Have Knee Pain? Try These 10 Yoga Poses

The warrior poses can help strengthen the muscles around your knee, helping alleviate some types of pain.
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Whether you're an athlete recovering from an injury, an office worker experiencing the strains of sedentary life or someone seeking relief from age-related aches, yoga offers a gentle, low-impact way to improve strength and mobility, which can help reduce pain.

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"Practicing yoga consistently can help increase muscle flexibility, which relieves tightness and strain on joints," Patrick Franco, RYT-500, director and lead trainer at YogaRenew 200-Hour Teacher Training, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

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"And many of the standing poses engage the muscles of the legs (quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles)," he says. "This muscular engagement helps stabilize the knee joint, which provides support, reducing strain on the knee."

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But not all yoga poses are beneficial for people experiencing knee pain — especially if the pain is due to an injury. Below, Franco shares the types of poses that can be most helpful, as well as those to avoid or modify.

Warning

"Practicing yoga with knee pain requires patience and caution to ensure you don't exacerbate the problem and cause more harm than good," Franco says.

"Therefore, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a yoga practice, especially if you have an injury."

10 of the Best Yoga Poses for Knee Pain

If you're new to yoga — or coming back to it after some time off — it's important to ease into things.

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"As with any new physical activity, start slowly, allowing your body to get acclimated to the new movements," Franco says. "It's more important to be consistent than it is to go fast."

Start with the 10 yoga poses below, divided into three different categories, along with modifications.

"Opt for yoga poses that are gentle on the knees as well as modifying other poses with the use of props," Franco says.

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Standing Poses

"Practicing standing poses builds strength, stability and flexibility throughout the entire lower body, including the feet, ankles, calves, knees, quadriceps and hamstrings," Franco says.

1. Triangle Pose

Activity Yoga
  1. Spread your feet 2 to 3 feet apart, turning your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in just slightly.
  2. Raise your arms out to the side so they're parallel to the floor.
  3. Bend sideways at your waist, resting your right hand on your right foot, shin or the floor.
  4. Keep your hips squared forward and level. If you can, rotate your head to look up at your left hand.
  5. Hold for 5 breath cycles on each side.

2. Warrior II

Activity Yoga
  1. Spread your feet 3 to 4 feet apart, turning your left foot out 90 degrees and your back foot in 45 degrees.
  2. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees and square your hips to the side (not toward your front foot).
  3. Lift your arms up so they're parallel to the ground.
  4. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths before switching sides.

3. Tree Pose

Activity Yoga
  1. Begin in mountain pose: Stand up straight with your spine in a neutral position. Roll your shoulders back and down with arms at your sides.
  2. Reach down with your right hand and place your right foot on your ankle, shin or inner thigh (not on your knee).
  3. Square your hips forward and place your hands at heart center or above your head.
  4. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

If balancing in this pose is difficult, placing the toes of your right foot on top of a block can help.

4. Standing Wide-Leg Forward Fold

Activity Yoga
  1. Stand with your feet 3 to 5 feet apart and keep them parallel.
  2. Place your hands on your hips and lengthen your spine with an inhale.
  3. Bend forward with an exhale, keeping your spine long. Bring your fingertips or palms to the floor.
  4. Relax your neck and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
  5. Bring your hands to your hips and engage your back muscles. Inhale and slowly rise with a flat back.

Seated Poses

"Seated poses take the burden out of the legs by practicing in a chair or on the floor," Franco says. "They are ideal poses to improve flexibility and mobility in the spine and lower body."

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1. Seated Spinal Twist

Activity Yoga
  1. Sit on the floor, cross your legs and place your feet under your knees. Lengthen your spine, thinking about pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling.
  2. Place your left hand on your right knee and bring your right hand behind you.
  3. Inhale as you lengthen through your spine.
  4. Exhale as you twist to the right from the base of your spine. If your mobility allows, turn your head in the direction of the twist to look to the side or behind you.
  5. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
  6. Come back to the center, then repeat, twisting to the left.

2. Supported Baddha Konasana

Activity Yoga
  1. Sit up tall and bring the soles of your feet together, knees bent and pointing out to the sides.
  2. Place a yoga block, bolster, pillow or folded blanket under each knee. Only bend your knees as much as you can without pain or discomfort.
  3. Use your hands to press your feet together and keep the outer edges of your feet pressed into your mat.
  4. Bring your hands together into prayer position at your chest.

Tip

You can also perform this pose while sitting in a chair: Place your feet on the floor, soles together, and knee bent and pointing outward.

3. Seated Forward Fold

Activity Yoga
  1. Sit on the ground your legs straight out in front of you. If you'd like, place one yoga block (horizontally) underneath your sit bones.
  2. Relax your knees, inhale as you straighten your back and exhale as you fold forward as far as you can.
  3. Hold here for 3 to 5 breaths, relaxing into the pose.

Reclined Poses

"Lying on the back is calming for the nervous system," Franco says. "Plus, these poses improve flexibility and mobility in the spine and lower body without much effort."

1. Reclined Hand to Foot

Activity Yoga
  1. Lie on your back and press your palms and heels into the floor.
  2. As you exhale, press your right thigh into the floor for stability.
  3. Bring your left thigh up to your torso with your knee slightly bent.
  4. Slowly straighten your knee and point your heel toward the ceiling until your leg is fully extended, foot flexed.
  5. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths before repeating with the other leg.

2. Reclined Twist

Activity Yoga
  1. Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest.
  2. When it feels right, let your knees fall over toward the right side of your body for a twist, keeping your torso facing up.
  3. Position your hips slightly toward the left. Place any props (pillow, towel, etc.) between or under your knees until you’re comfortable.
  4. Reach your arms out in a T shape and gaze over your left shoulder.
  5. Stay here for 3 to 5 breaths, then repeat on other side.

3. Reclined Bound Angle Pose

Activity Yoga
  1. Place a yoga bolster or yoga block toward the top of your yoga mat.
  2. Lie on your back with one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your heart with your head elevated on the bolster or block.
  3. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together.
  4. Allow your knees to fall out to either side as far as they can go.
  5. Place a yoga block, bolster, pillow or folded blanket under each knee. Only bend your knees as much as you can without pain or discomfort.
  6. Stay here for as long as you find comfortable and relaxing.

3 Types of Yoga Poses to Avoid With Knee Pain

Deep Knee Bends

Poses that require you to bend the knee deeply can cause excess strain on the muscles and ligaments supporting the joint, especially if they're already tight. So it's best to avoid (or modify) poses like:

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Poses With External Rotation

The knee joint is meant to bend forward and back and any lateral pressure on the knee could cause further pain or injury. Avoid or add props to:

  • Padmasana (lotus pose)
  • Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose)

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Poses With the Knee Down and Bearing Weight

If you have knee pain, discomfort and/or inflammation behind and around the knee cap, poses that place the knee cap on the floor can exacerbate the injured area. These poses include:

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Tips for Practicing Yoga With Knee Pain

Use Props

Don't be afraid to grab a block, blanket, pillow, bolster or strap. "Yoga props were developed specifically to make yoga poses more accessible for people of all body types, age and injury," Franco says. Using yoga props to modify your practice is one of the best way to help prevent injury.

Focus on Proper Alignment

The way you position your body can help distribute your weight more evenly, which reduces stress on the knees and leaves you feeling light and spacious, he says.

Listen to Your Body

Be attentive to any movement or pose that causes pain or discomfort. "If holding certain postures is causing pain, then either modify or skip it," Franco says.

Know Your Limits

"Yoga is a gradual process, you never want to do too much too soon," Franco says. Don't feel rushed to put yourself into a pose your body's not ready for.

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