the bee’s knees: 5 essentials for happy knees

the bee’s knees: 5 essentials for happy knees

So the bee is me (that’s what Michael calls me) and this bee’s knees had a rough three years.  We expect our yoga to be therapeutic and I’d like to think that for the most part it is.   Yet, there are certain practices that can be downright dangerous for some of us. It all depends on alignment and presence.

backstory: I tore my right meniscus in a hot yoga class in my last month of yoga teacher training trying to get into full lotus.  It didn’t even hurt as it was happening but my knee has never been the same since that day.  This was a really minor tear but was enough to cast out my pigeon from heaven and send her straight to hell.  It also caused my knee to act up every time I ran.  (Lets be honest, thats not often.)  Still, it was a royal pain in the knee that was preventing me from feeling freedom and fun in my practice.  Not so dope.

But through nursing, researching and private instruction with Naime Jezzzney, I learned great lessons about yoga and knee health that are now invaluable everytime I need to help someone that struggles with this too.  It was also humbling to pull back and turn inward with less outward expression of my postures.  Its such a different way to practice: when you align yourself well, you breath and you wait.  No forcing, just listening.

The takeaway?

5 musts to benefit the bee’s knees:

  1. Don’t sickle your ankle.  Also, ground the big toe mound down.  Basically, don’t create a little sickle while standing/walking/running/practicing. *because of the tear on the inside, I was pronating to the outer edges of my feet which makes this worse over time. If you injure your knee on the opposite side, you may do the opposite and pronate inward.
  2. In hip openers, avoid pushing on your knee to get it down lower and avoid any and all assists that encourage your knee to drop deeper into “openness” by applying this type of pressure.  You don’t need the knee to open; you want the hip to open.  So instead, let all external rotation truly come from the source of the movement, the head of the femur rotating in the hip joint.  (that being said, I quit full lotus.)
  3. Strengthen the muscles that surround the joint: quads & hamstrings: wall squats, 1 legged bridge pose with pulsated hovers above the ground. the calves: classic calf raises (i do them on a block to make them harder and really focus on grounding my big toe mounds down).  Doing these exercises  was HUGE for my recovery.
  4. Don’t hyperextend or “lock out” the knees in poses that ask for straight legs as in prasarita padottanasana, uttanasana and trikonasana.  Instead, keep a little softness with a microbend.
  5. Padding: under the knees and behind them.  Blankets are awesome and I used them for years but even better is my new favorite invention: the yoga comfort knee pad, made locally by my dear friend Nancy Fischer who is making it her mission to protect our beloved knees.  They come in lavender and black and are for sale at Onyx Yoga Studio in Warren.  Rolls right up into your mat for convenience.  Your knees are worth it.

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These tips are mostly preventative (though many of them did prove to relieve my existing pain).  Even so, on the side with the tear, I just don’t get as much external rotation any more.  I’ll probably never do a full lotus and I’ve learned to not be insulted by that.  If you are experiencing knee issues currently, these things should help and not hurt you but know knee health is a complex issue and there are many potential causes.  You may need an MRI and certainly check with your doctor to diagnose the issue which will give your yoga teachers a better idea of how to help your particular kneed(s).

Notes on dharma

take a walkDharma: A sanskrit word from the verbal root √dhr, which means “to make firm” and “to nurture and sustain”

“Do your dharma.”  This phrase is repeated incessantly throughout the great Indian epic, the Bhagavad Gita.  Dharma is often translated to mean “duty” and in the case of the Gita’s beloved protagonist, the great warrior Arjuna, Krishna’s directive to him: “do your dharma,” clearly means, go and fight.  Go do your job, Arjuna.

And then we are to apply this to modern life…

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Yoga & Bondage

“Yoga is a path of exquisite bondage.” – Douglas Brooks

Yogi_bear_lotus_position

What Boo-boo??! I thought yoga was always talking about freedom, and liberation and nirvana…

Yes Yogi, that’s true but as D. Brooks tells us, “freedom doesn’t come from freedom.  Freedom comes from bondage.

Let’s think about this –

A yoga practice, in practice, is a commitment.  We get on our mats in the morning, even on days when it’s hard to roll out of bed because we know that the benefits come from sustained and regular time on the mat.  That commitment is a restriction on our freedom; its a type of bondage.

We tend to think of the word freedom all wrong, as if it means the freedom to choose (whether or not to get out of bed, what to eat for dinner, where to go and when, who to love and how.)

But this path is no “free-for-all” (even though that’s exactly what we ultimately want: Freedom For All).  It’s filled with pacts and promises and commitments.  And it is through binding ourselves (to what we truly value!) that we experience more freedom.

what_do_i_really_want

listen up.

thats the golden ticket:

what do you truly value?

 

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On being a yogi; Step 1: AHIMSA

On being a yogi; Step 1: Ahimsa
ahimsapanorama

Sanskrit texts, especially sutra style texts, frequently use lists.  After all, each sutra (thread) is meant to abbreviate a larger teaching that the short phrase helps us to recall.  Listing things is a good way to remember things.  Ancient yogis knew that.  And in Sanskrit texts, the ordering of the listed items is not random.  The most important item is the first item and it lays the groundwork for all the others.

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WARNING: Yoga Can Turn Your World Upside-Down

WARNING-

Last week a funny thing happened in a class I was teaching: one of my students was gushing with excitement about her husband finally agreeing to try yoga.  He realized “it was time” because he bent down to pick something up and found he could no longer touch his toes.  I was so happy for the both of them.  Can you even think of a more titillating fantasy than the prospect of being a yoga couple, practicing with mats side-by-side, gazing upon one another with placid smiles as you hold hands in the final twist before shavasana?!  (Yeah, we see you yoga couples, and we’re all jealous.) But her husband’s hamstring flexibility is not what was sending this woman into ecstatic smile frenzy as she spoke to me about her hubby joining us on the coming Saturday.  What she was really pumped for was that she could now share with him that (as she half-jokingly put it) “yoga makes me not want to kill people.”

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