Yoga Poses After Knee Surgery

Hi Everyone!

In this blog post, I am going to go over a handful of yoga poses that you can safely do (or do with modifications) post-knee surgery. This is more specifically aimed towards those who are recovering from ACL Reconstruction surgery, but can also be applied to anyone looking to get back into yoga after recovering from a knee injury or surgery.

Before I begin, I must preface with – please check with your surgeon and/or physical therapist before getting back into yoga post-surgery! They will have a MUCH better idea of where you are at in your recovery process, and can recommend which movements are safe and effective for you. I am not a physical therapist or a doctor – the yoga postures I am posting about are purely recommendations for those who are in a safe and stable place in their recovery (or on a structured path for their recovery). These are postures I have chosen based on my knowledge of the body (as a yoga teacher and personal trainer), and from my own yoga journey post-ACL surgery. Everyone is different, so please go slowly and at your own risk!

With that being said – the ONLY person who knows how your body feels, is YOU. While my surgeon and PT didn’t know much about yoga while I was going through my recovery process, I listened to their advice and ventured slowly, listening to my body and did not force myself into any poses.

If any of the postures are difficult to get into, please pause and check in with yourself to see if maybe you can hold off on entering that pose at this moment in your recovery. OR, maybe you just need a wall or chair, something to help you balance in case you fall out.  If any of the poses cause any pain, please stop immediately and consult with your surgeon and/or physical therapist.

Ok Great! Let’s Begin.

Depending on where you are at in your recovery, some of these poses may be easier than others. And that’s ok! Recovering from an injury is incredibly humbling, and the best way for the body to heal and strengthen is to GO SLOW and love on your body! Check in with yourself before, during, and after each pose, and see how you physically feel. Stop or modify when needed. If you feel comfortable in these poses and are coming along nicely in your recovery, feel free to hold these postures longer, or begin to piece them together for an actual yoga flow.

The poses in this post are obviously not every yoga pose out there, but these are some postures I explored when starting out post-surgery. If you have any questions on other poses not mentioned, leave a comment below!

If it is helpful for you to have someone instruct you, check out the free ACL recovery yoga videos on my Youtube channel here.

If you need more structure, I  created a 2-month Yoga for Knee Surgery Recovery course that progresses you starting at 3+ months post-surgery. This is for anyone who is committed & looking to improve their ROM, strength, and flexibility.

Seated/On the Ground Postures

Upward Facing Dog

This pose can take a little longer to get back to, as it puts pressure on the knee and can feel a little weird while your body is still recovering. I recommend only doing this posture if you are at least 3-4 months post-knee surgery.

In the meantime, you can stick with low cobra for a heart-opening & back-strengthening alternative.

low cobra

Benefits: Opens up the front body, upper back, and shoulders. Engages the glutes & quads.

Modification: Low Cobra

locust pose

Benefits: Strengthens the upper and lower back, improves shoulder flexibility, engages the glutes and quads

Locust Pose

This can be easily done around 2+ months post-op. If laying on your stomach/knee bothers you, place a blanket or something soft under your knee.

Seated Forward Fold

This is a gentle stretch that can be done 2+ months post-op. Start with bent knees, and allow yourself to fold over the legs without force. By keeping your knees bent, you are releasing any tension in the back, which helps you stretch deep in the belly of the hamstring muscles.

seated forward fold

Benefits: opens up the hamstrings and calves, releases tension in the lower back

Janu Sirsasana with block
Janu Sirsasana

Benefits: Opens up the hip joint, hamstrings, and lower back

Janu Sirsasana

This pose can be done in a few ways 2-3 months post-op. Remember it’s ok to bend the knee in this stretch, as this allows for a safer and deeper stretch in the hamstrings.
1. Full expression is one bent knee, folding over the other leg
2. If there is pain or limited ROM, place a block/pillow/blanket under the knee
3. For a lower back stretch, walk your hands to the outside of the straight leg

Seated Twist

This posture can be done safely 2.5-4 months post-op, depending on where your ROM is. Go slowly, and don’t force. Keep your spine straight, and breathe deeply.

seated twise

Benefits: Opens up the spine, shoulders, and side body. This helps to free up any tightness in the muscles attached to the hip, which can restrict movement down to your knees.

reclined knee to chest

Benefits: stretches the lower back, stabilizes and stretches the pelvis, improves digestion (and helps release stuck air! haha)

Reclined Knee to Chest

Try this posture 2+ months post-op. Depending on your ROM, this may be easier or more difficult. Be patient – the goal here isn’t to force. This posture has benefits other than bending the knee 🙂

Downward Facing Dog

This pose is a little bit trickier, as it requires a little more upper body strength and flexibility. If you feel comfortable supporting yourself, go ahead and try this around 2.5+ months post-op. Keep the knees bent and play around with gently straightening out the leg. As you ROM and strength in your leg improves, this pose will get easier.

downward facing dog

Modification: Place hands on an elevated surface, like a couch or chair, and come into a down dog shape

Benefits: Opens up the entire fascial tissue from your heels all the way up to the back of your neck and head, stretches the calves & hamstrings, opens up the shoulders and back

Standing Postures

chair pose

Benefits: Strengthens legs and core, opens up and strengthens shoulders

Chair Pose

This is a pose you can do earlier on around 2 months post-op, as it doesn’t require a lot of strength. However, if you struggle with balance, make sure to have a wall or chair nearby to help out. As you get stronger, you can try lifting your heels and balancing on your toes.

Crescent Lunge

Depending on where you are at post-surgery, I recommend holding off on crescent lunge, as it requires more balance + leg & core strength. If you feel confident, give this a try around 2-2.5 months post-op. If you struggle with balance, have something nearby to hold onto for support. If you need a little more time, wait 3+ months post-op.

crescent lunge

Benefits: Strengthens the legs, improves ROM in the knee, stretches the hip flexors, Strengthens and opens the shoulders

tree pose

Modifications: Keep toes on ground or at ankle

Benefits: Strengthens core, legs, and improves balance

Tree Pose

Tree pose can be done a few different ways at different times in your recovery. Start off modified, with your foot still on the ground or at your ankle, with something nearby to hold onto. I recommend starting out at 2 months post-op, then work your way up to a full expression once you have more ROM in your knee and improved hip mobility. Don’t ever place your foot on the inside of your knee – only above or below.

Pyramid Pose

Pyramid pose can be done with modifications 2.5+ months post-op. Make sure you have blocks or something to support you on both sides of your leg, and keep your knee bent. Don’t fully straighten the leg in this posture so early on in your recovery, as it will put too much pressure on the knee joint. Wait until 4+ months post-op to really work on straightening the leg.

If doing the other way around with your “good” leg, make sure to keep the recovering knee bent, with more of the weight shifted to the front foot.

pyramid pose

Modifications: bend knee, use blocks

Benefits: stretches hamstrings and lower back

warrior 2

Benefits: strengthens the inner thigh, quads, glutes, and core

Warrior 2

This is a trickier pose, as it puts pressure on the knee and puts your new ACL to the test. Because of this, I recommend waiting 3.5-4+ months post-op + have decent strength in your quads.

If you are doing this posture with your “good” leg forward, wait until 3+ months post-op, making sure to keep a slight bend in the back leg + put a little more weight in the front foot.

Side Angle

Side angle is another tricky pose, as it puts pressure on the knee and also tests out your new ACL. I recommend holding off on this posture until 3.5-4+ months post-op, as this posture requires more leg + core strength. If you are lacking in the strength, you can put too much pressure on the knee or fall out of the posture, putting yourself at risk for reinjuring yourself.

If you are doing this posture with your “good” leg forward, wait until 3+ months post-op, making sure to keep a slight bend in the back leg + put a little more weight in the front foot.

side angle

Benefits: Strengthens the core, legs, and opens up the side body & pelvis

triangle

Modification: bent leg + block

Benefits: Stretches & opens up the side body and hip, strengthens the legs and core

Triangle

Triangle pose is a bit more difficult, as it can put a lot of pressure on the knee. Even when bending the leg, you can end up dumping a lot of weight into the knee, especially if you don’t have the upper body & core strength. I recommend waiting until 4+ months post-op to really get back into this pose, and always have a slight bend in the knee w/ a block or something underneath the hand to give you support. NEVER lock your knee out in this pose!

If you are doing this posture with your “good” leg forward, wait until 3+ months post-op, making sure to keep a slight bend in the back leg + shift a little more weight into the front foot.

And that’s it! I hope this was helpful to anyone going through an ACL surgery, or recovering from any knee injury! It’s so important to check in with your body when embarking on any new exercise routine, so go slow, be kind to yourself, and don’t push yourself to do anything that your body may not be ready for.

ACL Guides

If you enjoyed reading about these yoga postures and are ready to get back into yoga after knee surgery, head over to ACLYoga.com and sign up for my 2-month Yoga for ACL Surgery Recovery course.

You’ll also receive a free copy of The Complete ACL Surgery Recovery Guide, which has a complete timeline of my own recovery, every single physical therapy exercises I did week by week through month 6, how I decided what graft to get, and more!

This course can be done at any time 3-months post-op and out, and includes weekly yoga videos that progresses you along in your recovery (in addition to your physical therapy!). The course will help strengthen the body, improve range of motion, balance, and flexibility, and build overall confidence as you recover.

ACL Post-Surgery: 2 Years

It has been 2 years since my surgery – 2 YEARS! Time has certainty flown by, and my life has changed dramatically since the day I was wheeled out of surgery (in a good way!). Recovery has pushed me down a path of becoming a certified yoga teacher, maintaining a healthier, stronger body, even better body awareness, and giving me confidence to go after things I feared the most. When you have to learn to rely on others, re-learn how to walk, develop extreme gratitude for having working legs, and practice PATIENCE – it is inevitable that you will change. You have a choice on looking at things from a positive or negative light, and each will have a dramatically different outcome on your life 🙂

While I don’t feel like my left knee is 100% back to normal – I still think there is a little scar tissue where part of my hamstring was removed (I am currently having work done on this to break up the scar tissue), plus along my scar – it is definitely now the more stable and stronger knee compared to my right knee. I’ve had my gait analyzed while running, and both feet under-pronate, and my right foot tends to turn out to the right a little bit (due to a weak hip/glutes).

Now that I’ve been training for a half marathon, increasing my miles from 4 miles/week to 17+ miles/week, my knees have NOT been happy. So new shoes, KT Tape, icing, foam rolling, and cross-training have all been regulars in my life as of late! I know it’s due to lack of cross training & weak muscles, so I’ve been incorporating a few exercises on top of running & yoga to strengthen my hips, hamstrings & quad muscles. Runners knee is no joke – it knocked me out of my last half marathon – so I want to make sure I am taking all of the necessary precautions so it doesn’t happen again!

DCIM100GOPROG0261081.

Golden Gate Bridge Run!

Unfortunately, I was blind-sided by Peroneal Tendonitis, which I have been rehabilitating the last few weeks. Nothing to do with my knee (that I know of), and grateful that it’s not my ACL 🙂

As far as flexibility goes – the more I run, the more relaxed my knee feels. Some days it feels more swollen, but these days it seem to be less! Not sure if its the running or hot yoga, or combination of both… but I’ll take it!

Overall, my knee has healed up very well. One of my biggest concerns was re-tearing my ACL – I was extremely cautious the entire first year, and as time passed & I began doing more activities with side-to-side movements again (like tennis), my confidence built up, and my knee became more and more stable.

So for those who have recently gone through surgery, or are currently in recovery – there is light at the end of the tunnel! You know your body, so be patient, and listen to it! It knows how to heal – all you have to do is help strengthen it – the first few months are ridiculously important to the final outcome of recovery. So do the initial work in PT, and you will be so happy you did, 1-2 years later!

For all those Post-ACL surgery veterans out there – runners, non-runners, yogis – how do YOU feel 2+ years out after having knee reconstruction?

And for those still in recovery – what is your biggest struggle? And what are the biggest things that have changed in your life since you’ve had surgery?

This e-book was created as a guide to help everyone – Adults, Kids, Athletes, and Non-Athletes – recovering from ACL surgery. After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of what to expect, surgery options, costs & insurance, and a detailed timeline for recovery.

Improve your range of motion, increase your strength, and feel more confident post-surgery with a 2 month yoga progression plan.

ACL Post-Surgery: 1.5 Years

It has been 1.5 years since my knee surgery last February, and I wanted to give an update on how my knee is feeling!

Running:
I have taken a mini hiatus from running due to picking up teaching yoga, working 50-70 hours/week at my full time job, as well as trying to fit in my own personal yoga practice… so when I do run now, it is 1-2 times a week, running 3-6 miles at a time. Also – because of the runners knee I developed earlier this year, I decided to take it easy on running to give my knee a rest after running the quarter marathon back in May.

I’ve started going to a different chiropractor, who has been doing some soft tissue work on my scar tissue, which I think has been helping. It’s painful, but great. I feel a little instability/clicking behind my knee, but I am thinking it is just scar tissue. I also still have issues with my IT band from time to time, but I need to be more conscious of rolling on my foam roller after I go for a run. Oh – and I’ve also been using a lacrosse ball to work out knots – in my hips, my back, shoulders, ankles, chest, calves, etc. It HURTS… but the tightness and knots are making things worse, so getting in there and working them out end up helping in the long run.

I had a full-on evaluation of my gait (while running) the other day, and this is what they found:

my hips are tight (way tighter than I realized)
I am kicking my legs back too much (bending my knees) and not engaging my glutes when I run. Like, at all. This means I overcompensate and use my quad/hamstring muscles, which tire out.
**The woman evaluating me looked at my butt, then told me that with the amount of running I do, my butt should be way bigger. I literally laughed out loud, because I thought my butt had gotten bigger… I used to have such a pancake butt, its kind of what I was known for. Hey, baby steps.
Because of the above, it is causing stress on my IT band, which it why it tightens up so badly after my runs increase past 5 miles
My right hip is way outa line. I can’t even do a pistol squat properly on that leg.
My right hip is out because my knee is out of line (on my good knee! dangit.). So, looking at my legs, my right knee splays in, while my left knee (new ACL knee) is in one straight line up and down from my ankle up to my quad.

What does this mean? Retraining the alignment of my knee, strengthening my hips, improving my hip flexibility and learning to use my butt when I run! So physical therapy every. day.

Because of all of this, I’m an going to focus solely on fixing these small details before really getting back into running. I’d rather give my body a break and start from the bottom so I am not continuing to get burnt out from running so much, as well as getting these recurring injuries.

Yoga:
Continuing to do yoga, because 1) I like it and 2) it is low impact on my knee. Between teaching and taking heated classes, my knee flexibility has improved immensely. I can do full on lotus (see below!), which is part in due to hip flexibility improving… And there are days where my knee does feel stiff and swollen, but it only happens maybe 1-2 times a month. I’ll ice to help, or even stretch to loosen up the muscles a bit.

Lotus pose in handstand

Lotus pose in handstand

Overall, I am still seeing changes in how my knee feels, even 1.5 years post op. Taking off running & incorporating cross training has helped my runners knee (more time at the gym + tennis), so it is not an issue for me anymore. When I do cross training, I don’t even think about the cutting and moving around – before, I used to be so conscious and babying my knee because I was scared of re-tearing the ACL. So even playing tennis is a lot easier, and I can move freely without having to think about my knee.

I will say, the biggest issues are just the IT band, which I can fix just by strengthening my hip and glute muscles…. and the numbness on the outside of my shin. It still doesn’t feel right, like I never regained full feeling back where the nerve was hit. I can feel that part of my leg, it’s just a weird tingly feeling when I press on that small area. I feel like I am still getting feeling back, but I think it is just taking foreverrrr.

I think that’s all I have to report! For those who have gone through an ACL surgery – how are you feeling 1.5 years post-op? 2 years? 3 years? I would love to hear how you are doing!

Nina Elise Yoga

1.5 years post-op ACL surgery in left knee

This e-book was created as a guide to help everyone – Adults, Kids, Athletes, and Non-Athletes – recovering from ACL surgery. After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of what to expect, surgery options, costs & insurance, and a detailed timeline for recovery.

Improve your range of motion, increase your strength, and feel more confident post-surgery with a 2 month yoga progression plan.

ACL Surgery Post-Op – 1 year: Runners Knee follow up

In my last 1-year post-op follow up, I mentioned I was having knee pain. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or Runners Knee. This normally happens when there is an imbalance or weakness in your leg muscles, which can cause inflammation under your kneecap/causing your kneecap to track. After going to physical therapy, I found out my left hamstring (the one that was used for my new ACL) lost a lot of strength since last year, my inner thigh muscle was weak and my hip strength varied on both sides. Also… my right leg is about 1 cm shorter than my left leg, which I was given an insert for my running shoes. So for the past month, I have been taking things slow, building up strength using weights, weight machines and doing a lot of balancing exercises. In between, I have been trying to build up my mileage – adding about a half a mile each time i run every few days. I started out not even being about to run .25 mile without having pain… now I am up to 5 miles, no pain! I’ve been using KT tape for my knee, which has been helping a lot as well. I tried a few ways, but this video was the most helpful – I have no knee pain when using this method.

Below are a few exercises given to me by my physical therapist, as well as a few others given to me by a local personal trainer:

  • stability work for VMO knee strengthening
  • 30 second balances on a bosu ball, each leg 2x
  • Leg extension machine, with feet turned slightly outward – squeeze quad at top of extension for 1 second – you should feel this on the inner thigh – 3 sets 6-8x
  • Hip aBductor machine – 4 sets 6-8x
  • Leg press machine – put a band around legs to make sure knees are not buckling in – 2 sets 15
  • Leg press machine – one leg, making sure knee is not bucking in – both legs – 2 sets 15
  • Standing hip strengthening exercises with bands
  • Single leg deadlifts (with or without weights) – both legs – 2 sets 10
  • Donkey Kicks, both legs – 4 sets 10
  • Step-Ups with a 10 lb weight – go slow, making sure knee is in line with toes – both legs – 2 sets 10
  • Lots. of. Stretching.
  • Icing after every run
  • Using a rumble roller or lacross ball to work out any knots after every run

Unfortunately, I had to bump my half marathon I was signed up to run in May down to a quarter marathon since I haven’t been able to train like i need to. I’ve run both distances for this race before, so I am going to try and PR the quarter distance this time around 🙂

I have been going stir-crazy not being able to run as much as I would like, so lots of  yoga and workout classes are keeping me busy. Has anyone else had issues with runners knee? If so, what have you done to recover?

 

This e-book was created as a guide to help everyone – Adults, Kids, Athletes, and Non-Athletes – recovering from ACL surgery. After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of what to expect, surgery options, costs & insurance, and a detailed timeline for recovery.

Improve your range of motion, increase your strength, and feel more confident post-surgery with a 2 month yoga progression plan.

ACL Post-Surgery 1 year!

1 YEAR!! 1 YEAR!! Today marks exactly one year since my knee surgery! Below is a summary of what’s been going on, the good, the bad, and concerns I have going forward

1 Year Post-Op Summary

  • Running about 2-3x a week on the treadmill – 2-7 miles each time **My knee cap/patellar tendon has been hurting to the point where I can’t run, so taking a hiatus from running until it starts to feel better – any tips from runners? I’ve tried icing, heat… nothing is helping!
  • Circuit/tabata workouts 1-2 times a week – with HIIT – sprints on the treadmill, ab work, etc
  • heated workout classes 1x a week
  • Yoga 1-3 times a week – mainly practicing at home
  • Still experiencing issues with my IT band, where it connects on the side of the knee. I feel a little bit of instability and there is clicking still happening behind the knee. I know my ACL is ok, so I am wondering if where my meniscus was shaved down actually caused more issues. I am using a foam roller to try and work out the band, so fingers crossed I find relief.
  • I read an article about the mentality of athletes coming back after knee surgery – and a lot of people never really fully go back. I know I still baby my knee and worry about stability, but it’s mostly due to my meniscus. Does anyone else still have doubts or fears post-op of going back 100% to a sport? I am not a professional athlete by any means, but I am nervous I will always be afraid to be fully active again like I was in high school. I really only feel fully comfortable if wearing a brace or taped up with KT tape.
  • There has been some cracking/popping inside my knee lately, and I am wondering if it is scar tissue breaking up. It’s not super painful – uncomfortable more than anything. Has anyone experienced this?
  • Tweaked my wrist doing yoga back in December, and it got to the point where it hurt to bend my wrist and put weight on it. Heat didn’t work, oils didn’t work… then I iced and put some Lavender oil on it – the next day, it was fine! I got X-Rays just to make sure nothing was wrong, and everything checked out ok 🙂
  • Stretching 20-30 minutes after every workout – more specifically, my quads & hips. I never realized how tight I was! My end goal is to be able to sit in hero pose – see below – without any issues. I still feel some swelling when trying to sit back, but after a lot of stretching, I am able to sit a little more comfortably. Has anyone ever experienced issues with this 1 year post op?

Virasana

  • With all of the stretching of my hips, I was able to get into pigeon pose and have my toes touch my head! this was after 1 month of stretching with a strap everyday 🙂

pigeon pose

  • I am almost finished with my Rolfing sessions! Here are the improvements  I have noticed so far:
    • breathing – running not as difficult, cardio greatly improved
    • feel more balanced – when i walk, when I stand
    • IT band issues – no problems on the right hip after running now
    • Tightness on right side of body – all up and down back/shoulder/leg – only experiencing a little bit of tightness in the upper part of my body now, which I know is from the way I sit at work.

I am signed up to run a half marathon this year with my awesome coworker, and I begin training next month for it! I’ve  signed up for Yoga Teacher Training in Belize in May and am incredibly excited for this!  I am also flying out to Florida for a weekend workshop in March & to visit family. And to top off all this traveling/training I’ve been doing, I decided to buy a guitar and learn how to play… and I LOVE it! I have so much free time that all I want to do is be active and learning new things. I’ve never loved learning growing up, and now I can’t get enough of it 🙂 I guess this is what happens when you don’t own a T.V. – more time and less distractions (minus the sex & the city marathons I’ve been having every once in a while on my phone ;)) Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could all stay in our 20’s forever??

This e-book was created as a guide to help everyone – Adults, Kids, Athletes, and Non-Athletes – recovering from ACL surgery. After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of what to expect, surgery options, costs & insurance, and a detailed timeline for recovery.

Improve your range of motion, increase your strength, and feel more confident post-surgery with a 2 month yoga progression plan.

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