Q: I practice yoga regularly at home. I sprained my knee in an accident recently, and I'd like to know how to rehabilitate it. —Anne Polvani, Peoria, Arizona
The secret is to rebuild strength and flexibility without aggravating the injury. During your recovery, I suggest you use props; they can help you control how much you stress the knee and allow you to focus muscular work and release exactly where you need to.
Many actions involving the knee start in your hips and lower back. To avoid knee strain, focus here first.
Pay special attention to these areas on the side opposite your injury: They can become tight as you compensate for your knee's reduced weight-bearing capacity and flexibility. To help, I recommend three versions of Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)-first with the raised leg moving toward your face, then diagonally out to the side, and finally across your body, creating a twist. (Be careful not to hyperextend your knee.)
To redevelop range of motion in your knee, practice bent-knee poses, like Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose; pictured), Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), and Sukhasana (Easy Pose), but minimize tension at your knee by supporting your legs at mid-thigh with blocks or rolled blankets.
Until your knee can bear your full weight, practice modified versions of standing poses by lying on your back and working with your feet against a wall. Alternatively, use a chair to support the weight of your pelvis in bent-leg standing poses like Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I), Virabhadrasana II, and Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose).
Dario Fredrick has studied yoga for 12 years, primarily with Iyengar-influenced teachers in the United States and also with the Iyengars in India. Fredrick, who holds a master's degree in exercise science, integrates his experience as an exercise physiologist with his yoga instruction. He teaches public classes and workshops in Northern California.