Knees are an important weight bearing joint which supports the weight of the body, provides stability and maintains agility.
Dancers and athletes should be aware of how to take care of the knees because they subject their knees to extreme stress on a constant basis. This regular pounding and beating that the knees undergo aggravates the situation and only gets worse with the ageing process.
In their 40s and 50s, most dancers/athletes have knee issues which if neglected will eventually lead to hip issues.
Body awareness at a younger age (say in your 20s) and regular exercise and care for the knees will maintain the strength and health of this important joint, keeping it supple and pain-free well into middle age and even later.
This article addresses young dancers or athletes or those who have relatively no major issues with their knees.
The following exercises and yoga poses are not meant for those with injured knees, arthritic knees or painful knees.
ANATOMY OF THE KNEE
In order to strengthen the knees one has to work all the muscles that work around it namely, the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the adductors or inner thigh muscle and the calf muscles.
Awareness must be maintained in the front and back of the knee and the two sides- or the inner and outer knee. When stretching you must have the sensation of broadening and lengthening the back of the knees and feel the sides of the knees as well.
The following simple knee exercises can be done by maintaining this mindfulness in the stretches.
- The first action you want to learn is the lifting of your knee caps as shown in this video.
- This is done by pressing the quads back and moving the muscles around the knee caps upwards towards the hips
- Repeat and build up to 3 sets of ten
With Yoga Blocks
Now try lifting the kneecaps with yoga blocks between the knees
- Feet remain parallel
- Thighs must roll inwards to squeeze the blocks
- Attempt must be made not to roll the knee inwards
- Keeping the balls of the feet down, lift all 10 toes up , feeling a lift in your arches
Supta Padangushtasan – Supine hand to foot pose
- Lie down, supine on floor with feet against the wall; toes facing upwards
- Use a tie or belt to strap the lower part of your right arch and raise the right leg up (see video)
- Keep elbows and shoulders down
- Maintain a right angle at the hip
- Pushing the left foot against the wall hold the pose for 30 sec to 1 minute if possible
- Change sides
Once you understand the previous pose, try the following progreesion. Get into the pose as shown previously but try the below with the leg that is on the floor.
- Take toes off the wall with the whole foot pressing the wall
- Also try lifting the kneecaps as shown in the basic action video
- Change legs and try all the above actions