Yoga is highly beneficial for the knee joints and the muscles that support them, according to Rolfer and Yoga Instructor Michael Salveson. Yoga postures strengthen the inner and outer thigh muscles, so they exert an equal pull on the ligaments. This increases the stabilizing action of the leg's big muscles and keeps the kneecap in alignment, notes Salveson in "Yoga Journal." Consult your doctor prior to trying yoga postures for the knees.
Knee Check: Sliding Down the Wall
To practice good alignment of your kneecaps prior to trying yoga standing poses, physical therapist Julie Gudmestad recommends this exercise. Stand with your back against a wall and your heels about 12 inches out from the wall. Slowly slide down the wall. As your knees bend, make sure the kneecap points straight out over the center of the foot.
Bound Angle Pose
To increase your hip flexibility, try this pose before attempting a cross-legged lotus pose. After doing Bound Angle pose several times, you may get your knees closer to the floor in lotus pose, according to Gudmestad. Sitting tall with your back to a wall, place the soles of the feet together and draw the heels in close to you. Allow gravity to pull the knees down, or gently press your hands on the thighs, lengthening them down toward the floor. Hold for two or three minutes, so the muscles and connective tissue around the hip joint can soften and release.
The starting position for yoga standing poses, Mountain is beneficial for proper knee alignment. Stand with the bases of your big toes touching, and heels slightly apart. Balance your weight evenly on the feet. Firm your thigh muscles and feel the knee caps lifting. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward. Lift the top of your sternum, widen your collarbones, and let your arms rest by your sides. The underside of your chin is parallel to the floor. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a full minute, breathing easily.
Warrior II Pose
Standing on a yoga sticky mat will prevent your feet from slipping in this pose. Begin in Mountain Pose, and then step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides with palms facing down. Turn your left foot 90 degrees out to the left, and your right foot slightly in toward your center. Turn your left thigh outward so the center of the left kneecap is in line with the center of the left ankle. Now bend your left knee over the left ankle, so the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the left thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor. Lift up tall through your spine. Relax the shoulders, and turn your head to the left, gazing just over the fingertips. Stay for 30 seconds to one minute in this pose, and then reverse the feet and repeat on the other side.
Take precautions to prevent straining your knees in yoga poses, according to Gudmestad. Avoid hyperextension, where the joint flexes too far back. Keep a slight bend in the knees during standing poses, with your weight evenly distributed among the four corners of your feet. If you practice seated forward bends in yoga, place a rolled-up sticky mat or towel under the knee of the extended leg or legs. If you ever feel strain in your knees when doing yoga, back out of the pose and experiment until you feel the stretch in your hips, inner thigh or groin area instead of the knee.