Knee Pain, Lotus Pose, and Yoga

Scanning through the Yoga section of Reddit, this headline immediately grabbed my attention

I just started yoga, and my knees are KILLING me… is this normal?

The post goes on to read:

My knees have never been very flexible, and my family has a history of bad knees (both my dad and his mother had knee blowouts around the age of 15, I’m now 20).

I was in my yoga class, and we were doing what I believe is known as the half-lotus position, when the teacher noticed that I might be able to do full-lotus (keep in mind this was my first day) and so I tried it.

It didn’t hurt too bad, there was definitely some discomfort, but it could have just been the fact that I was stretching very deeply. But then he told us to rotate our shoulders (if I recall correctly), and that’s when it felt like my right knee was going to explode.

My knee didn’t hurt until I stood up a couple hours later (after walking home and doing some art homework at my desk), but it’s quite tender now and feels like it’s locking up whenever I try to stand.

What do?

Roger Cole, an Iyengar yoga teacher, must have seen it coming, or that he’s already seen it before. He wrote in Protect the Knees in Lotus and Related Postures:

Lotus Pose (Padmasana) is a supreme position for meditation, and Lotus variations of other asanas can be profound. However, forcing the legs into Lotus is one of the most dangerous things you can do in yoga. Each year, many yogis seriously injure their knees this way. Often the culprit is not the student but an overenthusiastic teacher physically pushing a student into the pose.

I don’t know exactly what happened in this person’s class. I don’t know anything more than what they wrote on Reddit. What scares me though, is that this is their first class, and the teacher was okay with this person being in lotus and *then* take a twist? The Alarmist/Reactionist in me ran through a list of potential snafus as I read that.

I know that injuries happen all the time, whether someone does or doesn’t do yoga. Even well-intentioned and experienced teachers have had people hurt themselves in their class. I’ve also heard stories of famous and experienced yoga teachers being the cause of injuries in their students.

As the person on the Reddit forum asked, “What do?”

I appreciate this advice by Roger Cole very much:

Encourage your students to go slowly, be patient, and persist. In time, they may be able to sit comfortably and meditate deeply in Padmasana. If not, remind them that true meditation lies not in some specific posture but in the spirit of their practice. Help them find a posture that suits them, then guide them to settle in and experience the stillness that is yoga.

By the way, Yoga for Healthy Knees: What You Need to Know for Pain Prevention and Rehabilitation by Sandy Blaine is an excellent resource. May your knees be well in any pose.

Safe and unsafe knee positions in Lotus, or Padmasana. Courtesy of Yoga Journal

Safe and unsafe knee positions in Lotus, or Padmasana. Courtesy of Yoga Journal