Many people choose to practice yoga after knee replacement surgery, as there are many medical benefits of yoga. If you are recovering from knee replacement surgery and would like to begin or continue practicing yoga, you should be aware of many poses and modifications that can assist in the overall healing process.
How Yoga After Knee Replacement Can Help
Your knees are an integral part of your body's overall motion and movement. Knee replacement surgery is typically conducted to replace a diseased joint with an artificial one. It is a serious procedure that requires ample healing time. After this type of surgery, the knee joint may be in a fragile state, as most people have limited flexion, as well as swelling in the knee area. Yoga practice can help you regain your sense of balance, develop new awareness in the knee area and strengthen your surrounding joint and muscle areas to support your knee replacement.
Yoga practitioners can choose from many yoga poses, or asanas, to help with the healing process. One of the main keys is to incorporate poses that focus on building strength and alignment in the knee's surrounding areas, which are the hips, thighs and ankles. When these areas are strong and properly aligned, you won't risk straining or reinjuring the knee joint. You'll also be building muscle to support your new knee.
Hip and Upper Leg Poses
When starting a brand new yoga practice, avoid poses that will put too much strain on the knees. Begin with simple poses, such as Tadasana (mountain pose) and Uttanasana (standing forward bend). Strengthen your quadriceps muscles with Virabhadrasana I and II (warrior I and warrior II poses). Work your hamstrings in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose), and be sure to keep your knees together to maximize the benefits out of this asana.
Ankle Joint Poses
Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog pose) is one of the most popular yoga poses. This common asana works the leg, ankle and feet muscles. Vrksasana (tree pose) is a great asana to strengthen your thighs and ankles, as well as help you regain balance and confidence in your new knee.
Modifications and Props
Even the most experienced yogis must use modifications in their yoga practice after knee replacement to avoid injuring or straining the knee. For example, if your practice incorporates Garudasana (eagle pose), pay special attention to make sure your knee does not turn outward. In fact, many yoga teachers recommend that practitioners recovering from knee surgery do not wrap the leg around the other one very tightly, as practiced in the traditional pose. Virasana (hero pose) is often a modification for Padmasana (lotus pose), and you'll need to modify it even further by sitting on a blanket or block when practicing this meditation posture. Don't be afraid to use props in your yoga practice. Use blocks, blankets, straps and even the wall to give yourself added balance and support. Chairs are great support tools, as well. Consider easing back into your home practice with one of many available chair yoga DVDs.
Exercise caution and restraint when practicing yoga after knee replacement. Make sure your doctor gives your approval before incorporating yoga practice into your recovery process, and wait to begin a new practice until your knee has sufficiently healed from the initial surgery. If you go to a formal yoga studio or class, tell your teacher about your surgery to ensure she suggests modifications and poses that will not reinjure your knee. Be careful when transitioning from pose to pose. You may feel comfortable and secure in a pose, but then lose your balance when moving into a new pose. Have several available balance props, such as a chair or wall, within your reach at all times during your practice. Avoid pivoting poses and asanas that require holding deep knee bends for long periods of time.