Contrary to popular belief, the term “lock your knee” is not just a cute, fun thing that Bikram Yoga teachers like to say. Over and over again. Until you hate them.
It is a real (and important) element of keeping the yoga practice safe and therapeutic.
In locking your knee, you bone stack so you don’t hyper extend your knee joint. You contract the muscles surrounding your knee to lift and create space between your bones so they don’t grind against each other, wearing down cartilage. You add tension to the quadriceps muscle that otherwise would be transferred into the low back. You safely stretch your hamstrings, which will play a huge role in relieving low back tightness and pain.
But locking your knee in class sometimes takes a backseat, especially when you’re focusing on other aspects of the posture – balancing, breathing, kicking, stretching, pulling, bringing your body down, getting your leg up, bending your spine, tightening up your core. It can be easy to forget about the almighty knee joint.
Here are 3 things you can do at home to ensure knee-locking success in class:
1. Practice balancing on one leg and locking your knee by a wall or holding on to a chair. It will be easier to focus on LYK if you can hold something for balance. Make sure your hip, knee and ankle are in a straight line, perpendicular to the floor.
2. Practice LYK while sitting. Sit with your back straight against a wall (or the bottom edge of your couch while you’re watching TV). Extend your legs out, flex your feet, and tighten your thigh muscles as much as possible. Squeeze the living thigh out of them. Start by doing this exercise a few seconds at a time and slowly increasing the length of time. Note, some balancing, knee-locked postures are up to 1 minute per side.
3. Stretch your hamstrings. Rounding over to pick up your foot in Standing Head To Knee AND keeping your knee locked requires that your hamstrings are relatively flexible. For those of us who sit most of the day, our hamstrings will need some extra love outside of class. Stand and touch your toes for 1 minute, several times a day.