Is Locking My Knee In Forward Bends Causing My Knee Pain?

September 7, 2021

Transcript of: Is locking my knee in forward bends causing my knee pain?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. I’m here to answer your questions on a monthly basis. Just go to to submit your own. We’ll try to get it on video for you. This month’s question comes from Regis and it’s about locking your knees in forward bends.

The Question:

Hi David,
I’ve been practicing Ashtanga yoga for the past five years and recently my right knee has developed some severe pain when flexing into certain positions such as Japanese squat, pigeon, or even cross legs. In most of the poses where we need to stretch the leg, including forward bend and downward dog, I lock the knee. Is that correct? I feel it’s just causing my knee pain to worsen. How can I adjust positions to change this dynamic?
Thanks in advance,

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The Answer:

Alright. There are a number of things here. “Lock the knee”: you know, what does that mean? Are you straightening the knee with all the effort in the world that you can muster up every time it’s straight? If that’s the case, then no. I would say that’s not correct. That doesn’t mean that this is where your knee pain came from. But you certainly seem to feel like that’s exacerbating it. That’s making it worse. So, relax your knees a little bit.

On that note, because of the fact that you say that you lock your knee in all of these positions, Regis, soften a little bit. The way I describe it is: use as much effort as necessary and as little as possible. You’re not trying to use up all your energy. You’re trying to cultivate energy in your practice. So this could be a much bigger conversation for you in the way that you approach your practice, etc.

Should the knee be straight?

So, should the knee be straight? Yes, the knee should be straight. That’s different than locked. To me, when I see a locked knee, one there’s the hyperextended version. People have hyperextended knees, which is anatomical, and the knee goes backwards. People would sometimes refer to that as locked. For me, if you’re putting a lot of effort into keeping that knee straight, that’s also qualitatively locked. So, back off of that. Soften your knees a little bit. It doesn’t mean don’t try to make your knees straight. It just means that you don’t need to use so much energy.

Finding the source of your knee pain

The other thing you can do, because you’re saying you believe it to be connected to severe pain when flexing in certain positions, is try bending your knees instead of locking the knee in forward bend. If you bend your knees when you do all of these other poses where they’re supposed to be straight, does that reduce your pain when you do Japanese squat, pigeon, or crossed legs?

I’ve got loads of articles on knee pain on the website: outside knee pain, inside knee pain, center line knee pain. There are probably a dozen, if not more, articles on knee pain which you should go read. You’re an Ashtangi, so I know how you’re folding your leg. I know how you’re operating in terms of what postures you’re doing. So, keep in mind that most knee problems come from the hips. The hips are too tight relative to your desire to put them in lotus, or put them behind your head, or whatever it is. So, just keep that in mind.

Now that your knee is already painful, let’s say, I’m just going to make up a story. I’m not saying you have this, but let’s say you had a meniscus tear and that’s what is causing pain in your knee. When you straighten your knee, a lot of times you’ll end up with a baker’s cyst because of a meniscus tear. Or you’ll have inflammation or swelling in the joint. And when you straighten your knee you’re putting a different kind of pressure because, you know, the baker’s cyst happens in the back of the knee for instance. So you could be exacerbating a secondary effect of a different injury in your knee. Just keep that in mind.

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Okay? Check out your hips. See what’s going on there. Watch my videos on lotus and lotus prep. Alright? Anybody else, once again if you’ve got a question, I’m here to answer it. Go to