The Impact Of A Hip Stretch On The Knee Joint

The Impact of a Hip Stretch on the Knee Joint

Are Your Knees at Risk?

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THE IMPACT OF A HIP STRETCH ON THE KNEE JOINT

The knee joint can be quite vulnerable: Of the lower extremity joints, the knee sustains the highest percentage of injuries, particularly among physically active individuals.” 

Journal of Orthapaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Published Online: February 1, 2010. Volume 40 Issue 2. Pages 42-51 

In the full class from today’s clip, Matt begins with some great education about how hip stretches affect the knee joint. He explains that whenever we are stretching the hip, it not only places pressure on the hip itself but also on the knee. This of course can put your knees at risk of injury. The good news is that there are ways to help circumvent the potential for serious injury. In the clip, Matt teaches you how to approach hip external and internal rotation in 5 yoga postures with more integrity for the knee joint in order to keep it safe.

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HOW TO PROTECT THE KNEE JOINT

The previously cited article goes on to clarify that when hip muscles are weak, there is a direct link to knee injury. This aligns with Matt’s emphasis on the isometric contraction of the muscles that support the hips, knees, and ankles when executing various yoga postures. He carefully cues specific joint actions for more optimal positioning during activation to reduce the stress on and stretch of the ligaments around the knee joint. Because the knee is mainly supported by ligaments, they need to be strong to maintain stability. Now, positioning depends on what’s required for your body at a given time: “Abnormal motion of the femur can have a direct effect on tibiofemoral joint kinematics and strain the soft tissue restraints that bind the tibia to the distal end of the femur.”                                                  

Journal of Orthapaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Published Online: February 1, 2010. Volume 40 Issue 2. Pages 42 – 51  

WATCH THE VIDEO

THE IMPACT OF A HIP STRETCH ON THE KNEE JOINT: ARE YOUR KNEES AT RISK?

WARRIOR II

In the video, you begin to see this potential for the abnormal motion or positioning of the femur in Warrior II. First, the positioning of your pelvis influences the amount of internal rotation of the femur. Matt cues a movement of the heel that will aid in further external rotation of the hip, but he suggests that you also consider directing your focus to the shin so that you’ll be able to witness the knee rotating back: Pressing your outer heel down while dragging it back will activate the biceps femoris muscle (hamstring muscle) to access the rotation of the shin. Now, if you discern that this creates more torque on the knee joint, you can back off on the amount of external rotation of the hip (femur) by placing more force on the inner or center heel when pressing down and pulling back.

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GODDESS POSE AND MALASANA

In Goddess Pose, you can really see the impact that the positioning of the femur and shin bones can have on the knee joint. There is a common tendency to internally rotate your shins when the knees are moving more outward, which may cause pain in the inner knees. You can avoid this by turning your feet more outward. Then, to create the isometric contraction and more external rotation of the shins, pull your outer heels towards one another—imagine each fibula (the outer shin bone) pulling in towards the midline of your body. And with a little extra anterior tilt, your pelvis stays back.  

You’ll notice the parallels in Malasana, Squat Pose. Keeping the knee joint safe requires the same awareness of the amount of external rotation versus internal rotation of the hip, along with the activation of the adductor muscles through a facilitated stretch.

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STANDING FIGURE 4 AND HALF LOTUS ON YOUR BACK

Standing Figure 4 Pose can place a tremendous amount of pressure on the knee joint of the top leg. Due to the way that the ankle presses up, the pressure is usually located on the inside of the knee. This causes the shin to almost push into and tweak the knee. Matt suggests rotating the shin down towards the ground while externally rotating at the hip joint. These two actions will help increase the space in the knee joint while creating less strain in the outer knee ligaments.

Hip external rotation along with knee flexion will support your ability to find Half Lotus on your back. As regards activation here, you can pull either the outer shin or the inner shin back. Generally, attempting to pull the outer shin back first is better for knee joint protection.

AVOID A FIXED MINDSET

It’s important to note that Matt’s Chromatic Yoga approach teaches you not to get fixed on specific positioning or alignment. Explore, so that you may discover what serves your body best in a given moment. In terms of the postures we’ve examined today, it may serve you to create more external rather than internal rotation. Wherever Matt cues more external rotation, you can explore the opposite, which may work better to decrease the pressure in the knee joint. Getting caught up in the idea that there is “only one way” may do more harm than good. For example in Malasana, more medial rotation of the shin bones has the potential to create more pain in the inner knees or to mitigate knee pain.

Register for the Blissful Hips Immersion to learn more about a practice that serves your body.


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Article by Trish Curling

Videos Extracted From: Blissful Hips Immersion

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Open Splits

Open Splits

Follow This Flexibility Formula

SAMAKONASANA

OPEN SPLITS

Open Splits is one of those postures that may not always make it into your asana practice, but there are a number of good reasons for it to start showing up more often. It does require a considerable amount of flexibility, and Matt lays out the perfect flexibility formula in order to safely execute the posture. What it does is offer much more than the result: It takes you on a path toward greater balance in your body, more specifically in the hips. The adductor muscles don’t often get as much of the limelight as some of the other muscles of the hips (e.g., glutes), so Open Splits (Samakonasana) is an opportunity to create more muscle integrity in the adductors, tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscles, hip flexors, and inner hamstrings.

 

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MUSCLE INTEGRITY

What is muscle integrity? It’s essentially the health of a muscle or muscle group. This can still be vague—what is a healthy muscle? Part of having healthy muscle tissue means that you have the ability to control the contraction of a particular muscle or the amount of contraction and relaxation within a group of muscles, at any length. This is important in Open Splits, because even though your legs are out wide, you should have the ability to contract back inwards. One of the most important things to do to maintain safe execution is to never go to your full end range. Staying at approximately 70% of your range will help minimize the chance of injury.

WATCH THE VIDEO: OPEN SPLITS: FLEXIBILITY FORMULA

MORE THAN MUSCLE ACTIVATION

There are specific articulations in your body that are key components of the flexibility formula for Open Splits. These articulations will help you achieve the desired activation of muscle tissue and joint placement. For example, the anterior tilt of the pelvis assists in the activation of the TFL (an internal rotator). Once you bring your awareness to this sensation, you can layer on the additional and contrasting action of spiraling the thigh bones outwards in order to ignite the outer hips (abductors) as well.

The most important thing is to always take it step by step. Let’s examine from the beginning each action that Matt breaks down in the video.

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FOLLOW THIS FLEXIBILITY FORMULA

There are a number of actions and co-activations that need to happen in order to maintain safety and build upon muscle integrity in Open Splits. As mentioned before, once you get into a straddle position, it’s important to remain mindful and stay away from going to your complete end range. You should recognize a subtle sensation of stretch in the inner thighs and hamstrings. Staying within this range and then isometrically activating your adductors, hamstrings, and TFL is the formula to follow. The stars of the show, however, are patience and restraint. Staying behind your end range and having the patience to allow your muscles to adapt and continue to grow into new flexibility will promote increased healthy muscle tissue.

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OPEN SPLITS EXECUTION

In the execution of open splits, remember to layer each action:

  1. Dorsiflex your toes and point both knees and toes to the sky
  2. Send inner groins down to the ground
  3. Micro bend your knees (to alleviate pressure here) and press your heels down into the earth (to light up the hamstrings)
  4. Push outward now while pushing toes out and pressing legs apart, so pelvis goes more into anterior tilt (legs stay as they are)
  5. Once you feel the stretch in the adductor muscles, start to press your heels down and micro tuck the tailbone (more posterior tilt of the pelvis), or suction the thigh bones into the hip sockets, so the TFL starts to ignite and pull feet towards each other. It is more about stability here, rather than straining. 

Playing with different articulations is helpful in deciphering what areas continue to require attention (i.e., what feels tight and/or what feels hypermobile). For example, if you want to continue bowing forward, you may return back to pressing legs apart and groins back or hips more forward. This will offer a deeper stretch in your adductors. Going back and forth between push and pull actions helps increase hip mobility.

Matt’s current Hip Mobility immersion offers a deep dive into the breakdown of specific asanas related to increased flexibility, strength, and mobility of the hips. More importantly, it puts hip health at center stage. Direct your experience and elevate your practice by registering today.

See you on the mat!

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Hips & Hamstrings

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