Yoga with Injuries Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 8

Knee Support

30 min - Practice


In this class, we call on muscle groups around the knee - glutes, hips, legs, and feet - to do more work and avoid aggravating a knee injury. Activate the glutes in clams, leg lifts, and Vinyasas with the support of a strap around your thighs, and learn proper placement of the hips and legs in standing poses. Since some knee pain comes from tight quadriceps, Olivia shows us some stretches to create space in these muscle groups without bending the knee. Viparita karani helps relieve inflammation in the knees before settling into Savasana. You will feel strong and supported.
What You'll Need: Mat, Strap, Block (2)


Read Full Transcript

Hello, and welcome. You can still practice yoga if your knee hurts. This sequence is designed to not aggravate your knee. We'll start with supta baddha konasana. Your blocks support your thighs, lying on your back, soles of the feet together, arms comfortably at your side. Checking in with your knees. If there is any discomfort in them, take the blocks a little higher so that you can relax. Soften through the inner thighs and groins. Allow the weight of the legs to rest into the blocks. Perhaps lowering the gaze or closing your eyes, cast your gaze in the direction of the heart center and abdomen. Inhale, expand the front torso, and exhale, release like a wave releasing down back into the sea. Soft through the face and jaw, breathing in and out. At the end of your next exhale, gently open your eyes, place your hands on your outer thighs and lift the knees up. You can set the blocks aside. Roll onto your left side and prop your head up if you like on your hand. You could also lay your head down on your arm if that's better for your neck. Right hand on the right hip. Clams, lift the right knee, but feet stay touching, and lower, and lift, and lower. As you lift the knee, not to let the hip roll back, only the thigh is moving within the hip socket, the pelvis is not moving on the spine. This is designed to target your gluteal muscles, so you can think about that region, pre-contract there in the hip to lift the knee, and lower the leg slowly so the muscles continue to work on the way down. Changing it up a little bit, straighten your right leg, it's in front of you, and then lift. Reach out through the heel, spread your toes. Quadricep firm, and the foot is not actually going down to the floor in between reps. You're going from about hip height, lifting a bit, hip height, lifting a bit. Continue with that, but take the leg like Tadasana, long with the torso. Knee cap faces forward, toes forward. It's much like an Ardha Chandrasana leg, very much reaching out, hip through heel, buttock through heel, so that the waist muscles are not contracting, again, trying to target this effort in the gluteal region. And last but not least, take your right fingertips or palm to the floor, lean the right ribs forward, twisting a little chest towards the floor, so that your right leg can go behind you, and then lifting from there. Mindful here that you're leading the lift with the heel, rather than the toes, so it's a sense that the back of the leg, the heel lifts, and the front of the leg leads down. Back of the leg leads up, front of the leg leads down. If you're feeling this at all in your lower back, bring the tailbone forward in the body, engage the belly a little bit. Softening the neck, shoulders, and release. Stack your legs. Arms to your side, take your head to the floor. We're going to take a twist. Inhale, right arm up. Exhale, simple twist. Just breathe it out here a little bit. Exhale, firm the belly. Raise the knees towards the ceiling. Press your feet flat, shift your hips to the left, and we'll take the twist now with knees right. Inhale from the tailbone up to the crown of the head, long spine, and exhale from the crown of the head down towards the tailbone. At the end of your next exhale, raise the left arm up, turn onto your right side, and setting up for the leg lifts on your right side. You can place the right hand behind your ear or rest your head on your arm. Place your left hand on your left hip and lifting the left leg for clams. The feet remain in contact and the hips stacked. Monitoring with your left hand, your left hip, that it's not rolling back when your thigh lifts. Take your mind's eye into the gluteal region. This is where we want the burn. Now switching to the straight leg, reach your left leg out in front of you. Thighs approximately stacked but not touching. Lifting the left leg, even here, leading with the back of the thigh up, the front of the thigh down, so that we're not lifting from the hip flexors but from the gluteal muscles. And now take your leg like Tadasana in line with the torso and leg lifts here. In this one, the waist muscles try to take over the obliques. Press with your left hand the left hip away from the left shoulder and reach strongly from your left sit bone out through your left heel. A few more here and then place your left hand down and roll the left ribs forward. Reach your left leg back and then begin to lift the leg up and down, up and down. With the leg behind, lead with the heel up once again, roll the left inner thigh back. One more time and release. Coming on your back and then taking the twist. This time actively spread your arms wide. Inhale and exhale. Bring your knees up to the center. Take your legs halfway to the left. Inhale. Exhale. Firm the belly. Legs come center. Inhale. Legs halfway to the right. Exhale. Firm the belly. Legs center.

Arms spread wide like wings. Press the upper arms down into the mat. And one more time off to the right. Exhale. Center. Catch your legs behind the knees. We're going to roll up. Inhale. Exhale. Roll towards your feet. A few times like this. Inhale back. Exhale up. And then you'll make your way all the way up to sitting. Turn yourself over and find your way into downward facing dog. Breathing here. Place your ankles hip distance apart or a little wider if you're tighter in the hamstrings. And then walk your hands back to your feet. Feet are parallel. Ardha Uttanasana. With the spine long chest forward, place your hands now on the backs of your calves. And then look down and lift your toes. Lift all ten toes. And with that the arches of your feet lift as well. Pressing down through the ball of the big toe, the ball of the baby toe, inner and outer heel. How we stand on our feet largely affects our knees. Now bending your knees a little bit, toes still up. Notice how the calves move forward towards the shins. With the hands pressing the calves towards the shins, begin to lift your knees, lift your quadriceps. Straightening your legs by lifting on the joint rather than by pressing back. In fact, from the calf, a little bit of a press forward. At this point, you can lower your toes, bring your hands to your hips, reach your chest forward. Inhale, stand, Tadasana. Let's use our strap for Tadasana. Go ahead and make a loop in the strap. And you're going to be stepping through the strap like you're putting on pants. And the strap diameter will be such that your thighs are held about hip distance apart. So tightening up the strap, any residual that you have, you can wrap it around the tail and tuck it in so that it's not in your way. And then again at the back of the mat, feet hip distance, feet parallel, reach your arms forward and up. Inhale, exhale, Utkatasana. Bend your knees. Once again, lift your toes, lift the arches of the feet, and shift your weight strongly into your heels, pressing down evenly between the inner and outer heels. Next, press out with your thighs on the strap. Still release the inner thighs back and down, but press wide on the strap as if you're going to break the strap, and you might feel your outer hips firm in, the glutes kick on. One more inhale here. And exhale, fold, feel free to lower the toes. We're going to walk forward to plank. Pause for a moment and plank. And again, press the inner thighs to the outer thighs, press out on the strap. Lengthen the buttocks towards the heels, firm the lower belly up, inhale, very gently lower down on the mat. Release the toes back, adjust the hands for low cobra. Inhale broad through the collarbones. Exhale, press lightly to your knees, tuck the toes right into downward facing dog. Through the nose, deep breath in, fill the back lungs. And exhale, walk your hands back to your feet. Arda uttanasana, inhale, hands on your hips, exhale, inhale, back to tadasana. Lower the arms, utkatasana, arms up, inhale, hips back and down, exhale. A few breaths here again. Another technique to find the glute activation, press the inner heels down into the floor. And then as if you're spreading on the sole of the heel, inner heel to outer heel, almost like you're trying to split your mat in right and left halves. Broad through the thighs, broad through the soles of the heels, outer hips narrowing in the muscles. On your next exhale, fold and walk forward plank. Inhale plank, you could lower to the floor again or exhale chaturanga dandasana, could be low cobra again, or inhale urdvamukha shvanasana, upward facing dog. Exhale, downward facing dog. Even here in downward facing dog, you can broaden across the heel bone to help you press inner thigh to outer thigh. Pressing out on the strap helps you activate the outer hips. Walk your hands back to your feet. Inhale, ardha uttanasana, look forward. Exhale, hands on your hips. Inhale, come up to standing. Exhale, lower your arms. Inhale, just one breath this time, utkatasana. Exhale and fold. Walk forward plank. Inhale plank and exhale chaturanga dandasana. Inhale, upward facing dog and exhale downward facing dog. From here, walk your hands back to the feet, ardha uttanasana. Inhale, look forward. Exhale, hands on hips.

Inhale and stand. Exhale, lower your arms one more time. Utkatasana, breathe in. Exhale, fold over the thighs. Inhale, walk forward to plank. Exhale, chaturanga dandasana, collarbones wide. Inhale, ordha mukha, roll the inner thighs up. Exhale, adha mukha, roll the inner thighs back. Walking your hands back to your feet, ardha uttanasana. Inhale, exhale, hands to hips. Breathing in to stand. Exhale, lower your arms. And now stepping out from the strap. We'll set it aside. Turn to face the long edge of your mat, hands on your hips. We're going to take a forward bend. You may want your blocks in front of you if you're a little tighter in the hamstrings. Now, we've been trying to press our legs wide in the strap. Actually step your feet wide. Legs get to go wide. But what you've learned from the strap is even if the legs are wide, pressing out inner thigh to outer thigh, so the outer hips pin in. So very important strength for the knees there. Draw the elbows back. Tailbone down. Inhale, lift the chest, glance up. Exhale, hinging at the hips, hands on the blocks. Again inhale, elongate the chest forward, inner thighs back. And exhale, go down, take the head down. You can walk the blocks between the feet or you can place your hands between the feet. Hands are shoulder distance apart, wrists beneath the elbows, elbows hug in shoulder distance apart as well. Now lift your toes and up go the inner arches. Keep the inner arches lifting and lift up through the front thighs, kneecaps up. To prevent locking back in the knees like we practiced earlier, press the calf forward towards the shin bone. You can lower your toes or keep them up. Walk your hands forward, come to your fingertips or maybe the blocks, hands on your hips. Inhale, come up to standing. Exhale, step your legs together. Vrksasana, tree pose. When standing on one leg, we want to be mindful not to lock the knee back. So on the left leg, a gentle pressure, calf to shin, and lift strongly the front of the left thigh. The right foot, you could just kickstand, follow the foot on the floor, heel to inner shin. Or you can take your foot gently on your shin or catch your ankle and bring your foot high up on the inner thigh. Tree pose, perhaps you like to take the arms up. Now pin the outer hips in that same firmness, both outer buttock muscles firming in towards the midline. And feel free to stay here or you could take your big toe of the right foot and extend out to uttida hasta padangashtasana two. Again, monitoring the standing leg and then maybe bring your leg forward. And everybody release back to tadasana. Deep breath in, connecting to the earth rooting as you root down through your right heel now, gentle on the knee. So as we practice calf towards shin bone, left foot options, kickstand gently on the shin or catching the ankle and lifting up to the inner thigh. Do press your left heel against the thigh if it's that high and hug the right thigh in towards the left heel. Amidst that hugging in at the thigh level again at the outer hips hugging in, perhaps extending your arms forward and up. Or you can take now your left big toe and straightening as much as you can. The leg to the side, outer hips still pin in and then leg forward. And release. Alright, coming down to the floor, we're going to use block and your strap. This time you can take the strap and tighten it up. So it's just a smaller loop about the size of your face. And then coming down, you can roll down through your spine. And we'll take the block. As your back allows it will be wide, it could be either the low height under the upper buttocks sacral band, or the medium height. Take your strap, find the loop and lift your right leg up, lasso the ball of the foot as best you can.

And then you'll stretch your right leg straight, completely straight vertical if you can. If that's too intense on the hamstring, the leg can be a little further from your head, no problem. Arms, thumbs face the floor, fists or steps, you're holding the strap with both hands and you'll slide the hands down the strap and pull back. Next, take your left foot into a flex and then slide that heel forward. And as you straighten the left leg, maintain the healing contact with the mat, roll the left inner thigh down so the front of the thigh faces the ceiling. So again, the legs are active quadriceps firming, you're reaching out for your heels, spread the toes. The idea here is to find a stretch perhaps or at least a spaciousness through the left quadricep. So one issue with the knee is the quadriceps can get tight. But then most quadriceps stretches, you're bending your knee. And so this is one way to create space in that muscle group without having to bend the knee so much. Let's change legs now. Bending your left leg enough to switch feet, left foot goes up in the strap, right foot comes out. Before you take your arms overhead again, you're going to switch. So take the non habitual hand on top and then slide the hands down the strap, reach back through the strap to the arms and slide the right heel along the floor. Foot is flexed, roll the inner thigh down. If you find your leg can't straighten with the heel on the floor, just keep the knee bent. And as the front of the body, the belly and the thigh open, you may bit by bit be able to slide the right heel out a little bit more. Again legs are active from the quadriceps, gently drawing the kneecaps towards the hips. From the backs of your knees, reach out through the calves and heels. Arms reach back, the sides of the neck soft and relaxed. Deep breath in, smooth exhale. And as you're ready, bend the right leg, foot on the floor and bend your left leg so that you can take the strap off of that foot. And then we'll take both legs up, viparita karani, legs up. Tuck the shoulder blades towards one another and scoop them into the chest cavity so the chest is broad, collarbone spreading. Again, softening through your neck, throat, facial muscles. The knees here are well above the heart so that assists with draining any inflammation from them. And very often in the knee, it's the inflammation that causes so much discomfort.

Releasing your legs down now one at a time, feet back to the floor. Feet and knees hip distance apart. Anchor your heels, lift your hips and remove the block to one side or the other, lowering your hips down to the mat. From here, flex your right foot and take that foot just outside your left thigh. So another muscle group that needs stretching very often for the knee is the gluteals, the same ones that we strengthen. If it's okay on your knee, go ahead and pull in on the left thigh. Thread the needle. You can hold the left hamstring or your left shin. If that starts to tweak the knee too much, first thing is your right foot firmly flexed. Strongly reach out through your heel and draw the toes towards the kneecap. If that is not working for your knee, you can place your left foot on the floor and gently press the right thigh away with your right hand. Long, smooth exhale. Release the right foot down and take the left ankle over the right thigh now. Any of these versions of strong flex of the left foot that helps stabilize the knee and it drives the stretch into the hip, reaching perhaps for the right hamstring or your right shin bone. Soften the tops of the shoulders away from the ears. Deep breath in through the nose. Exhale. Release the left leg from the right. Hold behind the knees. Very gently draw in towards the chest. If you like happy baby, if that's working for you, you could take that as well. Maybe rock side to side, massaging the lower back. And slowly releasing the legs, feet. Shavasana. Extend the legs. Ankles a little bit wider than your hips. Like Viparita karani, tuck the shoulder blades under the ribs towards each other. If your knees are uncomfortable here, you could try sliding a blanket underneath them. Otherwise, inviting the entire body to relax and rest. Deep breath in through the nose. Exhale. Release the legs. Very gently draw in towards the chest. On your next breath in, breathe in a little more deeply. Exhale fully, letting go a bit more. And wiggle your toes, your fingers. And then bend your knees. Place your feet flat on the mat. And from there, turn over to your side. Pause for a moment. And then pressing through the arms, make your way up to a comfortable seated position. Thank you for your practice today. Namaste.


Jenny S
3 people like this.
I don’t currently have any knee issues, but if/when I do, this practice will be my go-to. But this practice is also another great full-body stretch and it felt fantastic! Thank you so much for this season of “Yoga With Injuries”. I learned so much and had fun doing so. Would love to see you back with a Season 2 🤞🙏🏻❤️🥰!
Olivia B
3 people like this.
Thanks Jenny S !  Your feedback has been invaluable, letting me know that the intention of these videos matches the experience of the practitioner.  Hoping for no knee problems in your world, but sure, if that happens, this practice is here for you anytime. Wishing you a great day! (P.S. That makes two of us hopeful for a Season 2!)
Tracy C
2 people like this.
That's a great quad stretch! thanks ...I do Cannicross running with my dog and sometimes I can overbrace my knees. That stretch with the strap, prone with the block is really great!!!....I know so many people with "bad" knees that just give in to the uncomfortable feelings and end up with knee replacements.... everyone should be doing that stretch!!! GAME CHANGER!!!! have a great one....Namaste'...
Olivia B
Hi Tracy C! Cannicross running - that means both you and your dog are very athletic!  And fast, I'm guessing.  It might follow that your joints are experiencing a lot of impact - really good for things like bone density and strength. And so glad you are also on a stretching yoga regime to balance the body (and mind and so on!).  And super glad you like the stretch in this sequence!! Agreed, we don't want to ignore challenging knees or any other physical messages from the body. Good for you attending to all aspects - running and yoga go together nicely.  Happy Stretching for Happy Cannicrossing!
1 person likes this.
Amazing practice, Olivia B . I have been having some knee pain recently and this sequence was pure medicine. I feel so much better and am especially appreciative of the insights you shared like the way we stand/walk affecting the knees (I recently changed to new shoes and think that is the culprit) plus the glutes affecting the knees. I used to do the "clams" and other leg lifts like you demonstrated but haven't done these in years; thank you SO much for the reminder, as they really help! 
The work with the strap was amazing as well! I'll do this practice again. 🥰
Olivia B
1 person likes this.
Shawn Oh Shoes! They can be so helpful or completely the opposite! I do hope that shoes are the culprit as getting rid of them is a relatively easy fix.  Sometimes it feels wasteful not to use new shoes, but if they hurt, they can wreak so much more havoc and expense than their worth.  So good call! For the rest, yes this sequence can be good knee maintenance to treat and prevent knee pain.  I'm glad you have some past experience that supported you too so some of these concepts are reminders and not all brand new!  I appreciate the feedback.

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