After seeing many people with knee/back injuries in the last few weeks, I’ve decided to write up a short guide for preventing these injuries. It’s written for the UBC Yoga Club blog, but the guide at the end with a short sequence of exercises that take 5 minutes to do are applicable to anyone interested in keeping these areas of their body in optimal health. May the force be with you!
Knees (preventing tendon, and meniscal tearing)
- always keep a microbend in your knees (slight bend in the knees to prevent hyperextension)
- upon feeling even the slightest pain in the knee do not proceed further in the pose, lessen the intensity of the pose, and ask the instructor for an alternate posture you can do (there are many postures that target the same muscle groups and have very similar benefits)
- practice postures that help release the hips (thread the needle, basic hip flexor stretch)
- when our hips are open, the integration of our knee joint (femur relative to the tibia) improves and we are less susceptible to knee and low back injuries
- it helps to arrive to a class already somewhat warmed up from a ≥ 10 min. cardio session as not all classes will have a warm up sun salutation session (a traditional series of postures strung together which generate heat in the body)
- warm muscles are more elastic, meaning your tendons don’t have to stretch as much to achieve the desired posture, thereby preventing their tearing
- roll out the IT band (the outer side of the leg between the hip and the knee) using a foam roller following cardio sessions
- make sure that your upper leg muscles are strong- if you’re not a runner or cyclist (martial artist…) make sure you do wall squats or another similar exercise to strengthen this region of your body
Back (preventing slipped disks)
- imagine you are taller/longer than you are in any pose, and as you progress in your day to day life (decompresses the spine)
- drink lots of water – intervertebral disks actually expand when we supply our bodies with enough water, also decompressing the spine
- in the mornings, or once a day, do a few minutes of core strengthening (1 min forward plank, 1 min side plank is one simple example)
- as you move between poses (for instance from mountain pose to chair), keep your core muscles engaged (one simple way to do this is to contract your core muscles as though you are sucking in your stomach, or, another way, is to imagine that you are scrunching the area above your belly button as though it’s a stress ball)
- keep your core muscles engaged throughout your practice, when appropriate (i.e. throughout most standing postures)
- maintain a strong pelvic floor (Kegel exercises and pelvic tilt exercises)
Trust pain more than instruction, and air on the side of caution. Also, remember that if you cannot breathe in a pose, you’ve gone too far.
Dorota Helena Niewczas
UBC Yoga Club Executive since 2011
California Certified Massage Therapist, 400 hours
Sports medicine intern, 130 hours
UBC Science, year 4
(doing the sequence as listed everyday (~ 5 min))
~5 min song, called “Everyday” by Dave Matthew’s Band *wink*:
Pelvic tilt exercises:
(Repeat 10 times as shown above)
*note: whenever you do exercises that target your core you want to keep your low back in the same kind of orientation as drawn in the bottom figure. This will look different in plank than it would in a supine (back to the floor) position, but the idea is the same and prevents excessive strain to the low back region.
Kegel: pretend you have to hold in your pee for 2 sec., and then relax; repeat ten times, lying on the floor as above.
When you feel comfortable with the pelvic tilt and the Kegel you can do them at the same time. Contract the pelvic floor muscles while you push your low back into the wooden/cement/whatever floor and release your Kegel when you relax your back muscles (like in the first image from the top).
~1 min or as long as you can hold it
*push your hips backwards as you do this (away from your head)
*it is better to be more like an upside-down V (a tent) than a V, and ideal to be more-or-less parallel to the floor as in the image below
Side Plank: ~30 min either side
Superman (bonus pose): x 10
*note the head is in line with the shoulders, rather than tilting up. By looking straight down at at the floor, you will keep your neck in a safe position.
*imagine your body is stretching out to be as long as possible (as though you are trying to make yourself longer, being pulled from your arms and legs). Also, imagine you are superman! Be as creative as you like 😉
Basic hip flexor stretch:
Active stretch (pushing back leg, the shin, into the floor while the hip on the same side pushes forward (engaging these areas as much as possible for 7 seconds and the relax and repeat twice more on same side, then switch sides and repeat)
Thread the needle:
-The foot not against a wall is dorsiflexed to protect the knee
-To get the most out of this stretch imagine that you are pushing the knee (same leg) away from the body toward the wall
-The pose can be done with an imaginary wall once you feel comfortable with the first two points
-1 min per side (change legs)
http://pixshark.com/standing-pelvic-tilt-exercise.htm; eatrunrehabilitate.com; fitbie.com; seanconway.com