While this article was created in response to a question from writer Rick Skwiot about how yoga might help him heal his painful knee, many of the principles and practices will apply to the healing of other joints and conditions as well.
1 > First: STOP whatever activity is aggravating the joint and causing the pain.
One of the most difficult challenges I face when doing therapy with tennis players to heal a bad back, twisted knee, or tennis elbow is to get the person to stop playing long enough for the painful joint to heal.
If you are young and have not had a painful knee for very long, there is a good chance that you are dealing with a temporary condition, which will heal fairly rapidly, if given a rest from more aggravation along with proper Yoga Therapy.
If you are an older player with a long-term chronic condition, and your doctor has told you that your knee is damaged to the point of no return, there is no cartilage left, and the knee is in bone-on-bone condition, complete cessation of tennis may be necessary to stop an on-going destruction in order to allow the joint to return to a healthy, pain free condition.
If you find a lot of resistance in yourself to stop playing tennis, then you need to ask yourself why you want to continue an activity that is not just creating pain and preventing healing, but which may end in future crippling.
Perhaps it may help you to deal with this better if you treat this as an addiction.
You may find yourself saying, “But exercise is healthy. I need to exercise, don’t? I really enjoy playing tennis.”
How can any exercise be healthy when it is damaging your body?
From a yoga perspective Any activity that you continue to do that is damaging to your body or mind can be considered an addiction.
Instead of wondering about other people’s addictions, Yoga Science teaches us to deal with our own.
2 > Elevate the legs up a wall to improve circulation and reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain.
This variation of the Hatha Yoga Shoulderstand Asana (posture) will reduce pain and promote healing. While the Shoulderstand offers more benefits, the ability to hold your legs up a wall much longer than you can or should in the Shoulderstand will somewhat make up for this. The longer you stay in this position and the more frequently you practice the faster the results. You will get many other benefits. Inverted poses like this improve circulation of both blood and lymph, strengthen your immune system, prevent and reverse varicose veins including hemorrhoids, help to reduce enlarged prostate, and much more.
The student I mentioned in an earlier post who ended up with a serious infection as a result of “simple knee surgery” used this practice to reduce swelling in his knee and to get off crutches.
When we started therapy, his swollen knee was huge. I had him spend time at the beginning and at the end of our first session with his legs up the wall. I suggested that he should practice this at home to speed up his healing, since this would help him reduce the swelling in his knee.
He asked, “How long or how often should I do this.”
I said, “The more the better. You can stay in this position for hours without any ill effects.”
The next day he said that his knee felt so much better. When I asked him if he spent time with his legs up a wall, he said he had spent a total of 4 hours with his legs up the wall. Swelling had reduced considerably and pain had diminished.
Surprised, I asked how was able to spend so many hours with his legs up the wall.
He said, “I found that I could put my laptop on my stomach and I got a lot of work done in that position.”
He arrived for the third session without crutches and continued to heal his knee rapidly.
Obviously, this student had a lot of commitment to self-healing. But what important activities in your life don’t require commitment? The same drive that helped this man become a successful businessman, also helped him heal his knee.
3 > Practice Deep Relaxation
Wondering where you will get the time to practice all of these techniques? You can practice Deep Relaxation while you have your legs up the wall.
To the extent that you can relax, you will not feel pain, and healing progresses.
If you have the equipment and know how, you can record a relaxation technique in your own voice to play when you want to practice relaxation. If you do not have the ability to record your own relaxation CD, you might consider getting my Deep Relaxation CD. (Soon available to order online. Currently only from me in San Miguel.)
For those of you who have no knee or leg problems but who want to practice relaxation, you will still receive extra benefit if you practice with your legs elevated up a wall.
4 > Practice visualization and affirmations.
This also can be practiced while your legs are up the wall after you have gotten deeply relaxed.
See how you are saving more time as you do these practices at the same time?
When you are more relaxed, the critical conscious mind is not as active and it is much easier to penetrate the subconscious mind. Then the subconscious mind will come back to influence the conscious mind in a very positive way.
The best times to practice Affirmations and Visualizations are
- when you have relaxed yourself,
- near the end of a meditation session,
- just as you awaken in the morning, and
- just before you drift off to sleep at night.
There is an old metaphysical saying,
Quit seeing what you don’t want and start seeing what you do want.
Visualize your knee healthy and perfect.
See the knee joint opening up, the space between the bones increasing.
Visualize yourself pain free and happily walking, dancing, playing.
Recognize a great healing energy within you.
Visualize yourself removing any blocks to that healing energy.
See yourself getting in tune with that energy, cooperating with it, and enjoying the healing.
Practice affirmations like
Day by day, in every way, I getting better and better
I am happy, I am healthy, I am strong
To really understand the Techniques and Power of Affirmations get this Great Healing Book by Paramahansa Yogananda called Scientific Healing Affirmations: Theory and Practice of Concentration. This little booklet is the most complete comment on healing that I know of.
5 > Use your knee joint in ways that increase activity and movement without aggravating the condition.
If walking causes you pain, greatly limit. Be careful not to move suddenly or with a jerk, which will aggravate the knee joint. This is why healing often does not come when indulging in sports or activities which require sudden, twisting, or forceful movements.
Substitute activities which are not weight bearing, and which do not aggravate the joint, like swimming and the Non-Standing Yoga Asanas. There are so many Hatha Yoga Asanas that you could do enough non-weight-bearing-on-the-knee poses to fill several hours of practice.
At the beginning of my EASY YOGA for Home, Office, & Studio DVD, I take you through some very simple, easy-on-the-knees, passive techniques while you are sitting in a chair. These simple exercises are designed to improve range of motion and circulation without stressing your joint or aggravating the condition.
See the free Knee Healing Video post.
Discover movements that will give motion to your knee without causing pain. The more you move your knee joint without pain, the faster the healing.
If you find that putting weight on your knee is not painful, then you may find that you can easily do the Triangle and other Standing Yoga Asanas (postures).
6 > Practice This Technique to Open the Knee Joint
- Get down on the floor on hands and knees. If your knee is sensitive to weight in this position, put extra padding under the knee.
- Take your hands and body forward so that the back of your knee opens up. Point your toes back.
- Place a pillow or rolled towel behind your knee joint. The tighter or more painful your knee feels, the larger the pillow needed.
- Sit back on the cushion, which now works as a wedge to open up the knee joint. If your ankles are very tight and uncomfortable, place a pillow under the ankles.
- As always, move slowly into position and stop before you feel pain.
- Stay in this position as long as it feels good to you.
My HEAL YOUR BACK NOW! DVD will take you to another deeper level of relaxation and teach you how to move to lessen pain and accelerate healing, and how to develop the proper attitude for doing the regular Hatha Yoga Asanas.
7 > Adopt an Anti-inflammatory Diet
I have recommended a healthy, low fat, vegetarian diet in a previous post. This is not a vegan diet because it includes milk, cheese, and eggs as recommended by Paramahansa Yogananda, and other highly advanced yogis. Yogananda also recommends up to one tablespoonful of Olive Oil a day to keep the joints well lubricated.
Since dairy and eggs are contrary to the advice of many popular doctors who say that no animal foods should be consumed, you might want to study this some and then make up your own mind. (See the post, Peter Berquist on Raw, Low-Fat Vegan Diet, on this site.)
In any case the Yoga Diet, like the Anti-inflammatory Diet, is a plant-based diet consisting of mostly fresh, whole, raw fruits and vegetables with the addition of small amounts of nuts, seeds and whole grains.
This means NO refined, processed, packaged, canned, old, chemically preserved, colored, or altered foods.
No alcohol, meat, caffeine, cola/carbonated/soft drinks, drugs, or strongly salted or spiced foods. And
Understand we are not talking about whether or not you are a good or bad person based upon your eating habits. These are just guidelines to help you reduce inflammation and improve your health.
Now there is evidence from research at Ohio State University in an article published in Science Daily, “Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known to Promote Inflammation, Study Shows”, that Yoga reduces inflammation.
8 > Use Fasting and Detox to Reduce Pain and Increase Flexibility
I have explained the value of Fasting and Detox in my article Improving Your Eliminations Will Improve Your Nutrition.
If this interests you, you might also like to try a yogic cleansing technique given in my article How Lemons and Limes Keep Your Healthy
You can fast on water or fruit juice. You can also take one fruit, such as watermelon, and just eat that for one day. Watermelon will flush the kidneys and remove toxins.
I have always enjoyed how much more flexibility I had and how much easier the Hatha Yoga Asanas were for me when I have been on a fast.
Remember, the Yoga Asanas work scientifically to remove toxins by compression, extension, and inversion.
9 > Reduce Excess Weight
Obviously, if you put excess weight on a sore joint, it will feel worse, and if you reduce the weight on a painful joint, it should feel better. In fact, this is so obvious that you might wonder why it was not listed first.
Or you might be saying to me right now, “I wish it was that easy. Of all the advice you have just given this would probably be the most difficult for me to do. I have been trying to get my weight down for several years now with no success. Now that I have a bad knee and can’t even walk, much less run, how am I going to lose weight?’
Here is the good news:
If you do everything else that is listed above, you don’t have to worry about how to lose weight, your weight will normalize naturally.
10 > Keep Connected to This Website
You can use this site as a resource to help you to heal yourself.
Many of the points that you will be working with to heal your knee will be further explained in other articles. Even the healing of a condition that you are not dealing with can be beneficial because there are principles that apply to all healing.
In the stories of others who have healed themselves you will find inspiration and guidance for your own healing.
Then, hopefully, one day you will share the story of your own healing to help others to heal themselves.
Please feel free to ask questions and make comments below, which will require you to sign in with your name and email address in order to prevent spam comments. Your email will not be posted on this blog nor will it ever be sold or otherwise distributed without your permission. I dislike spam as much as you do…Norm