Yoga Poses After Knee Surgery

Yoga for Knee Surgery Recovery

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.

Post-ACL Surgery Yoga Flow

It’s been about 2.5 years since my ACL Surgery… Since then, I’ve fully recovered, trained to become a yoga teacher, and have been instructing for the past 1.5 years. During this time, I have learned a LOT about the anatomy of the body (actually, just the body in general!), and I’ve been getting more technical when creating my classes/YouTube videos.

There was a request from a few of my readers to put together a post-ACL surgery yoga sequence, and I was finally able to record something after returning from my recent travels. Check out the video below and let me know what you think! I can create more based on each person’s timeline recovery & what needs to be strengthened. I hope this helps!! <3
**UPDATE: Check out my Yoga For ACL Recovery Course here – it includes a 2-month progression plan, with 1-2 new classes to follow along with every week. Learn more and purchase the course at ACLYoga.com!

 

 

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 5 1/2 Months

5 1/2 Months Post-Op Summary

  • I ran my first 5k!! I have really been struggling with cardio, but I had no issues running a 5k at less than a 8:30/minute pace the other night… and my knee did not swell or bother me that night or the next day. Words cannot express how happy I am to have run that far – barely making it to 1 mile since my surgery was really starting to stress me out, thinking I wouldn’t be prepared for my next race – a 4 miler!
  • A few days later I ran another 3 miles, but my legs felt like BRICKS. However, my cardio felt great! Just an off day 🙂
  • Doing more strength work/ 1-legged jumping in PT
  • Icing and/or applying oils to my knee at least 1x a day
  • My PT said that when I get back, I might not need to go to PT every week. 6 months is usually the time when ACL patients get released from PT! I said I would go a few times and play it by ear, as I haven’t done as much pivoting/cutting work as I would like. I want to go more as a mental workout, so I can gain more confidence getting back into sports like basketball, tennis, kickboxing, etc.
  • Scars are beginning to lighten up!

PT Exercises/Workouts (new exercises bolded)

  • Elliptical at the beginning of my workouts to warm up, 5 minutes
  • Run 1 mile on treadmill for – 6.7-8 speed
  • Jumping onto a box, then stepping off box onto one foot and balancing – 6 times, 2-3 rounds (this helps the PT to see if my knee is caving inward versus staying strong and over my ankle)
  • Box jumps – jump up onto middle of box, then jump into a squat, immediately jumping up again and landing on one leg (balancing for a few seconds) 6x, 2-3 sets
  • A LOT of One-legged ladder work like this and this and this. The most tiring one was: jump forward 2 squares, then jump back 1 square (one-legged). Go up and down ladder once. Complete 2x
  • TRX band – squat jumps – 10, 3 sets
  • TRX band – one-legged squat jumps, alternating between hopping on right and left leg – 10, 3 sets
  • TRX band – one-legged squat jumps on left leg only – 8, 2 sets
  • 4 markers set up on the ground: Run fast up to second marker –> squat down and shuffle as fast as I can to the next marker –> run backwards as fast as I can to the next marker –> shuffle back to the first marker as fast as i can. Repeat 3 times
  • 4 markers set up on ground – stand in middle – PT calls out color of marker, and I run either forward or backwards to the marker, then back to middle – about 1 minute each time, 3 times
  • Foot work on aerobics stepper – toe taps with feet close to each other, then toe taps with feet wider. 40 times, 2X
  • One-legged jump over line, forward and back, 40 times – 2x
  • One-legged jump over line, side to side, 40 times – 2x
  • Stretching after every workout
  • Yoga – everyday for at least 5 minutes
  • Running on treadmill or outside for 10-25 minutes 2-3x a week

Ladder

Ladder Drills

Next Week will be a week off from blogging about my ACL, since I will be in Costa Rica! Next time you will hear from me will be a 6 month update 🙂 Have a great week everyone!

 

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 21 Weeks

5 Months + 1 week Post-Op Summary

  • I started cutting exercises in PT!
  • I jumped on a (mini) trampoline! The reason I am so excited is because this is where my knee buckled under me – and since I am missing part of my meniscus, I feel like my stability isn’t very good, and I am afraid of the same thing happening to me again (and the PAIN!). I need to mentally get over this fear and trust that my body is strong and healed and can support me 🙂
  • My kneecap pops out, like there is a tight muscle over the top of my knee that needs to be stretched. However, I have been stretching out my quad more, and the issue is pretty much gone
  • Icing and/or applying oils to my knee at least 1x a day
  • Running and Yoga are my main work outs!
  • Lots of squats in PT! I notice a little dull pain under my knee cap, but I attribute that to my leg just not  used to all of the new exercises. Continuing to build up quad strength will help!

PT Exercises/Workouts (new exercises bolded)

  • Elliptical at the beginning of my workouts to warm up, 5 minutes
  • Run on treadmill for 10-20 minutes – 6-7.5 speed
  • Jumping exercises to warm-up – jump side to side, front to back, diagonally across a line
  • Long jump-squat and hold – down and back across gym, 2x
  • Stepping off a box onto one foot and balancing – 10 times, 2-3 rounds (this helps the PT to see if my knee is caving inward versus staying strong and over my ankle)
  • box jumps – big jump up onto middle of box, then jump into a squat and hold for a few seconds. 5x, 2-3 sets
  • TRX band – squat jumps – 15, 1-2 sets
  • TRX band – one-legged squat jumps, alternating betwen hopping on right and left leg – 10, 2-3 sets
  • TRX band – one-legged squat jumps on left leg only – 5, 2-3 sets
  • 4 markers set up on the ground: Run fast up to second marker –> squat down and shuffle as fast as I can to the next marker –> run backwards as fast as I can to the next marker –> shuffle back to the first marker as fast as i can. Repeat 4-8 times
  • 4 markers set up on ground – stand in middle – PT calls out color of marker, and I run either forward or backwards to the marker, then back to middle – about 1 minute each time, 2-3 times
  • Foot work on aerobics stepper – toe taps with feet close to each other, then toe taps with feet wider. 40 seconds, 2X
  • Cutting work: “Suicides” across court – run to spot, then stop with left leg and push off with post surgery leg. Run back, repeat to a farther point. Run back, then run to other side of court. repeat 3-4x
  • Cutting work: Cones are set up in zig-zag cadence. Run to first cone, and land on one leg, like I am stopping myself. Push off leg and run to next cone and repeat until making it through all of the cones. Repeat same motions back to my starting point across the cones. Repeat 3-4 times
  • Cutting work: 5-6 different colored markers are set up on the court, randomly placed. I run around the markers and my PT calls out a color. I immediately change directions and go to the colored marker, stopping myself with one leg. Then I continue running until my PT calls out another color. Rest and repeat however many times your PT feels like torturing you 🙂
  • Stretching after every workout
  • Yoga – everyday for at least 5 minutes
  • Running on treadmill or outside for 10-25 minutes 2-4x a week

cut

Example of Cutting

cut2

Example of cutting – foot planted to side in ground and putting all weight into that planted foot, then pushing off foot

I leave for Costa Rica in 1 week! I will be doing Yoga, learning Spanish and possibly surfing! Has anyone surfed post-acl surgery? If so, how long did you wait to get back to the sport? My surgeon said it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to surf, but I am just playing it by ear. I am up for any adventure that comes my way 🙂

Also –  I have honestly really been struggling with running – not that my legs are not strong enough or I get tired – I just can’t breathe! I struggle with getting to a mile! And sometimes, ladies, I don’t know if any of you have experienced this, but I get cramps – like a combination of lady cramps + food poisoning is hitting my intestines – about 5-10 minutes into running. (and its not even that time of the month :() On Monday I had to stop it was so bad. When this happens, I usually lay on the ground for about 5-10 minutes till the cramps go away. I read somewhere that this isn’t uncommon – some say it is related to endometriosis, others blame it on a tilted uterus and some on ibs. I used to only get it maybe once a month before my surgery when running, but now its pretty much every time I run now. It is hard to build up endurance and train when I can’t even move from pain! Has anyone every experienced this?? I would be interested to hear if anyone has had success with finding out the root issue that causes this!

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 5 months

5 months! 5 months! I never really had any expectations as to where I would be right now, but I guess I would say my recovery is coming along pretty great! Less pain in the knee, more agility moves in PT and more running. I am so grateful to be where I am at in my recovery, so any progress is good news 🙂 Summary is below!

5 Months Post-Op Summary

  • I am running 1-2 miles 2-4 times a week on the treadmill and outside. I tried to run 2 miles straight the other day (when i was sick), and I had to stop and walk at 1.5 miles for 1-2 minutes. My stomach had cramped up so bad and I couldn’t breathe. I keep telling myself baby steps!
  • There is some clicking/cracking on the left side of my knee, but I don’t notice it as much any more. Also, my kneecap pops out, like there is a tight muscle over the top of my knee that needs to be stretched. Doesn’t hurt, just a little uncomfortable
  • Icing and/or applying oils to my knee at least 1x a day
  • Lots of handstands! Working on my straddle press right now – and signed up for a handstand class with patrick beach in august (he is coming to Thank Yoga in Columbus!!!)

PT Exercises/Workouts (new exercises bolded)

  • Elliptical at the beginning of my workouts to warm up, 5 minutes
  • Run on treadmill for 10-20 minutes – 6-7.5 speed
  • Jump over small object and land in a small squat – repeat down the line 4 x
  • Long jump-squat and hold – down and back across gym, 2x
  • Small jumps up facing wall, trying to touch farther up wall – 10x, then jumping from a smaller squat 10x, then jumping from a deeper squat 10x – complete 2x
  • Stepping off a box onto one foot and balancing – 10 times, 2-3 rounds (this helps the PT to see if my knee is caving inward versus staying strong and over my knee)
  • box jumps – big jump up onto middle of box, then jump into a squat and hold for a few seconds. 5x, 2-3 sets
  • TRX band – squat jumps – 10, 2-3 sets
  • TRX band – one-legged squat jumps – 10, 2-3 sets
  • Stretching after every workout
  • Yoga(1-2x a week, if I can find time)
  • Running on treadmill or outside for 10-25 minutes 2-4x a week

Box Jumps ACL

Box Jumps

one legged trx squat jumps

One-Legged TRX Squat – with a jump!

TRX-Jump-Squat

Jump-Squats with a TRX band

Sweaty Sloth

This is how I look after my PT sessions – soaked in sweat! I look like a Sweaty Sloth.

Does anyone else feel like time has sped up this summer? Or that the weeks are just flying by? I can’t believe it has been 5 months since my surgery… and its almost July! I wish it were warm year-round in Ohio. Fortunately, I will be making my way down to Costa Rica in 2.5 weeks + I am planning a vacation with my cousins in FL later this year (HELLO HARRY POTTER WORLD). Even with surgery this year, I would say this year has been pretty awesome. Lots of learning, growth and traveling. I guess getting older isn’t so bad 🙂

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: Weeks 18 & 19

18 Weeks Post-Op Summary

  • I can run 1-2 miles every other day or so… on the treadmill, but I can run on smooth pavements (nothing where the terrain changes too much)
  • Left IT band is feeling better! No noticeable problems when running! -Seeing an ART specialist to help with IT band/tight back/structural issues
  • Still feeling soreness on the front/top of my knee/kneecap – I start to notice this after running for 10+ minutes at a time or trying to run faster
  • Saw my surgeon this morning, and he said the above issue was just my strength – I still need to work on my quad strength. Once I have all/most of my strength back, that pain and soreness will go away
  • Surgeon also mentioned that if I wanted to get back more intensely into sports where I would be doing a lot of pivoting/cutting, he recommended I get a brace. Since I am not a serious athlete, I am not sure if that is something I will do… but, he also said no one ever really knows how well the ACL has attached to the bone, so going back to more agility-type sports (not running, as its mainly straight forward running) too soon without support would not be a good idea. I have a follow-up in 2 months. If I feel the need to go more full-blown back into sports, he told me to come back in and get a brace. If not, I would be fine without a brace and most likely be able to go back 100% to sports next spring. Has anyone else had experience with a brace post-ACL surgery?
  • The numb part of my leg – feeling is starting to come back! I didn’t really notice it at first, but it has gotten better!
  • Icing at least 1x a day
  • Signed up for a 4-miler in September, so I need to step up my training a little 🙂
  • Working on improving my handstands – I love doing these, as they are building up my core & shoulder strength

Handstand                                                      Handstand2

PT Exercises/Workouts

  • Elliptical at the beginning of my workouts, 5 minutes
  • Run on treadmill for 10 minutes – starting out at 6 speed, picking up to 6.5 @ 5 minutes and 7-7.5 speed the last 2 minutes
  • Agility ladder work on the floor
  • High knees across gym/ladders – forwards and sideways – 4x
  • Jump over small object and land in a small squat – repeat down the line 4 x
  • Long jump – measuring how far i can jump – set a baseline (76″)
  • Hopping over lines forwards/side to side/diagonally
  • 4 markers set up on the ground: Run fast up to second marker –> squat down and shuffle as fast as I can to the next marker –> run backwards as fast as I can to the next marker –> shuffle back to the first marker as fast as i can. Repeat 4-8 times
  • Foot work on aerobics stepper at 20 second intervals
  • Stretching after every workout
  • Heated Yoga(1-2x a week, if I can find time)
  • Running on treadmill for 10-25 minutes 1-2x a week

Things have been slowing down a little, so I have been taking a little more time for myself. Sleeping in, naps, reading (Blink and now on Spirit Junkie), practicing my handstands with a little help from patrick beach and getting ready for my trip to Costa Rica in July. Has anyone traveled to Costa Rica? Any tips for a week-long trip out of the country? I will be mostly on the beach, learning spanish and doing yoga, but I will most likely trek out into the jungle or go on an excursion somewhere. I AM SO EXCITED! 🙂

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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