belly, your heart. I always feel so grateful for being able to do these practices again. So, let's look at the third way to work with squats, supported, support in the knees. And that is going to be with a folded blanket.

The folded blanket is waiting for me over here. I'm going to bring this back behind me again as I did for the others. And we have our lovely colors of the blocks cheering us up over there along with the flowers. So, the thickness, the proper thickness of the blanket can change. It could be enough to triple fold a blanket and put that behind your knees.

It might be that you might need to turn the blanket in the other direction and do a fourth fold and it's a bit thicker. I'm going to do the fold where the blanket is not quite so thick but I have done that other version sometimes. Just depending. So you swing the blanket around, you're in that little half squat position where you can push the blanket into the knee joints and just imagine softening the knee joints as you slowly release down into the support of the blanket. And pause, and notice, is that enough support?

Does that feel good on my knees? Yeah. Today it does. And that's what we want. What is happening today? Do I need more support? Or is this okay? And again, you're (sighs).

I like to put my arms on my knees. Sometimes if I want more rounding of the back, I'll walk my armpits all the way down. I might just get into a position of like, holding the Buddha's feet with my hands. Thank you very much dear Buddha for bringing us the light you brought. Relaxing my neck.

(content sigh) And then coming up. Okay. And how ever long, sometimes just half a minute is enough. Sometimes a little longer feels good. I'm going to roll forward, putting my hands down to ease the roll.

Knees come to floor, toes stretch back, now the tops of the ankles get a stretch, and I bring the standing block. Now I will tell you, that there have been times when even a vertical block isn't enough height. And so, I put (laughs) I put, sometimes I sit this high. Lately, I've been able to sit lower, which is nice. But this is nice too, when it's necessary.

It's a blessing. So, hero pose with the block behind and then transitioning into child's pose by placing the hands down and curling forward and I like to lift the hips, slide the blanket back a little bit. I never know how much, how much support I'm going to need behind the knees so I just experiment, settle in, hands can rest on the blanket or under the blanket. Arms trailing back by the feet, head turned to one side or if it's comfortable forehead down, arms over head. What's the best position for you right now?

Just be there and give yourself a chance to feel the way the breath moves into your lower back spreading and softening those tissues. How your belly and chest are resting down onto your thighs. (sighs) And then to come up, bringing the hands near the shoulders, let your head come up last. Lift the hips off of the blankets. You can move the blanket aside, move the block aside.

Come down to forearms. Stretch one leg back. Just don't force it straight after it's been bent for so long. Just ease toward straight. As it feels good, you can ease it up and down, from straight.

It doesn't take long, a few seconds. Sometimes longer than a few seconds feels good. Sometimes you can do both legs. Really push the heels back, oh that feels so good. Okay and then to come up.

Turn the toes under. A little rocking. Push back, get some momentum, up you come. And once again, just tune into being a human being standing on earth. What does it feel like? Namaste. Thank you.


Susan J
This video is not loading.
Patricia Sullivan
Hi Susan, I just opened this session on my iPad, so maybe you need to refresh something, make sure your internet is working (mine cuts in and out sometimes), or close out and come back and try again. Let me know what happens.!
Sarah Beston
Hi Susan, I will reach out via email to make sure you are all set with this. Warmly, Sarah
Kelly Sunrose
Such a good practice, Patricia! Thank you for sharing! I'm not working with knee inflammation, but have been experiencing major tightness in my calves during pregnancy. This practice gave so much relief. I felt my calves (and my low back) truly release. HAPPINESS! Thank you
Patricia Sullivan
Hi Kelly! so good to know you're getting relief in your calves as well as your low back with these quirky squat variations. Happiness, indeed. Love Patricia
Silke S
Namasté. Oh my gosh, how wonderful. I injured my hip years ago, and a squat is maybe unreachable for me for ever. When I practice with the blocks, surprisingly not my hips were the limitation, I could feel tightness on the lower area of my calves muscles, direct above the heels. What can I do to stretch out this area? Thank you. Silke
Patricia Sullivan
Namaste Silke, for calf stretching you can stand on a slant board, or put some athletic shoes on and hang of a stair from just behind the ball of your front foot - your heels will drop down and stretch your calves. Be very careful not to twist your body so you're not getting different results from side to side. You can also hang heels off a small indoor step ladder. Let me know how it goes!
Fabian H
beautiful practice. my knees feel happy!
Patricia Sullivan
Hi Fabian! So happy you found this session. it's a great feeling to take some pressure off the knees and get deep flexion in the hip and spine. I think last time you posted you mentioned you were in a class or retreat I gave . That's wonderful. I would probably remember you if I saw you. Keep practicing!  Cheers and be in touch if you have any questions. psullivanyoga
Yugan S
Excellent ideas. Both joints and muscles feel good
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