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Yoga for Beginners

Practicing with Tendonitis in the Knee

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—Melissa Stein, Texas

Cyndi Lee’s reply:

I’m not sure if you’ve received an official diagnosis of tendonitis from a doctor or other healthcare worker, but I


would first recommend that you address these questions with someone who knows and has worked with your body. And it is

also necessary that you inform your yoga teachers about this and any injuries you are working with.

If you make a conscious choice to keep practicing through the injury (only you can decide if that’s the right thing for

you), I advise you to keep in mind the first yama, which is ahimsa or nonviolence. We sometimes forget to approach yoga

practice with a nonviolent attitude toward ourselves and instead push to the point of pain or injury.

It is also important to keep in mind that yoga practice is not about accomplishing anything except a deeper connection

with ourselves, other people, and the world. If we take the approach that obstacles are part of our path, then an

injury can be an opportunity to deepen our practice by cultivating skillful means such as patience, compassion,

listening, curiosity, and courage. It is a good thing that you are aware of the sensory experience of your tendonitis.

It is not conceptual for you, but real and felt. That feeling is the best answer to your question, because at the end

of the day you are the only one who can feel how your tendons are changing.

I suggest that if you do continue to work with Trikonasana

(Triangle Pose), move very gently and slowly into the pose. Don’t think of this pose as the same one you have done

in the past–the one that is now painful. Back off from anything that hurts and rediscover Trikonasana as a totally new

experience by exploring modifications or adjustments that will eliminate pain. Try using a yoga block to support your

bottom arm, which will help you lift your torso up and put less pressure on the knee. You may want to try placing your

back foot against the wall to help you discover how to have equal weight on both legs, which could be helpful for the

front knee. You may find it interesting to explore how a micro-bend in the front knee can be helpful to you. This

should be your own very personal exploration and it will change from day to day.

Triangle Pose, like all asanas, is a moving, breathing experience. At times we forget this and put on an asana like

putting on an old coat. We just throw it on without paying much attention to the fact that we may have gained weight

and now it’s too tight, or we’ve lost weight and it’s too loose. Maybe the buttons are about to fall off, the elbows

have gotten saggy, or the whole thing needs a good cleaning. If we are mindful and observant when we practice, we begin

to notice how everything moves and changes all the time. Let this awareness be your guide to finding a new personal

Trikonasana that supports the healing process and does not include pain or grasping. If you realize that on some days

you cannot find a pain-free Trikonasana, then don’t do the pose at all. Your practice for that day is to let go of

Trikonasana and cultivate patience and compassion for yourself.

Recently I was driving through upstate New York, speeding through long sections of open fields and farmland. But I

noticed that as I approached the small towns in that area, the legal speed limit changed to 25 miles per hour to

accommodate traffic. I realized that I had to slow down in order to really pay attention to the antiquers, children,

bikes, and a few chickens. If I went too fast, I may have caused an accident. It is the same way with your body, your

asana practice, and your life. If you go too fast, you will miss your own evolution. So take your time; work slowly

with Triangle Pose. Nobody knows what will happen in your future. Invite yourself to simply investigate how Triangle

Pose fits you today and be open to how it will fit tomorrow.

Cyndi Lee is the founder of OM yoga center in New York City. She is a
longtime practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and has been teaching yoga for over 20 years. Cyndi is the author of OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice(Chronicle Books) and the upcoming Yoga Body, Buddha Mind (Riverhead Books). For more information, visit