A couple of months ago I had a slip and fall accident that resulted in a bone bruise on my knee, as well as a partial ACL tear.
Those of you who have been following me for a while may already know this, and you may have already seen my Yoga Stretches for Injured Knees post. This is the promised follow-up focusing on strengthening.
The following poses come from the short strengthening sequence I’ve been doing every single day. The poses focus on strengthening all the parts which help to support the knee and allow it to move and function in a healthy way (i.e. quads, adductors, hamstrings and glutes). You will want to have 1 block handy.
Note that since bone bruises take months to heal, I still can’t do anything that requires putting direct pressure on the knee (i.e. table top).
1. Bridge Pose – Lie down on your back. Bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet to the mat, hip width apart and close to glutes. Place the block between the upper thighs. Using a block here will help to train the inner thighs, or adductors, to turn on. Focusing on this area will help to improve balance and allow for smoother transitions as you move. While laying on the mat, squeeze the block as much as possible to feel your inner thigh strength engage. Push down in to all four corners of the feet, and lift your hips up off of the mat. Lifting the pelvis, low back and mid back from the floor. The higher up you go, the harder it will become to squeeze the block. Take 3 deep breaths here, then on an exhale slowly lower down inch by inch. Remove the block and place it off to the side.
2. Leg Stretch – Lift your right leg up to the sky. Take the leg straight, but keep a small bend so as to not hyper-extend. Flex your foot. Clasp the fingers together behind the back of your right hamstring. To make this more active, push the thigh in to the palms. Let the hands resist against it. Take the leg a bit further back, exploring the range of flexibility. Maintain the resistance in to your palms. Bend the knee and slowly lower the leg back down. Switch legs. Even if only one side is injured, it is important to keep working both sides. Switching to the right leg again, extend it back up. But this time try to take the hands to the back of the calf muscle, bending your knee as needed and ensuring the upper body and head stay relaxed to the mat. Again, push the leg in to the hands. Switch to the left side.
3. Functional Bridge – Place a block in between the thighs. This time instead of having the heels close to you, walk the feet out. So much so that it feels almost as if the legs are straight. Ideally you will have about 6 inches between the back of your knee and the floor. Flex your feet and push the heels down in to the mat. Squeeze your block and see if you can lift your hips up off of the mat. This will be a much smaller movement, maybe just an inch or two of lift. This pose is intense. If you don’t feel that, you need to straighten your legs out further. Push into the heels and drag them backwards. Hold for 5 deep breaths. Lower all the way down to the ground, and remove the block.
4. Warrior 3 – Come first in to downward facing dog. Pedal out the feet to stretch the hamstrings. Kick the right leg up to the ceiling, and then step it through between the hands at the front of the mat. Make sure your knee is directly over top of the ankle. Pushing in to the feet, lift up in to a high lunge. Bend your back knee as much as needed so that you can tuck the tailbone under. Ensure that the knee is always going in the same direction as both your hip and ankle. Bend your front leg, and start to lift the back leg to come in to a Warrior 3 variation (leaving the knee of the standing leg bent). Find your balance as you reach the left leg up and back. Now to add some movement, straighten the standing leg on an inhale, then bend the knee as you exhale. Do 3 rounds.
5. Chair Pose – Standing at the front of the mat, bring the big toes to touch, leaving the heels slightly apart. Keep the torso lifted as you bend the knees and lower as if sitting in a chair. Rock your weight back in to your heels, draw the belly in and tuck the tailbone under. Hug the legs in to the midline, as if you still had a block between your thighs. Lean more weight in to your right leg and see if you can kick the left toes back behind you.
6. Warrior 2 – With the left toes lifted, carefully step the foot back to return to high lunge. Spin the heel in to bring the foot parallel to the short edge of the mat. The right knee stays bent and facing towards the middle toes. Extend the arms out to complete your Warrior 2. To add some movement, as you inhale drop the arms down and straighten the front leg, as you exhale bend the front knee and lift the arms back up. Flow through about 10 rounds of this.
Repeat 4 through 6 on the other side.
7. Mountain Pose – Standing at the front of your mat, squeeze the block in between the inner thighs. Hugging in to the midline, and feeling the adductors fire up. Root firmly through all four corners of the feet, as you inhale lengthen and stand tall. As you exhale, squeeze the block and lower in to a little chair pose. Slowly and gently move through this about 5 times. Fold forward, bending the knees as much as needed. Remove the block and slowly roll up to standing.
Want a few more knee strengthening poses? Practice along with me for a full 25 minutes in the video below.
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