Monday, October 23, 2017

Doing Ashtanga Yoga? Watch Your Knees!


Is Ashtanga bad for your knees? No, it is not, but goal oriented ashtanga yoga practice is.

Arddha Baddha Padmottanasana, Janu sirsansana C, Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottonasana just to name some of the knee-dangerous asanas that have been injuring students due to stubborn attempts to get into the pose with a no-pain-no-gain attitude.


I’ve heard from and worked with a number of physical therapy (physiotherapy) patients who suffered MCL, LCL or other knee injuries that began in their Ashtanga practice. Usually, this was from a Mysore-style practice, sometimes from teacher adjustments. I’ve also fielded many email inquiries from students about Ashtanga and knee pain. - Dr. Ariele Foster, Yoga Anatomy Academy

Ashtanga Yoga practice is very hard, physically demanding and so dangerous for anyone who cannot do lotus properly. It is so often connected with things like knee-pain and inflammation. The knee is most vulnerable when it is bent with an external rotation of the hip when the front of the thigh moves to the outside of the hip.

Generally speaking, one of the most vulnerable components of Ashtanga yoga is repeated pressure on the lateral knee ligaments since the practice sequence repeats almost daily. For the students who are not so flexible, the practice can cause the repetitive stress syndrome.

In the beginning of my ashtanga yoga practice after just a couple of months of practice, I have thorned left knee's lateral collateral ligament (LCL) which connects the outer thigh bone to the outer shin bone. That happened 10 years ago and still, I have a problem with the above-mentioned asanas.


Regarding Astanga being a balanced practice, the first series (primary) has a lot of forwarding folding in it. The vinyasas become the counterpose and are peppered through the practice. But this works solely in the Sagittal plane. Some dedicated and skilled Astanga teachers are increasingly questioning the balance of the series in light of growing scientific knowledge, and encouraging variations, making up their own sequences sometimes. – Ruth H., yoga therapy practitioner, trained in Ashtanga Yoga

Over the years, I have learned that Ashtanga Yoga is not defined as the mastery of asanas although for many, many practitioners the goal of Ashtanga is binding the hands in Marichyasana D in order to progress through primary series or standing up from a backbend in order to move to intermediate series.

Frankly speaking, goals like this are very harmful. I just like many other practitioners will never be able to bind in Marichyasana D. People will compromise their knees in order to get into the posture. So Marichyasana D becomes the source of a medial meniscus tear.

As Pattabhi Jois used to say, “Health will result from good yoga, ill-health will result from bad yoga.” Clearly, this goal-oriented Ashtanga practice is bad yoga.


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