Stop Hyperextending Your Knees


Stop Hyperextending Your KneesJust stop. Please. Hyperextending your knees is doing all sort of bad things to your body.  I teach people to walk because of the way I hyperextended my knees. Born with very loose joints, no one ever told me not to hyper-extend them—especially my knees—even when I started taking yoga classes. Sadly, the hyperextension of my knees allowed me to go deeply into many poses that were not available to others.

Ten years ago my knees were hyperextending ninety percent of my waking hours. Now I would put that number at ten percent and my body is extremely appreciative. After three knee surgeries while presumably walking the path towards a fourth, I finally decided to examine why I was breaking down repeatedly.

Two structural changes went most of the way to alleviating the back pain I had been dealing with. I unlocked my knees and untucked my pelvis. Those two shifts—which are way more radical for a forty-year old body that it might seem—allowed me to learn how to walk correctly. Something that wasn’t available to my turned out, tucked under, and hyperextended gait.

Not everyone is capable of hyperextending the knees but the percentage of people who can and do are staggering, especially while walking. If you know that you hyperextend your knees, stop right now. If you aren’t sure spend the next day or so checking in with the back of the knees. They should be soft and relaxed. While the knees shouldn’t be bent you shouldn’t be bearing any of the body’s weight at the back of the knee.

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Hyper-extension: The Shin Should be at a Right Angle
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13 Comments
    • Hi Jonathan,
      I’ve commented before on this topic, ostensibly as a Bikram apologist (does this ring any bells?), defending this often misunderstood style of yoga that is sometimes accused of encouraging hyperextension of the knee.

      Although I insisted that knee hyperextension in Bikram was by no means endorsed or taught, I’m now at a loss on how to explain why every single fancy facebook Standing Bow pic shows tibias gotesquely aiming backwards.

      True, it isn’t “taught,” per se, but it’s clearly rewarded and admired (with comments like, “Great form!” or “Perfect!”). Teachers don’t seem to take it seriously. A senior Bikram teacher even told me he has hardly ever seen this! And that very few people are capable of hyperextending their knees. Have they all got blinders on?? Why the denial? Why not just help the students?

      Um, side note: I no longer teach Bikram. I support schools of yoga that actually care about alignment.

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