A key joint for movement
The Knee is a main concern in sports and in yoga. It is one of the most complex joint. Thanks to your knee, you can walk, run, jump, squat, stop, etc… All these movements generate lots of forces on your knee. It can therefore be easily damaged. This joint is made to be stable and to bear the load. But it is quite difficult to balance these 2 functions at the same time.
In Yoga and in general, the knee is quite vulnerable to misalignment, leading to injuries. Practicing yoga with conscious good alignment of the joint will help your knees to become stronger, more flexible and less prone to injuries.
The Knee requires stability
A knee without muscle is unstable. Even though the knee has ligaments providing strength and stability, it is not enough to stabilize the knee. The role of the ligaments is to send a message to the muscles to contract in order to stabilize the knee. Hyper flexibility de-sensitizes the ligaments. The muscles will therefore fire too late and this can lead to knee injury.
Stability allows the knee to function without deteriorating the structure of the knee. Stability comes from the muscles: quadriceps and hamstrings. Quadriceps extend the knee, hamstrings flex the knee. These muscles are opposed in their action. When you engage both muscles, the knee doesn’t move. It is stable. By strengthening these muscles, you will protect your knee.
How to properly align your knee?
Alignment starts with the feet. Your knee should be pointing in the same direction as your foot. In Warrior I, the tendency is to ignore the back leg: always check that your knee and foot are pointing to the same direction.
About the front leg in Warrior I, II or High lunge for instance: the foot should be pointing forward. The knee should be lined up directly over your ankle. When your torso is up, check your front knee alignment: can you see your big toe only? If yes, this means that your knee is pointing to the same direction as your foot.
With this proper alignment, yours quads are engaged and your knee is stabilized in a flex position.
=> While performing an asana (yoga posture), always check your knees alignment. Warrior I, Warrior II, High Lunge and Chair pose variations (please refer to the ASANAS section) are really good exercises to strengthen these muscles.