Practice These 10 Yoga Poses to Relieve Knee Pain

Allie Flavio
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Knee pain is estimated to affect nearly 20 million people in the United States alone, with over 600,000 knee replacements occurring every year. And that number is only on the rise.
 
But what’s more interesting to me is that . . . I’m part of this statistic.
 
Hello, my name is Allie. I am a certified yoga teacher, active yoga student, advocate for health, and would fit into the category of having a strong, toned body.
 
Except, I suffer from chronic knee pain, knee discomfort, knee sensitivity, and even – knee insecurity.
 

My Experience With Knee Pain and Yoga

You can typically find me on a yoga mat surrounded by props (hello blankets, a knee’s best friend), taking all the knee modifications, and sometimes altogether avoiding postures that I deem “too much on the knees.”
 
And while playing it safe is exceptionally great to avoid injury, I think we can do ourselves a disservice by staying within the “safe” container. Through years of knee insecurity, I’ve learned to dismiss what’s not good for me, bypassing the opportunity to ask why, learn more, and understand the body mechanics of my knees.
 
I gave up on my knees, two incredibly complex structures that support my everyday habits, totally dismissed, categorized and contained to – “I have bad knees, can’t, won’t, don’t you dare make me do that.”
 
That’s why I designed this yoga sequence as a way to educate the community on how to safely soothe knee pain and strengthen our knees with yoga.
 

A Brief (But Important) Anatomy Lesson

First, it’s important to understand our anatomy in relation to our knee joints and what can contribute to knee pain as well as knee pain relief. There are four muscle groups that need to be strengthened and stretched in order to combat knee pain.
 
These muscle groups are:

  • Quadriceps (knee extensors)
  • Hamstrings (knee flexors)
  • Hip adductors (inner thighs)
  • Hip abductors (outer thighs)

 
Now we’re ready to practice an intelligent yoga sequence designed to soothe and strengthen all of these key areas.
 
To get the most out of this sequence, I highly recommend using the following yoga props:

 

Practice This Yoga Sequence to Relieve Knee Pain:

In addition to these optional props, all you need a yoga mat. Let’s get started! These ten yoga postures are specifically targeted to either soothe or strengthen the knee joint.
 
 

1. Foam Rolling

*If you don’t have a foam roller, jump to step two
 
If you’re anything like me, you read the first to-do and thought, UGH, she wants me to roll all over the damn place. Can’t we just skip to the “real yoga”?
 
And the answer is yes – of course you can!
 
But through my years of discomfort and pain, I’ve learned the hard way that foam rolling is key to releasing tension from the body. Yes, it hurts (in the good kind of way), takes time to do, looks extraordinarily weird, and hurts a bit more . . .
 
But most importantly, foam rolling works!
 
I recommend taking 5-10 minutes to roll out the below body parts:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Calves
  • IT Bands (sides of thigh)

yoga for knee pain sequence-1
 
yoga for knee pain sequence-3
 
yoga for knee pain sequence-5
 
New to foam rolling? Check out this How to Use a Foam Roller tutorial
 
 

2. Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

Optional yoga prop: Yoga Strap
 
This pose is not only beneficial for knee pain, but also for the general health of stretching our hamstrings and awakening our hip flexors.
 
Here’s why it works: the pose doesn’t require rotation, abduction, or adduction of the hip, allowing us to stretch the knee evenly on both sides.
 
How to practice this pose:

  • Low back should feel long – avoid forcing your lumbar spine to flat – let it naturally curve here
  • Keep toes and knees pointing straight towards the ceiling
  • If you can’t straighten the leg and/or the glute lifts off the floor, guide the foot further away from your head
  • Keep the grounded leg active with knees and toes pointing straight up
  • Bring the yoga strap to the ball of your foot, pull down on the strap, and stretch from the back of your knee up towards the heel
  • Bring the strap to the heel of the foot, push up through the inner heel and send the ball of the foot towards the ceiling
  • No strap – you can use your hand to pull the foot towards the chest (this requires more flexibility)
  • Repeat this on both sides and multiples times

 
yoga for knee pain sequence-6
 
 

3. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

Optional yoga prop: Yoga Block
 
This pose is a great way to both strengthen and soothe knee pain, but for this sequence, we will focus on the strengthening aspect.
 
Bring your attention to the inner thighs and hamstrings – these are your power centers to help alleviate knee pain. When we consistently strengthen these areas, our knees, pelvis and muscles are brought back into balance.
 
And balance is exactly what we need!
 
How to practice this pose:

  • Set up for Bridge Pose like normal
  • Place a yoga block between your upper thighs, as shown in the photo
  • Bring your attention to the block, squeeze it here, and awaken your inner thighs
  • With the natural curve in your lumbar spine, begin to lift into Bridge Pose
  • Energize your core center, continue to squeeze the block, and hold for 10 breaths
  • Repeat several times

 
yoga for knee pain sequence-7
 
 

4. Banana Pose (Bananasana)

This yoga pose might seem odd for a knee pain sequence, but as we open the hip, it allows tension from the pelvis to release, the hip flexor to gently stretch, and the breath to reach new depths.
 
With this breath, we can further relax the muscles and the mind, leading to a mental release from knee pain.
 
How to practice this pose:

  • Bring the body into a banana-like shape, stretching both legs and the upper body to one side of your mat
  • For a deeper stretch, cross the ankles and clasp the wrists
  • Once settled, release the wrist clasp and relax here for five minutes
  • Repeat on the other side

 
yoga for knee pain sequence-9
 
 

5. Mountain Pose and Chair Pose (Tadasana + Utkatasana)

Optional yoga prop: Yoga Block
 
The next two postures should be familiar to your yoga practice, but we will bring a new awareness to them in regards to knee pain.
 
In your Mountain Pose stance, focus your attention on alignment and activation, feeling your legs participating. And with this participation, transition into your Utkatasana (Chair Pose) with the goal to keep knees stacked over shins, weight back in the heels, and strength in the hamstrings and glutes.
 
When we do all of the above, the proper muscles are turned on, the alignment is on point, and the common mistake of compromising the knees is avoided.
 
How to practice these poses:

  • For both poses, bring your feet hip-width distance apart, and place the block between the upper inner thighs
  • No block – do the same action and activate your thighs as if you’re squeezing a block between them
  • Fire up your legs, feeling your inner thighs, quads, and hamstrings here
  • Hold Tadasana for five breaths
  • Transition into Utkatasana for five breaths
  • Repeat this sequence 3-5 times, and keep squeezing the block throughout

 
yoga for knee pain sequence-10
 
yoga for knee pain sequence-11
 

 

6. Warrior I and Warrior II (Virabhadrasana 1 and 2)

The two following postures – the Warrior poses – can build a great deal of strength and alignment when it comes to our knee pain.
 
When done right, these postures strengthen our inner quad muscle (aka the vastus medialis), which is responsible for counteracting the pull of our outer quad. Or in simpler terms, these poses counteract the all-too-common reality that our kneecaps can get off track from daily life.
 
But here’s the problem – our inner quad is typically weak and under-utilized, meaning we need to train that muscle to awaken, strengthen and get to work.
 
And that’s exactly what we plan to do!
 
How to practice these poses:

  • Come into each pose like you normally would
  • Bend the knee to a 90 degree angle with your weight centered in your heel
  • Keep both inner heel and big toe grounded, while maintaining a lift in the inner arch of the foot
  • Attempt to keep the outer ankle, knee and hip of the bent leg in alignment with one another by dropping the outer hip down as you lift the inner arch, knee and thigh up
  • Hold each pose for ten breaths and repeat on the other side

 
yoga for knee pain sequence-12
 
yoga for knee pain sequence-13
 
Want a refresher on the proper alignment for Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 Pose? Reference this Warrior 1 and 2 Alignment Tutorial
 
 

8. King Arthur’s Pose

Optional yoga prop: Yoga Block and Yoga Blanket
 
Congratulations! You made it to the floor poses which means we’re in the home stretch of our yoga for knee pain sequence. King Arthur’s Pose offers an incredible stretch to the quadriceps (our knee extensors).
 
A word of caution: If the quadriceps are overstretched here, it can easily lead to more knee pain. My best advice? Keep this pose at 50% (or less) to start.
 
How to practice this pose:

  • Place your folded blanket against the wall with blocks ready on either side
  • Start in Tabletop Pose with your bum facing the wall
  • Bring the right shin and top of the foot to the wall (pressing gently into it) and step the left foot forward coming into a Low Lunge-type position
  • Bring hands to rest atop the blocks as you lift your chest and your hip points forward to protect the lumbar spine
  • To deepen the stretch, bring hands to your thigh and slowly bring your bum towards the wall
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side

 
yoga for knee pain sequence-16
 
 

9. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

This stretch is my go-to when my sciatica starts to scream at me. I drop down, get my twist on, and quickly relax that uncomfortable sensation.
 
If you suffer from sciatica, check out these 5 Yoga Poses to Soothe Your Sciatica
 
And lucky for me (and you), this yoga pose also helps relieve knee pain by stretching the outer hips (knee abductors) and bringing them back into alignment.
 
How to practice this pose:

  • Do this pose at 50-75% your capacity – it’s a restorative twist, so keep it gentle
  • Use your hands or the crux of your elbow to hold the knee into the chest
  • Stay for ten breaths and repeat on the other side

 
yoga for knee pain sequence-14
 
 

10. Hero Pose (Virasana)

Optional yoga prop: Yoga Block
 
We will seal our knee pain yoga practice with Virasana (Hero Pose). This is a pose that’s a true challenge for this chronic knee pain yogi, but one that I thoroughly enjoy when I have a block nearby.
 
How to practice this pose:

  • Start seated with your knees hip-width distance apart
  • Place the block on your desired height between the feet
  • Relax your hips back and rest atop the block, allowing the knees, quadriceps, and ankles to experience a stretch here
  • If it’s too intense, you can try tucking your toes for added support
  • Still too intense? Honor your body and come out of the pose – you can always revisit it after you’ve practiced the rest of this sequence a few times
  • Stay for a minute to seal your practice, dropping into relaxed inhalations and exhalations

 
yoga for knee pain sequence-15
 
 
And BAM – knee pain be gone! Or at least soothed and reduced . . . If you enjoyed this yoga sequence for knee pain, I encourage you to continue practicing it, weaving it into your time on the mat.
 
Knee pain can be a huge deterrent to your yoga practice and active lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to be! Practice these poses and be gentle and patient with yourself. Knee pain won’t disappear overnight, but with a steady commitment, you can soothe and reduce your knee pain, and take steps to avoid it in the future with yoga.
 

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Allie Flavio

Allie is the soul behind TheJourneyJunkie.com and a yoga girl at heart. When Allie’s not blogging about yoga/travel advice or doing/teaching yoga, you can find her relaxing by the beach in sunny St. Petersburg, FL. A born and raised Florida girl, Allie is an outdoor junkie who loves the ocean, fresh air, and a delicious fish sandwich! To learn more about her yoga and travel adventures, check out her blog The Journey Junkie.

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