I’m often asked in my beginner yoga course here if you can practice yoga for knee pain? Many people have chronic knee pain due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, an injury, or just from straining it too hard in everyday life.

While there are many types of exercises, diets and health protocols possible to strengthen your joints and knees, there’s one that is proven to be very effective and safe if done right. Yep, you guessed it…yoga.

Yoga is a fantastic form of exercise that is gentle on the joints and can help strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the knees which can improve mobility, balance and strength over time. This leads many people to experience less pain in their knees.

Practicing yoga for knee pain alleviation does however depend on how the yoga poses are being done and which ones you’re doing. Let’s discuss this today.

Why low-impact exercise like yoga is good for knee pain?

A woman performs a knee-relieving yoga pose (Warrior II) - Jen Bonny at Let's Practice Yoga

Many types of exercise and sports are high-impact, meaning they put a high level of impact and intensity on the joints, especially the knees all at once. If your knee joints are not conditioned properly for high impact exercises this can lead to big knee problems.

High impact movements usually involve a lot of jumping and jolting force. While high-impact exercises, such as running, jumping, basketball, weighted squats, etc, have their benefits, they also can pose some setbacks. High impact exercises can be really hard on your knees and joints and play a contributing factor in osteoarthritis or other pain- especially if you overdo it.

Low-impact exercises are the opposite. These types of exercises are more gentle on the joints and knees while still raising your heart rate and providing you with the many benefits exercise has to offer. Yoga is a wonderful low-impact exercise that not only is more gentle on the joints and knees but can strengthen your knee joints greatly to enjoy high impact exercises if you choose to do them.

Tips for an “easy on the knees” yoga experience

Below is a list of the top ten yoga poses to help with knee pain, but before we get into that, here are some quick tips to help your knees feel good while practicing yoga. You can also join my beginner yoga course here and I’ll directly help you.

  • Use Props

Yoga props: rolled mats, belt, cord brick and folded cotton mar

    • Props are very handy when it comes to practicing yoga, especially with knee pain. Having a block or a blanket, as well as a thick yoga mat to sit on, instead of the hard floor is super helpful for the joints, as well as using the props to modify any poses.
  • Don’t hyperextend

    • Hyperextending is when a joint or muscle is extended beyond the range of motion that is typically considered “normal.” Yes, you can be too flexible with some joints and hyperextending can cause pain and damage, if you aren’t careful. Keep your knees and feet aligned properly and don’t over extend a muscle or overdo a pose.
  • Warmup

    • Start with a light warmup, especially hip opening poses. Your knees and joints will move smoother and be in less of a risk of injury if you warm up and start with stretches and poses that open up your hips. Not only will your knees thank you, but by starting out with hip opening poses you can relieve tension, increase range of motion, and make it easier for your legs to move into other poses.

Top 10 Yoga Poses to For Knee Pain

1. Triangle Pose  (Trikonasana) 

Let's Practice Yoga's Jen Bonny demonstrates the Triangle Yoga Pose

The triangle pose is a great pose that gently stretches the lateral side of your quads and hamstring muscles supporting your knees, legs, spine, ankle joints, and hips. It relieves stress and for an extra benefit is also great for improving digestion.

2.  Butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana)

Let's Practice Yoga's Jen Bonny demonstrates the Butterfly Yoga Pose

The butterfly pose helps open up your hips and loosen your lower back and thighs and helps target a great stretch of your quadricep muscle supporting your knees. It helps ease discomfort, promotes knee movement, and is relaxing.

3. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

a women on yoga mat practicing Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

The locust pose can help relieve lower back pain by straightening your spine. It is great for stretching the calves and hamstrings which many times places great strain on your knees if they are too tight. It counteracts against bad posture and the effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time.

4. Cobra pose  (Bhujangasana)

cobra yoga pose with Jen Bonny at Lets Practice Yoga

Cobra pose is an easy and relaxing pose that strengthens and stretches the spine, thighs, legs, and arms, as well as opens the heart and lungs. It lightly stretches the knees as well, making them strong and flexible.  It is often one of the last poses done in a class as a nice relaxing finish to a yoga session.

5. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Let's Practice Yoga's Jen Bonny demonstrates the Chair Yoga Pose

Chair pose is a great pose with many benefits. It builds stability in the knee joint and strengthens the other muscles in your legs, and is a great core exercise.  It opens your shoulders and chest and helps regulate your breathing.

6. Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

This pose is nice and comfortable and doesn’t place a lot of strain on your knees. It helps with soothing anxiety and stress and stretches the back, thighs, and calf muscles. Remember to start this pose off simple. There’s no need to do the splits your first try. Extending your head downward is something you should take slowly too.

7. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Let's Practice Yoga's Jen Bonny demonstrates the Mountain Yoga Pose

This great pose uses almost every muscle in your body. It straightens your leg muscles, helps reduce the affects of flat feet  and improves posture. One of its primary benefits is to align your muscles to relieve knee alignment issues that can lead to pain.

8. Legs up on the wall (Viparita Karani)

Legs up on the wall (Viparita Karani) Lets Practice Yoga

This relaxing pose helps relieve tired and sore legs and feet. It is very calming and stress reducing and will feel great on your legs and lower back. You could optionally use a strap to help stabilize and further stretch your glutes and hamstring muscles.

9. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

The corpse pose is a very relaxing pose that helps the body calm and destress. It helps with anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and more.

10. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

The bridge pose is great for rejuvenating and strengthening tired legs. It strengthens the chest, back, shoulders, spine, glutes, ankle joints, and legs, and is a calming pose. This pose does have you bend at the knees, so adding support with a yoga prop is a great way to make this pose easier.

Poses to limit or modify

There are some poses in yoga that can be harder on the knees- poses that you might bend and stretch the knees a lot such as Child’s pose or Hero’s pose, or poses in which your legs to knees are uneven or imbalanced. While many yoga poses are good for knee pain, there are some that may make it worse because of the amount of strain put on your knees. You may need to limit, modify, or in some cases, avoid poses that may be harmful to your knees.

Almost every pose can be modified and made easier on the joints or knees and you will still get the benefits. Modified poses can be helpful for anyone with injuries, joint pain, or any other needs where a modified pose would help. Check out my online beginner course or talk to me here and I’ll guide you.

If you feel pain doing the poses at all stop what you are doing and seek for help from your health professional.

Using yoga blocks or other props can also help you not have to put weight directly on your knees and can alleviate some pain while practicing yoga.