Of Hyperextended Knees

I remember it was the first session of the weekend YTT training. Master Paalu asked everyone to straighten their knees and elbows. To my dismay, it was confirmed (I was certain about my knees, but not so sure on my elbows) I have BOTH hyperextended knees and elbows. I shall talk a little bit more about knee hyperextension as I encountered more pain/issues with my knees as compared to my elbows. After all, on a daily basis, one would be on their feet more than on their hands. 

What causes hyperextended knees:

  • Joints, tendons and ligaments prevent our body from performing extensive motion. Should one or more of them become loose, joints can move in ways more than their intended range of motion 
  • Excess stress on one or more of the major ligaments through repetitive motions e.g. athletes such as football or basketball players  
  • Unexpected impact such as an accident

The 4 major ligaments in knees:

  • medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
  • anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)

When I was younger and wasn’t aware of the hyperextension in my knees yet, I developed bad habits/postures while standing. When people say, “stand straight” or “straighten your legs”, I would always lock in my knee caps instead of lifting them up by engaging my thigh muscles which caused my tibia to move backwards instead of it being straight. Hence from time to time, especially after I exercised, I would experience sharp pain at the back of my knee or just right below the knee cap. Depending on the intensity of my workout and my laziness/unawareness of my bad postures, the pain could disappear from just a night’s sleep or even goes up to a week of rest before going away. 

Ever since it was brought to my attention of how my bad habit of locking my knee caps was the cause of the pain in my knees, I have been very mindful of not dumping weight onto my knees even in my daily life e.g. while standing in train or queuing up. I’m happy to say that now it’s part of my body’s nature to slightly bend the knees whenever I’m supposed to be standing straight

Another exercise which I found useful to practice and strengthen the thigh muscles is this:

  1. Sit in Dandasana 
  2. Think of contracting your quads (for people with hyperextended knees it’s common to have your heels lift off the floor) 
  3. Ground your heels down should they be lifted off the floor, continue contracting quads muscles
  4. Release and repeat 

I find this practice helpful in letting me know which muscles am I supposed to contract, how am I supposed to feel in poses which require quads strength as it really isolates the group of muscles in this simple exercise. One is definitely able to feel and even see the difference between grounding the heels versus purposefully grounding them down as well. 

Bottom line, one should always be mindful of the way we move our bodies in our daily Life. Mindfulness should be practiced both on and off the mat. It can help us to build awareness of ourselves, as well as to come up with ways to rectify habits. I can’t control the fact that I was probably born with hyperextended knees and elbows, but I can definitely be more equipped with knowledge and steps to take in order to not further aggravate them. 

Love & Light, Kaiwen April Weekend YTT Batch