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virasana, overweight and knee issues

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volop yoga

Joined: 04 Apr 2015
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2015 11:30 pm    Post subject: virasana, overweight and knee issues Reply with quote

Hi, with a lot of interest I have read your article about knee opening (http://www.yinyoga.com/forums/posting.php?mode=newtopic&f=11) and the postings in these knee topics. I have almost finished my 4 years hatha yoga teacher training and since I am overweight myself, that's to be my specialism: teaching yoga to people with bigger bodies.

I have some questions about what these knee openers actually do and when (or when not) to apply.
I had a discussion with one of my teachers in teachertraining: she said that virasana is healthy to the knees - always. But when I take the pose, I feel that there is too much pressure on my knees because of the additional flesh around my thighs on the one hand, and because of the extra pressure that my weight provides when I sit in this pose.

what are your ideas about this? I could practice with sitting on my knees, and gently raise the pressure by coming up, this way putting more pressure. Till now I avoided that. But could it be benificial for my knees to try to make more space this way - with or without a wooden rod as you suggest in the article?

And I am wondering what the wooden rod behind the knee actually does for the knees in your practice. What does it open precisely? Would that also be a healthy thing to do in my case, with extra flesh and exra weight?

Whenever I do a squatting pose, I put a rolled blanket behind my knees, because it provides some support to put the pressure off. It makes it possible to squat without pain in my knees. But the wooden rod gives extra pressure, I suppose.

(Some more information: I have meniscus issues since <10 years - doctor advised to do nothing about it.... which I accepted then, and which I become to doubt more and more last months...)

tnx in advance, Kind regards
Colette (Volop Yoga - the Netherlands)
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Joined: 23 Sep 2006
Posts: 1117
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 12:36 am    Post subject: Virasana options Reply with quote

I am not sure we can dogmatically say that "virasana is healthy to the knees - always" as every body is so different. There are some bodies where virasana will not be a good idea. How to know? One good way is the presence of pain. If it hurts to sit in the pose, don't do it. You could try to find a version of Virasana that doesn't hurt, like sitting up on blocks or blankets, but pain is a sign of current or imminent trauma. It is not necessary nor desirable in a yoga practice.

Some stress is required in order for our tissues to remain or regain their optimal health. So, if Virasana doesn't work, what other poses can you do to stress your knees in a healthy way? Maybe using a meditation bench? Or, again, sit up higher with blocks under your sitting bones.

In your case, a dowelling behind the knees may not be necessary: that is suggested to help increase the stress in the knee joint. You already have such stress there, so I would not bother, in your case, with dowelling. If you want, you could use a rolled up towel or a folded strap back there, but again - why bother if you already feel a stress?

I use the term "open" poetically. I am not actually opening the knees, but I like that imagery. I am stressing the knee: it is as if I am prying the femur away from the tibia, creating space in the joint capsule and room for the menisci. When you have a torn meniscus or have had an operation that took some of it away (or all of it) the femoral condyles start to compress onto the tibia plateau and that can, over time, create arthritis. By stressing the knee joint apart, you are preventing the shrink-wrapping of the knee joint which exacerbates the contact between femur and tibial. There is some indication that the stress of this posture may also stimulate the chondrocytes in the meniscus to grow more cartilage. That would be a lovely bonus.

It has worked for me, and for many others. But this does not mean it will absolutely work for you. Try it out and see. But again - no pain!

Good luck.
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Un-flexy wexy

Joined: 01 Mar 2015
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've had good luck with placing a yoga block between sitting bones and the backs of the legs or heals. This distributes the weight and pressure further back on the body and away from the knees. On all the students that I have tried it with the pressure on the knees is released. It also allows the legs to stay together ( as opposed to spreading the heals and placing the block on the floor) and is less torque on the knees. It is a very grounded modification.
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