April 7, 2016

Healthy Knees & Yoga, Part 1 of 2

Knees might be the second biggest complaint I hear about, with back pain being first.

My three word theory on keeping knees healthy and there's probably more truth than theory to it: Alignment, Alignment, Alignment! We already know Yoga benefits all joints including the knees. Because Yoga brings the entire body into Alignment and balance with safe stretching and strengthening poses. When practicing Yoga, fluids like blood and synovial fluid (lubrication for joints) easily moves through our bodies and our joints and muscles delivering nourishment and oxygen.
Yoga, like anything else can cause injury if we blindly move the body and push into poses without being mindful and aware of what the body is doing. I know, I've done it and spent months nursing an injury. Move smarter not harder to achieve alignment and balance where you are today not where you think you should be tomorrow.

Something like 20 million Americans have osteoarthritis of the knees. This is where the cartilage slowly decays, preventing the shock absorption action of the pads called meniscus from happening. Misalignment can cause this osteoarthritis and injury over long periods of time.

Balanced muscles around the knee can prevent an injury by balancing the sides of the knee. When the sides are out of  balance the knee can rotate when bending. This makes the knee pull toward one side wearing down the meniscus (cartilage, a shock absorbing pad) and over time, this wears down the meniscus faster and eventually damaging the bone. Yoga is perfect for evenly building  the leg muscle to keep the joint properly aligned. Yoga stabilizes the big muscles of the leg.

The knees are made up of three bones that all meet at the knee: Shinbone, thighbone and kneecap. Two pads of cartilage (meniscus) for shock absorbing actually cushion between the shinbone and the thighbone. Two cruciate ligaments (cross on the inside of the knee) and two collateral ligaments (one on each side of the knee). These ligaments connect the three bones and hold the knee in alignment. Hamstrings (upper back of the thigh to just below the knee) and the quadriceps (upper front of thigh). When quadriceps are equally strong they exert equal pull on the ligaments keeping the knee in alignment.
Building strength and getting flexible in all these muscles can slow down cartilage deterioration and possibly lesson or eliminate pain. I was told and also read that once cartilage (meniscus) is gone it can't be replaced. Now I've recently heard that it can grow back, but it grows slow and what happens is that if the knee is not aligned it will deteriorate any new cartilage and continue deteriorating the old cartilage.

So what better reason to do Yoga than to align your knees to prevent any further deterioration and help heal and eliminate pain!

Remember in Yoga you're always working toward a destination, not arriving at the destination whether you've been practicing Yoga one or thirty years.

Happy & Healthy,
Yoga Chuck


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