Aligning and protecting the knee joints:
Knees are a hinge joint designed to bend and extend. Any other action such as overextending or side to side movement of the joint will hurt the knee. If you want to protect your knees, heal or prevent injury, pay close attention to how you align your knee with the rest of your body, especially the feet, and how you maintain that alignment while you are moving into, out of and holding the asana.
Feet parallel and knees
When you align your feet so that they are parallel, whether hip distance apart or wide apart, the knee caps should always be pointing straight ahead in line with your toes.This is true whenever the legs are straight or bent.
Knees in asymmetrical poses
Often in yoga asanas, one foot will be pointing straight ahead while the back foot is in at a 45 degree angle or parallel to the back of the mat. Warrior pose, Triangle pose, side angle pose, etc. The principle still applies: your knee caps should be in a straight line with your toes. Especially when you bend the knee.
Actions that protect the knee joints
It is important to engage and strengthen the leg muscles so that each muscle is strong enough to create space and freedom in the joint. Most knee misalignments result from not engaging the muscles enough to keep the joint stable.
While we often hear the instruction in a yoga class to "engage, tone and lift the leg muscles," how to engage the muscles is often left out.
If we want to lift the muscle, first, it has to evenly engage in all four sides of the leg and that action be initiates from the foundation, the feet.
Ground the four corners of the feet, bend your knees slightly, knee caps pointing straight ahead, and lift and spread your toes.
When you first attempt these actions, your inner arch will tend to collapse while you try to lift your pinky toe, so be patient. It will take some practice to ground the four corners of the feet ~especially the ball of the big toe~ while lifting the pinky toe, while lifting the inner arches and keeping your knees caps straight all at the same time!!!
Yes, it can be done! It just takes practice.
This actions will help you feel like you are actually engaging the muscles evenly on all four sides of your legs, calves, hamstrings and quads. Feel how the muscle wraps around the bone and lift from the feet all the way up to the pelvis.
You will feel strong and steady - and best of all, this alignment will help protect your knee joints.