To round out and complete our series on preventing and managing pain during your yoga practice we’ll talk about how to deal with issues in your lower body. Particularly I’m going to cover how to manage and prevent pain in your back, hips, knees, and ankles during yoga class. So, if any of you are struggling in these areas, keep reading!
What can I do if I have a pain in the….low back, hips, knees, and ankles?
Remember the children’s song Dem Bones? “The toe bone is connected to the foot bone…” This old song teaches us about bones and leads us through the connections from the “toe bone” to the “head bone” in no time at all. Simple and eloquent in its teaching because our bodies are connected from the toe to the head and from the spine to the fingers. So how can we use this knowledge to our yoga advantage?
The feet and legs respectively tell the hips and low back what to do.
What about your low back? Check your legs! Your shins should be perpendicular to your mat, toes still straight ahead! Thigh bones need to move back into the hip socket creating more space and freedom in the low back. And to balance out the torso take a deep breath and lift, lengthening from the pubic bone in the front and the tail bone in the back.
If you still find yourself singing the achy breaky low-back blues bend your knees!
Yes, bending the knees while folding forward lengthens the low back relieving compression that causes pain, balances the pelvis so as not to shorten or lengthen the hamstrings in an unbalanced way. Bend your knees in downward dog, forward fold, any seated forward folds and just keep thinking low back length!
Hips sore? Check in with the action and movement of your feet!
Make sure your weight is balanced from the ball of your foot to your heel and from your big toe to your pinky toe. This toe action will help to level your pelvis making more space in the hip and low back area.
If your knees are creaking or pinching it’s time to look again at the feet and shins.
Shins that bow out place lots of pressure on the outer knees. Learn to press the big toe side of your foot into the floor when you move through your asanas. See if hugging your shins toward the middle of your body relieves the ache in your knees.
Now, knees that lean in are just the opposite. The outer edges of the feet should be brought back to the floor, staying balanced from inner to outer foot. And the shins should be moved away from one another, lining them back up underneath your knees.
Ankles aching? Find the balls and heels of your feet again and spread your weight between them.
Pay attention to your toes, keeping them soft and spread. Once you are all lined up, lift up from the soles of your feet on the floor into your calves. This will draw your strength up into your legs and pelvis so you aren’t hanging all your weight around your ankles.
Each of these little tips or tricks or ideas assume a simple fix will help you find relief. Many times there is a complex web of interrelated imbalances that create the aches deep seated in our bodies. When simple tips and tricks don’t make a dent in your discomfort it’s time to look for an expert.
There are many options for the yogi in pain, from yoga teachers trained as therapeutic movement specialists, physical therapists who understand the movements of yoga you practice, chiropractors, bone doctors, gait technologists, Rolfers, etc. The list of professionals who are trained to help bodies work more efficiently without pain is extensive. Ask for help to untangle the web of imbalance in your body.
Hopefully these past few blog posts have been helpful in navigating the sometimes inevitable aches and pains of yoga (or exercise in general). If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below!Subscribe to our Weekly Blog Digest
Written by Sue Dlugopolski, Certified Yoga Instructor (E-RYT 500 Hour) at Elite Sports Clubs
Sue Dlugopolski is certified in 500 Hour Yoga Therapy; 200 Hours each – Anusara Yoga & Vinyasa Yoga. Her additional certifications include: Relax & Renew Restorative Yoga Trainer, Therapeutic Restorative Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Karma Kids Yoga, Kineselogy & Therapeutic Movement.
I encourage a balanced sense of strength and ease in participants. Continuing education in yoga anatomy and functional movement enables me to observe more clearly the changes in alignment participants require to move more freely. I teach Hatha, Restorative, & beginning yoga to help participants feel better in their bodies everyday.