Vajrasana - Kneeling Pose
Written by Christian Leeby.
Kneeling is either very easy or completely impossible. If you're basically flexible and don't have any big issues there's nothing to it, you can sit back on your heels anytime. If you're tighter or have even mild knee or ankle problems, kneeling is literally impossible because it hurts too much. Almost always, pain in the knees is a sure sign that something is going wrong, and must be avoided. However, correctly kneeling is one of the best things you can do to fix bad knees and ankles, you just have to know what you're doing.
Vajrasana is the classic kneeling pose in Yoga. The knees, lower legs, and ankles are together and you sit back onto the heels. Learn this pose correctly and practice it daily and you will soon see any problems in the knees and ankles getting better. If kneeling is easy for you then maintain those healthy and happy legs by practicing this pose regularly and you'll be preventing issues from developing.
Here's what you need to know:
First of all, I have one secret to share that exponentially increases the therapy value of kneeling, and that is to place a folded blanket behind the knees. That blanket isn't to assist you in your ability to sit, it is used as a mechanical wedge to bring a little more space into the knee joints. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but try it and trust me, it works.
So have a blanket handy that will go behind the knees, and have a few other blankets as well in case you need extra modifications. If you have ankle or knee problems, you will definitely want a stack of blankets so you can be sure you're safe in this pose.
Start by kneeling on your mat. If you don't pay attention to the actual position of your feet, ankles, knees, and thighs then you very well may be crooked, which won't help anything. That happens because you've built a lifetime of imbalances into the body, and the natural way we sit and move is the result of those imbalances. So use your eyes and look.
See that the knees are together in the center of the mat, then look over your shoulders and make sure that the legs don't go off to one side or another, they should be right in the middle of the mat as well. Then see that one knee is not forward of the other, they should both be the same distance from the front edge of your mat. Now your legs are straight and the joints will have better alignment in the pose.
Before kneeling back, place the edge of one blanket deeply into the crease of the back of the knees. Keeping the legs together, sit back onto the heels. If you're comfortable, that's your pose, now sit up straight.
If you have problems in the ankles you'll know as soon as you sit back onto the heels, because you won't be able to sit up straight, you'll be leaning forward. This is because the ankles are too tight, so take another blanket and roll it, then place that roll right under the ankle bones. Try sitting back again, can you sit up straight? If not, simply make the roll fatter until you can sit comfortably.
If your problem is one or both knees, you never even sat back because you know you can't do it. Here's the solution. Take extra blankets and put them on top of your heel bones. That will prop the hips up, so you don't sit down as far, and the knees don't bend as much. Again, don't by shy about using props. If you can't sit back comfortably then use more. Thinking we should use less, or no props is silly and does not take into account the fact that we've got some stiff joints that need the help. If you use enough blankets you should be able to kneel back comfortably. If, even after stacking a bunch of blankets under the hips you're still not comfortable in the knees, don't do this pose, you're not ready for it yet.
Sit in Vajrasana for 1 or two minutes to start, and over time work up to 5 to 10 minutes. The longer you're there the deeper the effect on the ankles, knees, and hips, so time in the pose is your friend. Play with the props to see how comfortable you can make the pose, then over time gradually reduce them. The ultimate goal would be to only have the one blanket behind the back of the knees.
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