Can Yoga Help Runner’s Knee? 5 Poses to Improve Mobility

Oftentimes runners will focus so much on getting in mileage and nailing workouts and forget about the importance of physical and mental maintenance and recovery.

This means that runners neglect stretching, mobility work, and general strength, which an activity like yoga would improve all of.

The strength and flexibility gained from yoga can aid in the prevention and rehabilitation of common running injuries like runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain).

How exactly do yoga poses help common running injuries like runner’s knee? Well in this article we will go over some of the best yoga poses for runners and how to implement them into your training in a practical manner. 

Can Yoga Help Runner’s Knee?


What is Runner’s Knee?

Otherwise known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, runner’s knee is closer to a “catch-all” term for when runners experience pain in or around the knees.

More specifically, runner’s knee deals with pain on or inside of the kneecap due to an irritated or inflamed patella tendon.

The patella tendon is responsible for stabilizing and aligning the knee whenever it strikes the ground, and this movement is more pronounced during a high-impact activity like running.

Joins

The repetitive stress from running can mean a lot of pressure put onto your knees, which is a problem spot for many runners, especially if they tend to heel strike.

This is not a PSA to say stop heel striking though, as many runners have few issues with their heel striking gait cycle, and trying to switch your foot strike to something as extreme as the forefoot would mean a long adjustment period with an increased risk of injury in areas like the foot, achilles, and calves.

Rather, we will seek to strengthen and refine your current gait cycle so you can be a more physically durable and robust runner.

Oftentimes, runner’s knee is a symptom of a strength or mobility issue in another area of your body (like the hips and/or ankles). Before doing anything else, make sure you are wearing the proper footwear to match your gait cycle.

If you’d like to know more about proper footwear for runners, check this article out.

Posture1

A general example of misalignment.

With all of that said, strengthening and gaining mobility in your glutes, hips, and ankles are essential to preventing injuries in the sport of running (along with a manageable and intelligent training program).

Let’s take a look at how yoga can help strengthen these areas and help your runner’s knee.


5 Best Yoga Poses For Strength

Warrior 1

Strengthens - Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Back, Shoulders

How to Perform:

Step 1 - Begin standing, then step your right foot forward about four feet. With your foot parallel and toes pointing to the top of the mat, bend your knee into a lunge. Keep your left leg straight behind you and turn your left heel in at approximately 45 degrees.

Step 2 - Raise your arms straight above your head, keeping your shoulders pressed down.

Step 3 - Squeeze your shoulder blades together and downward, and lift your chin to gaze at your hands overhead. Hold your pose and then repeat on the left side.

Warrior 2

Strengthens - Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Back, Ankles

How to Perform:

Step 1 - Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.

Step 2 - Turn your right foot slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. Firm your thighs and turn your left thigh outward so that the center of the left knee cap is in line with the center of the left ankle.

Step 3 - Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor.

Step 4 - Stretch the arms away from the space between the shoulder blades, parallel to the floor. Don’t lean the torso over the left thigh: Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis.

Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers.

Warrior 3

Strengthens - Glutes, Hamstrings, Back, Ankles, Full Back, Shoulders, Abs

How to Perform:

Step 1 - Begin in a lunge with your front knee bent, your back leg straight and your back heel lifted. Your hips and chest should be squared to the front of the mat. Raise your arms above your head.

Step 2 - Move your hands to your heart, with palms pressed against each other in a prayer position. Lean forward until your back leg extends straight back, even with your hips. Keep your foot flexed and your gaze downward.

Step 3 - Make sure your standing leg is strong and straight, but not locked at the knee. Reach your arms forward so your body forms a “T” shape.

Chair Pose

Strengthens - Arms, Quads, Full Back, Ankles, Calves

How to Perform:

Step 1 - Stand straight and tall with your feet slightly wider than hip­-width apart and your arms at your sides.

Step 2 - Inhale and lift your arms next to your ears, stretching them straight and parallel with wrists and fingers long. Keep your shoulders down and spine neutral.

Step 3 - Exhale as you bend your knees, keeping your thighs and knees parallel. Lean your torso forward to create a right angle with the tops of your thighs. Keep your neck and head in line with your torso and arms.

Plank Pose

Strengthens - Arms, Quads, Full Back, Obliques, Abs, Ankles

How to Perform:

Step 1 - Draw your core forward until the arms are perpendicular to the floor and the shoulders directly over the wrists, torso parallel to the floor.

Step 2 - Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then spread them away from the spine. Also, spread your collarbones away from the sternum.

Step 3 - Press your front thighs up toward the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you lengthen it toward the heels. Lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.


5 Best Yoga Poses For Runner’s Mobility

Low Lunge

Stretches  - Hip Flexors, Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Chest

How to Perform:

Step 1 - Step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning the right knee over the heel. Then lower your left knee to the floor and, keeping the right knee fixed in place, slide the left one back to feel a stretch in the left front thigh (near hip flexors). Turn the top of your left foot to the floor.

Step 2 - Lift your arms out to the sides and up, perpendicular to the floor. Draw the tailbone down toward the floor and lift your pubic bone toward your navel.

Step 3 - Take your head back and look up, being careful not to jam the back of your neck. Reach your pinkies toward the ceiling.

Supine Spinal Twist

Stretches - Thoracic Spine, Glutes, Chest

How to Perform:

Step 1 -  Lying on your back, bring your arms out to the sides with the palms facing down in a T position. Bend the right knee and place the right foot on the left knee.

Step 2 - Drop the right knee over to the left side of your body, twisting the spine and low back.

Step 3 - Keep the shoulders flat to the floor, close the eyes, and relax into the posture. Let gravity pull the knee down, so you do not have to use any effort in this posture.

Pigeon

Stretches - Quad, Thoracic Spine, Abdomen, Ankles, Glutes, Hip Flexors

How to Perform:

Step 1 - bring your right knee forward towards your right wrist. Depending on your body it may be just behind your wrist or to the outer or the inner edge of it.

Step 2 -Slide your left leg back and point your toes, your heel is pointing up to the ceiling.

Step 3 - Scissor your hips together, by drawing your legs in towards each other. Use some support under your right buttock if needed, to keep your hips level.

Step 4 - Walk your hands forward and lower your upper body towards the floor. You can rest your forearms and forehead on the mat.

Supine Pigeon

Stretches - Quad, Hips, Glutes, Hamstrings

How to Perform:

Step 1 - Lying on your back, bend the knees to bring the feet to the floor. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh just above the knee.

Step 2 - Lift the left foot off the ground and bring the left knee towards your chest.

Step 3 - Clasp the hands behind the left thigh and use your right elbow to gently press the right knee away from your body.

Down Dog

Stretches - Hamstrings, Calves, Shoulders

How to Perform:

Step 1 - Come to your hands and knees with your wrists underneath the shoulders and your knees underneath the hips.

Step 2 - Engage your quadriceps strongly to take the burden of your body's weight off your arms.

Step 3 - Rotate your thighs inward, keep your tail high, and sink your heels towards the floor.

Step 4 - Check that the distance between your hands and feet is correct by coming forward to a plank position. The distance between the hands and feet should be the same in these two poses.


How Do We Fit Yoga Into Training?

Because Yoga predominantly includes isometric contractions and deals as more of a recovery modality than pure strength training, it can fit into your training regiment easier because we do not need to worry about a big recovery horizon.

As long as you do not induce large metabolic stress on your body with 2-hour long yoga sessions, a 30-minute yoga flow should leave you feeling pretty refreshed and ready to go.

That being said, it will probably be best included as a pre easy/recovery run activity.

This could even be a good way to activate your primary muscle groups for your run, which can also help your runner’s knee. Just make sure to leave your body a couple of hours between your yoga session and your run.

Generally, you will see the most benefits from 1-3 yoga flows within a week. On weeks you are running less, then you can do more yoga.

This sequencing will most likely help your runner’s knee by activating key muscle groups, strengthening and stretching weak and tight areas in your body, and aligning your hips, knees, and ankles.

Keep in mind, this is an “ideal” scenario that might ignore your time constraints as a busy person with lots of obligations, so just try to fit your yoga sessions in however you can throughout your week.

The best advice I can give you is to make sure you do include a small warmup before getting into the real strengthening and stretching poses.

You can do this by going through a sun salutation flow 2-3 times, which should only take you an extra 6-10 minutes.


Conclusion

Yoga does have the potential to help runner’s knee by activating your proper muscles, stretching tight areas, and aligning the joint areas like hips, knees, and ankles to ease stress off of your patella tendon.

With any new training regime, you should absolutely ease your way into yoga so you can make sure that you are executing each pose with good technique.

Doing 1 or 2 poses correctly in a single session is FAR more beneficial than 10 poses executed with poor technique. Furthermore, doing a pose incorrectly can even increase your risk of injury in some cases.

Besides this, just make sure to take your time, try the poses listed above and give it a little time to see how they help your runner’s knee. Of course, make sure that you are doing all of the other rehab possible to make it easier for your body to heal.

Yoga is a great way to center yourself physically and mentally, so have fun with it and give it a try!


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Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Me.