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Question
Posted by: 3p | 2004/02/27

Straight knees

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the diet advice... sorry to seem to be 'hogging' your column... but find your advice interesting and insightful.

Today's question is about knees and straight legs in practice. I'm sure it seems like a slightly insignificant point, but it would help to get your input... our current instructor is a real darling, but she's not terribly clued up on physiology.

Our instructor always says 'straighten your legs'... but I feel as if mine are about to bend the other way. In fact, I am almost sure I'm trying so hard to straighten those legs that the knee joints are getting slightly injured. Have heard people talk about 'hyperextending' knees (?) Could this be it ?

Also, how important is absolutely straight legs in the asanas? I know all the instructors and the gurus in the yoga books always have absolutely straight legs...

Hope you can shed some light...

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageYoga

Hi again 3p - I think I have to emphasize that my personal view is that the most important instructor and guru is oneself - this has particular relevance with regards the knee. The knee joint is the largest, most fragile, and most abused joint in the body - being stressed from the weight above and the impact below of walking, running etc. Four ligaments hold the joint together where the 3 bones (femur, tibia and fibula) meet at the patella (knee cap) - unlike the ball and socket structure of the other joints. The primary task of the ligaments is to bind and stabilise the knee and since there is no elasticity in these ligaments they don't stretch without consequence. Hypermobility or hyperextension (when the knee is pushed backwards beyond the vertical) is very dangerous as this can damage soft tissue or collapse the joint and for this reason I would always advise anyone prone to hyperextension to keep a slight bend in the knees until the ligaments are strong enough to hold the knee in a vertical position. Even for those not prone, its better to keep a slight bend which enables you to build up the strength that keeps the knee stable. Over time your legs will be straight and know that that is where you are working towards but take your time, and be especially careful - many people push too far in postures like forward bends, trikonasana and padmasana (lotus legs) where the flexibility should be coming from the hips.
Thanks for the questions and hope this helps.
Regards
Chris

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