Lock the knee, an illustration

Thursday, September 17th, 2015


We have many new yogis here which made me think it would be a good thing to repost this.
The term "lock the knee" is one of the most commonly misunderstood terms. Students are instructed to "lock the knee" throughout the one-legged balancing series, as well as in other postures in the standing and floor series. Many people recall having been told never to lock the knee from an early age, usually in reference to athletics and dance. Locking the knee creates stability in the knee joint, which is not desirable when you're moving; however, it is completely safe when standing still.

Yoga differs from other activities, and many other forms of yoga, in that it is not necessarily a practice of movement. During a class, the practitioner spends the majority of the time in stillness, and so locking the knee is safe to do in this context. In addition, because the joints are stacked when properly locking the knee, the practitioner is strengthening the hips, knees, ankles, and quadriceps.

Stacking the joints requires you to pull the kneecap up as opposed to pushing the knee back, thereby increasing the space in the knee, hip and ankle joints. The resulting contraction of the quadriceps femoris has the additional benefit of allowing the hamstrings to safely stretch. Stacking the hip, knee and ankle joints while pulling the kneecap up and contracting the quadriceps creates a strong, stable foundation for one's posture while actually reducing the pressure in the joints.

While a balance of strength and flexibility is ideal, most people's bodies tend towards one or the other. Those who tend towards strength tend to bend the knee in postures that require a locked knee. More flexible people tend to push the knee back, or hyper-extend the knee. If you try to "lock your knee" while moving, there is more of a risk of hyper-extension. Hyper-extending the knee is not a good idea either in movement or in stillness, because it compresses the hip, knee and ankle joints and puts unnecessary strain on the knees. It has been said that locking the knee is a perfect example of moderation: not too tight, not too loose. This is Yoga: the union between opposites.

Your hamstring can stretch ONLY IF the thigh is contracted. If the thigh is NOT contracted, then the hamstring will be pulled on, and eventually may tear.
When the knee is locked – the joint fits together perfectly. That's why it heals the knee. So many times it's a simple misalignment of the joint. Think bow leg, knock knee and over flexible (hyper-extension) knee – all these things correct themselves with locking the knee. Brilliant!


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