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 10 Months

10 Months Post-Op Summary (11/13/2014)

  • Running about 2x a week on the treadmill
  • Circuit/tabata workouts 1-2 times a week – with HIIT – sprints on the treadmill, ab work, etc
  • heated workout classes
  • Yoga 1-3 times a week. Classes but also practicing at home
  • Trying to gain more flexibility in my knee to sit back – I can sit on my heels, but i can barely sit on my butt between my heels – the Virasana pose in yoga. I feel like after 10 months I would have been able to do this… anyone else still have trouble?

Virasana

  • I have not been running as long – between moving and the colder weather, I haven’t had the time or will to go run on a treadmill for long periods of time. I usually jump on the treadmill for 15-30 minutes, depending on how I feel. I know my cardio has definitely taken a hit, so I am working on building it back up.
  • Last month, I talked about Rolfing. So far, I have gone to 4 appointments and have seen a little bit of improvement:
    • easier to take deeper breaths
    • feel more balanced – when i walk, when I stand
    • legs felt lighter after the second session – not sure exactly what was done, but a lot of work on my lower legs. I feel like they have been really neglected, and now they are not so tight or knotty
    • IT band on left leg – feels stronger, doesn’t bother me except for the occasional meniscus issue

I am going for my fifth session (out of 10) this week, and am so excited. The fifth session works with the deep ab muscles, and is supposed to help with digestion as well. I will most likely be done with my 10 sessions by my next post, so hopefully I will have amazing results to share then 🙂

These past 2 months have been extremely stressful for me – emotionally, physically, mentally – but I somehow feel stronger than ever. I don’t worry so much about things, and my daily meditation practice has made things a lot more easier. I have a lot more time to workout nowadays since my commute to work has literally been cut in half, which has also made life less stressful… although, going through a breakup makes things about 10x harder to do, especially when you just want to lay in bed all day. However, I am thinking of getting my 200 hr yoga teacher training next year, so I know the training will be taking up a lot of my time then!

ALSO: I forgot to mention that I won a giveaway from willrun4pizza‘s blog! I have been wanting to try Nuun electrolyte tabs for a while, so I am so glad I got to try them 🙂 I got the tri-berry active tabs and the all-day grape raspberry. The active tabs had a type of fizzy/biting taste to it, which reminded me of drinking a soda. the all-day tabs had a vitamin-y smell to it, but tasted good! My only negative review would be the fake sugars and a few added ingredients like propylene glycol – are they really necessary??  I always forget to add the active tabs to my water when working out, but I like to add the all-day tab to my water at work. I feel like I drink too much water sometimes, and it really throws off my electrolyte balance. These tabs are awesome for helping with that! Has anyone else tried Nuun electrolyte tabs?

Nuun

ACL Post-Surgery 9 Months

9 Months Post-Op Summary (10/16/2014)

  • Running 2-10 miles a week
  • Circuit/tabata workouts 1-2 times a week – with HIIT – sprints on the treadmill, ab work, etc
  • Workout classes like barre and heated workout classes
  • Yoga 1-3 times a week. Classes but also practicing at home
  • Still a little swelling in my knee, it comes and goes. I can sit back a little more easily on my heels since last month
  • I have been running longer distances, usually 4-6.5 miles. I sometimes have to give myself a few days rest, as my knee (outside left) feels a little off/sore. This is an indicator that I need to strengthen my quad muscles more… meaning more squats!
  • Went to an orange theory HIIT class the other week, and my RIGHT knee started to hurt! I’ve been trying to build up more strength on the right side of my right leg – from my ankle to my hip – as there is some serious instability and weakness going on there. I have had soreness in my right knee/knee cap and all up and down my right leg for a while, and I am wondering what is really happening. I have never had knee pain like this before (in my good knee) – I couldn’t jump up or do a squat! This was after doing 30 minutes of sprint intervals on the treadmill (with an incline), so I am wondering if I just overdid it with my workouts.
  • I went to my first Rolfing session today! It is pricey (about $120-$130/session) and painful, but I have heard that it works wonders for athletes (or anyone in general!). You do a series of 10 sessions to re-align the body. I was evaluated standing up: my hips are tilted, my entire left side of my body is slumped lower than my right, my entire torso is tilted/shifted, and my right leg/knee is over-compensating. For my first session, my neck, lungs, shoulders, arms, hips and lower back were worked on. The only way to describe how it felt is that my skin felt like it was being stretched! I could feel the crystals being broken up under my skin, and it HURT. However, only a few hours after my appointment I feel like I have more space to breathe in my lungs (I have always had trouble taking deep breaths). I was told I might feel tired for the next day or so, and to drink lots of water, as the tissue/fascia is opened up, so more fluid is able to flow through. Below is a description of rolfing – has anyone ever tried? If so, what were your results?
    • Wikepedia describes Rolfing as “…an alternative medical treatment marketed by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI). The Institute states that Rolfing is a “holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organize(s) the whole body in gravity.” Rolfing is essentially identical to Structural Integration, whereby a forceful technique is used in an attempt to re-position tissues under the skin.
    • “Rolfing is typically performed in a progression of 10 sessions, sometimes called “the recipe,” which is claimed to provide a systematic approach to address goals for the theorized alignment and movement of various body areas. The purported purpose is to educate the body to have better alignment within gravity. Rolfers manipulate the body to move the fascia until they believe it is operating in conjunction with the muscles in a more optimal relationship. In addition to physical manipulation of tissue, Rolfing uses a combination of active and passive movement retraining.”
    • “Skeletal muscles often work in opposing pairs called the “agonist” and the “antagonist”, the one contracting while the other relaxes. Rolf theorized that “bound up”fascia (connective tissues) often restrict opposing muscles from functioning in concert. She aimed to separate the fibers of bound up fasciae manually to loosen them and allow effective movement. She claimed to have found an association between pent-up emotions and tension in muscles. This claim of a muscular/emotional connection is not supported by scientific studies.”
    • Benefits of rolfing: “Rolfing Structural Integration has the ability to dramatically alter a person’s posture and structure. Rolfing SI can potentialy resolve discomfort, release tension and alleviate pain. Rolfing SI aims to restore flexibility, revitalize your energy and leave you feeling more comfortable in your body. The genius of the work rests on Dr. Rolf’s insight that the body is more at ease and functions most effectively when its structure is balanced in gravity. Athletes, dancers, children, business professionals, and people from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing SI. People seek Rolfing SI as a way to ease pain and chronic stress, and improve performance in their professional and daily activities.”

I am seriously so.excited. for how I am already feeling after only 1 session! Back tightness, sinus issues, IT band tightness, lower back issues, breathing restriction, knee problems… I am hoping a lot of these issues are resolved after my 10 sessions.

So 9 months – not feeling much difference from 7 or 8 months… maybe a little more confidence, and not thinking about my knee so much. And my knee flexibility – never thought I would be doing a scorpion in handstand like this EVER! The human body’s ability to heal after surgery continues to surprise me everyday.

scorpion

Also – I ran my first race last month – 4 miles! Normally, I would have run at a 7:45/8 minute pace… however, I ran at an 8:40 pace. The course was awesome, but I was not feeling good. About 1.5 miles in I was ready to be done! I feel like I have really grown to dislike running because my pace times are not very good. I have to be patient with myself and realize that it will take time to get back to where I was! Besides, I am enjoying yoga and my heated fitness classes way more than running every day 🙂

ACL Post-Surgery 8 Months

Not much to report – i would say my knee feels about the same as month 7. However, I have been feeling stronger in my workouts, pushing myself to do sprints on the treadmill or run over 6 miles at a time. I am not sure how I expected my knee to feel at 8 months post-op, but it is still not 100% back to normal. It feels pretty great, though! Recap is below

8 Months Post-Op Summary

  • Running 2-6 miles 1-2 times a week
  • Circuit/tabata workouts 1-2 times a week – with HIIT – sprints on the treadmill, ab work, etc
  • Workout classes like barre and heated workout classes
  • Not applying oils to my knee or icing anymore – no pain
  • Yoga 1-3 times a week. Classes but also practice at home + lots of handstand work!
  • Still a little swelling in my knee, it comes and goes.
  • Completed a  whole30 – 30 days of strict paleo – to see if what I was eating was causing any inflammation. I made it to 3 1/2 weeks before I started introducing foods like grains and dairy back into my diet. I honestly didn’t notice a difference, but I was also eating a lot of nuts/fruit to compensate for my lack of chocolate.
  • Still have clicking/catching feeling on the inside/behind my knee. Not sure if it is still scar tissue around my hamstring or what… anyone else experience this? No pain, it just feels like a tendon is tight or catching on something.

Flying-Pigeon

So I ran a race the other weekend – about 2.4 miles. It wasn’t a super serious run, because a lot of beer was consumed. I drank a beer before running lap 1, stopped after lap 1 and drank a second beer, ran lap 2 and drank a third beer, ran my 3rd and final lap and finished up with a 4th beer. I did not throw up and I was the first girl to finish! I even sprinted towards the end! I am running another beer run on Saturday, then on Sunday I run my first “real” race that is actually timed – 4 miles! I am trying to be relaxed about my run – I am still trying to get back to my pre-surgery pace, but its been a struggle. I am also not running as much, which doesn’t help. However, I do have a half marathon in January to train for, so I can save my training miles for that 🙂

ACL Post-Surgery 7 Months

7 Months! This is a huge milestone for anyone who has undergone ACL surgery: No more visits to my surgeon, no more physical therapy & release to sports. That’s right – No more Physical Therapy!! I could have stopped a month ago, but I felt like I needed a few more sessions to feel confident enough to be on my own. My last appointment was bittersweet – I really grew to love working with all of my physical therapists, but they rehabilitated me to a point where they could no longer help. Now I am free! I have been going to boxing, running longer distances, more yoga and tennis. My knee is feeling great – not 100%, but getting better everyday.

I look back and can’t believe it has already been 7 months. I have worked so hard to get back into shape, and have finally gotten to a point where almost all of my strength has come back. I look back at my first post and all the research I did to prepare for this recovery – a lot of expectations, fears, but always positive. The journey to recovery was a learning experience for me, and I do not regret having the surgery at all. Time goes by very quickly, and by staying positive, it makes the road seem not so bumpy.

7 Months Post-Op Summary

  • Running 2-5 miles 1-2 times a week
  • Icing and/or applying oils to my knee at least 1x a day
  • NO MORE PHYSICAL THERAPY!
  • Still a little swelling in my knee, it comes and goes. I am doing a whole30 – 30 days of strict paleo – to see if what I am eating is causing any inflammation. Right now I am on day 18 and do not notice much of a difference.
  • Went to a few boxing classes – no issues! I didn’t do any kicking, but I was very aware/careful of pivoting my knee when punching the bag
  • Did Stand-Up-Paddleboard Yoga this past weekend – I think I have found my new favorite activity!! (I’m the blonde in front)

SUP Yoga

PT Exercises/Workouts

  • Elliptical at the beginning of my workouts to warm up, 4 minutes
  • Run half mile on treadmill @ 7-9.5 speed
  • Bosu ball jumps – like this, but only bouncing on one leg. Then I turn around and do the other side (bosu ball is against the wall). 10-15x each leg, 2-3 sets
  • One-legged jumps over hurdles – kind of like this – but, with a half turn in the air. There are 4 hurdles – Jump over 3 hurdles, turn back and repeat. 2-4 rounds
  • One-legged ladder work like this and this and this. Complete down and back.
  • One-legged jumps onto a box – 10x, 2 rounds
  • One-legged jumps off of a box – 10x, 2 rounds
  • One-legged jumps off of a box, with a half-turn in the air. repeat on each leg, 10x, 2 rounds
  • TRX band – side jumps: stand on left leg, jump to left of left leg onto right foot, at an angle. Jump back. Repeat on right side. 5 each side, 2 sets
  • TRX band – one-legged squat jumps, alternating between hopping on right and left leg –10, 2 sets
  • TRX band – one-legged squat jumps to the side – 10, 2 sets
  • 2 markers set up on ground – jump up on a high box (think box jumps) into a squat, then jump down into a squat. PT calls out color of marker, and I run forward to the marker, then back to middle – about 2-3 minute each time, 2-4 times
  • Played Tennis with my PT – it felt great! He threw the ball to me, and I hit it back. Sometimes he would catch it, or it would just rebound off the back wall.
  • Stretching after every workout
  • Yoga – everyday for at least 5 minutes
  • Running on treadmill or outside for 10-50 minutes 2-3x a week
  • Beginning to do HIIT on the treadmill again – jog for 10 minutes, then sprint for 30 seconds, jump off for 30 seconds, repeat for 10 minutes. 

So what’s next? a 4 miler in a few weeks… a Half marathon in January… and my 200 hour yoga teacher training after that. I am a very curious person & love being active, so I will always be pushing myself and always, always learning.

I will be updating my ACL progress every month now instead of every week, since most of my major healing has taken place. Most likely the posts will be shorter, and will continue to post until at least my 1.5 year mark. I really hope that my blog been helpful for anyone undergoing ACL surgery, and am so thankful for those who have supported me through my recovery! Below is a picture I took of my favorite flower – a Sunflower – to remind everyone to always be positive, always look for the beauty in all situations and never forget be the bright & shining being that you truly are, deep down <3

Sunflower

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