If your legs were an army, then your knees would be your foot soldiers. They carry a lot of weight and end up on the front lines, especially if you run, play soccer, ride a bike or otherwise expect them to absorb a lot of motion and impact, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It's likely game over if you strain a tendon or throw your knee out of alignment, which is often called runner’s knee. Pain relief, though, can be as close as your nearest Bikram, or hot, yoga class.
Runner's knee is one way of describing a dislocated kneecap, which occurs when your patella comes out of alignment with the front of your knee, according to MayoClinic.com. Causes vary, but usually runner's knee results from vigorous high-impact exercise and insufficient stretching before a workout, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Popping your knee back into place isn't the answer, since it won't provide long-term relief. In extreme cases, only surgery or time will heal this wound, though stretching and massaging your knee can ease your pain and loosen any tightness you feel.
Many health care organizations, including the American Nutrition Association, credit heat with the ability to lessen pain and improve physical health. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests applying heat to sore or stiff muscles as well as aching joints. The Soft Health and Healing Clinic in Western Canada suggests that its patients apply moist heat to muscles before stretching, which will help relax the muscles and allow for a deeper stretch.
Developed by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga takes place in rooms heated to around 105 degrees and kept at 40 percent humidity. In other words, you’ll start to sweat as soon as you walk into the room, which may seem overwhelming at first. A Bikram yoga practice, according to the founder, involves sequencing 26 postures to work and align your entire body. Choudhury believed the heat softens your body from the inside out. Despite the synergy suggested by the 26 Bikram yoga postures, some focus specifically on the knees.
Postures for Runner's Knee
You have no time to think when you're practicing Bikram yoga. You listen to your instructor and move, shifting into sometimes awkward balances and postures that tax different muscle groups and body parts. Several Bikram yoga postures require you to fully extend your legs, which will help stretch tight, sore knees; they include Standing Head to Knee pose, Balancing Stick pose, Triangle pose and Locus pose. Bikram yoga may not be a cure-all, but the slower you stretch into the full extension of these postures, the better the benefit to your knees.
Postures to Avoid
Before starting a Bikram yoga class, tell your instructor about your injury so she can help you modify any poses that might further injure your knees. Awkward and Eagle poses, which require you to place a lot of weight on your knees, won't help to heal them. Stop your practice if your knees start to hurt, and remember that a relaxation posture is always available to you. Bikram yoga alone may not return you to your regular workout right away, but the more often you practice and stretch your knees, the looser your tight muscles will be and the sooner your knee will heal.
- American Nutrition Association: Healing Energies of Heat and Light
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain)
- Bikram’s Yoga College of India: About Bikram Yoga
- Runner’s World: Yoga For Runners: Position 23 -- Janushirasana
- Soft Health and Healing Clinic: Stretching