Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
No one should withstand knee pain in a pose. Here are five simple modifications you should know as a teacher to make the pose safer and more comfortable for your students.
Students experience knee pain for a number of reasons. Sometimes their knees are sensitive, their hips are overly tight, their joint structure is compromised, or they’re recovering from surgery. Any type of pain in the knee—especially sharp pain—is an immediate red flag.
Knowing how to modify basic yoga poses for students with knee pain is a crucial component of keeping your students safe and their knees happy. Start with the following modifications for five common yoga poses.
The extreme degree of flexion in Child’s Pose can wreck havoc on some students’ knees. A quick fix is to place a block under the sitting bones to lift the buttocks away from the heels. If that isn’t enough, place a folded blanket directly behind the knees and/or a bolster across the heels to further decrease the flexion in the knees. A bolster under the torso can help too.
The same principles apply to sitting in Hero Pose. First, make sure the shins and ankles are aligned properly. Next, prop the buttocks up with blocks and/or a stack of blankets, decreasing knee flexion. To work more therapeutically with the knee joint, try placing a tightly rolled blanket or mat in the backs of both knees and lowering hips toward the floor.
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Pigeon Pose is particularly precarious on the knees and isn’t worth doing if your students experience knee pain in it. Invite students to perform Reclined Pigeon, also known as Thread the Needle, by lying on their back with one anklebone crossed on top of the opposite knee and applying the same alignment principles.
Support the insides of the knees and keep the knee joint from completely closing in Malasana by placing a tightly rolled blanket in the backs of both knees. As your student lowers their buttocks to their heels, keep the roll snug in the knee creases and consider placing a block under the buttocks for extra support.
Bound Angle Pose
Occasionally students will experience knee pain in seated poses such as Janu Sirsasana and Baddha Konasana that require one or both knees to be bent. In Janu Sirsasana try bringing the bent knee closer to the straight leg, decreasing the angle; or place a block under the outer thigh, supporting the bent knee. The same can be done with two blocks or blanket rolls under both outer thighs in Baddha Konasana.