Anatomy and Asana Ezine
Knee Stability
Thanks Kat, in Toronto for your questions… this ezine is for you!

 In a previous ezine, I wrote about the knee in general and what to be conscious of in asanas such as Padmasana (lotus) and Kapotasana (pigeon).  Today, we will focus on creating stability around the knee joint.
The knee joint is comprised of 3 bones – the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone) and the patella (knee cap). It has 2 primary movements - flexion (knee bending) and extension (knee straightening). There is a little bit of rotation (twisting), but not much.
This is an important point for us Yogis and Yoginis because sometimes in Yoga, we can find ourselves in asanas that cause torquing or twisting at the knee. You may have felt this before on the inside or outside of the knee, or just above the patella or in the back of the knee – it feels like a twinge or a strain with a character much different than the common muscle stretch or muscle contraction.  
If you have experienced this type sensation while in a Yoga asana, it is a sign that the knee was not stable during that movement. 
So what creates knee stability?
The simple answer is that while the bones create the knee joint, it is the ligaments and muscles that give those bones stability in both static and dynamic actions.
If either the ligaments or the muscles become irritated (torn, overstretched, imbalanced), they can cause any of the 3 bones to move out of position, compromising stability.


What are those ligaments and muscles?
The ligaments are the medial and lateral collateral ligaments (which control side to side movement) and the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (which control front to back motion). 
The muscles are the quadriceps, which cause knee extension (straightening the knee); and the hamstrings, sartorius, gracilis, plantaris, popliteus and gastrocnemius, which cause knee flexion (bending the knee). It is important to have a balance between these groups of muscles.
But there is more!!
We need to take this one step further.  Remember that the knee joint is comprised of 3 bones. 2 of these bones help to create 2 other joints, respectively. The femur (thigh bone) helps to create the hip joint; and the tibia (shin bone) helps to create the ankle joint. To make this even clearer – of the 12 muscles that cross the knee joint, 8 of them cross the hip joint (4 quads, 3 hamstrings, and sartorius) and 1 of them crosses the ankle joint (gastrocnemius via the Achilles tendon). So if there is something funky, or not functional going on at the knee, it is imperative to look at the muscles that stabilize these two other joints. 
Applying this to Yoga:
As always, if you are practicing and are experiencing pain or strain, please seek out medical attention, whether that be a chiropractor, a manual physiotherapist or a doctor with a specialty in sports medicine. This is to rule out any potential problems like cartilage tears or ligament strains.
All of your standing Yoga poses will help create and maintain knee stability so long as you maintain the knee in the alignment that it is meant to be in. Here are some ideas to help that become true for you:
·       Be sure you are not feeling any pain or strain that is not common to a normal muscle contraction or muscle stretch.
·       Bring awareness to the 3 mounds of your foot – ball of foot, base of pinky toe and center of heel.
·       Bring awareness to your hips - if you are in Warrior 1, are they square? If you are in Warrior 2, are your thighs moving into external rotation?
·       And the knee, as you are bending it, is it truly moving in flexion or is there some wobble going on?
All in all, take some time to develop mobility and strength and move in the way the joint wants you to move. Life is way too short to blow out your knees in Yoga!!
Have fun exploring……
All the best,
The intent of this article to help you further your understanding and usability of anatomy and asana. Please email me with any questions. I am currently working on a manual of anatomy and asana, and your questions will help me to explain concepts in the clearest way. 
You can email me at yoga@functionalsynergy.comFor Anatomy and Asana workshops, please visit

Susi Hately Aldous

Functional Synergy inc.
Yoga Therapy and
Yoga for the Desk Jockey Corporate program
Susi will be in Vancouver for an anatomy workshop: