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.

Weekend Recap: 5K PR + New Youtube Channel!

Hello to all of my beautiful followers!

I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday weekend and are recovering from binge eating pumpkin pie and turkey! This past week has for sure been super eventful for me – visiting friends & family, running, shopping and spending WAY too much money, and of course, being lazy. A lot of exciting things have been going on + are coming up in the pipeline, and I wanted to share it with all of you!

First off: I ran my fastest 5k since my knee surgery!  I remember 1 year ago, I ran my first race post-surgery – a 4-miler – with an 8:40 pace (I think I was so embarrassed of my time that I never blogged about it). I know that time is nothing to be ashamed about, but compared to my sub-8 minute pace pre-surgery, I was pretty upset with it. Anyways – fast-forward 1 year later, and I ran a 7:38 pace 5K!

The funny thing is, I barely run anymore – probably about half the amount that I used to do. Instead, I go to hot yoga 1-2 times a week, run 1-2 times every 1-2 weeks, practice handstands/yoga at my apt, and maybe do a circuit workout every 1-2 weeks. I am realizing that the more hot yoga I do, the better my cardio seems to get. Definitely better than spending hours running! Longer distances, however… a little more running may be required for the endurance aspect of training 😉

Anyways – my next goal is to beat my official pre-surgery PR – 7:22 pace. However, it will have to wait, because running in the cold is my least favorite thing in the world to do!

turkey trot kent 2015

2 PRs on Thanksgiving!

I ran the race with one of my good friends from high school – she set her own PR as well! After a night of drinking with friends, I would say this was a nice way to start the holiday!

thanksgiving 2015

catching up with high school friends!

Next up: Shopping! No woman ever passes a good sale up – 5 scarves, 3 pairs of shoes, clothes, an ipad, and a gopro… My bank account was basically sending me hate mail by the end of the weekend! However, I am most excited about my go pro… After all the adventuring I have been up to this past year, I thought it was necessary to have a cool camera to capture everything. Also – Youtube.

Yep! A few friends of mine suggested that I start a yoga youtube channel, posting quick 15-20 minute videos, handstand tips, etc. I never, EVER considered doing this, because I absolutely hate seeing myself on camera. Totally dumb, right? However, I do need to take my own advice sometimes ALL the time…. so, I must go do things that scare me the most, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it might seem at the moment. I mean, if I can become a certified yoga teacher even though I am terrified of public speaking, travel to a bunch of new countries by myself for the first time, AND go bungee jumping even though I am petrified by heights… I think I can create a video and post it to the internet (even though millions of people can view it)!

So with all of that being said, I created my first-ever yoga video – a short clip on how to do a Sun Salutation A – to test the waters a bit. Feeling a bit awkward, not saying everything I think I need to say, and saying UM a lot – I posted my first video here. Check it out and let me know what you think! I am definitely my own worst critic, but we all gotta start somewhere I guess! I will be creating more videos when I can find some free time – so if there is anything in particular you would like to see, let me know! It’s a little weird to record myself for long periods of time, but I am having a little fun with it! Also – any tips on how to use, good editing apps/software is appreciated! I feel like such a newb and have no idea what I am doing half the time!

yoga for beginners

A few last things:

I have an upcoming handstand workshop in December! Teaching at Melt Hot Fitness in Westerville, the class is $30 and limited to the first 20 people who sign up. I will post more details soon!

Traveling to NYC in a few weeks to take a yoga workshop + visit friends + explore the city. Any place I absolutely need to see while I am there?

Traveling to San Francisco in January for the Yoga Journal Event! A weekend full of yoga, plus taking a few extra days to visit friends.. and maybe take some surfing lessons! More to come on this 🙂

Thanks for staying and reading my long recap! So many exciting things going on, and I love that I can share with all of you!

love you all!

Weekend Recap: 10K, Yoga & Pre-Race Eats

Hello! This past weekend, I ran my first 10K race since I last had my ACL surgery last year. With an upcoming quarter marathon, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test out my pace, running early in the morning, pre-race food, knee taping, and endurance. So, I signed up last minute for a 10K this past Sunday with a VERY hilly course – meaning, I signed up thinking it would be an easy course, and didn’t realize how many hills there were until I was actually going up and down them. So, needless to say, I didn’t end up running at the pace I wanted to, BUT the weather was beautiful, the race course was alongside a gorgeous dam, and I got a good feel of how I would do for my upcoming quarter marathon. Plus, an 8:20 pace isn’t THAT bad, especially for running all those hills 🙂

Holy Hills

Also – I ended up getting a stitch in my diaphragm at mile 4 because I wasn’t breathing correctly – sometimes I get distracted and forget to focus on breathing through my stomach. It’s worse than a normal side stitch, because it feels like your heart is cramping up (at least the muscle near the heart is). Has anyone ever gotten this type of cramp before? I put KT tape on both of my knees as a precaution, but I probably didn’t need it. I’ve been running a few miles here and there without it, but it never hurts to have extra support 🙂

PrePost Race Fuel

Running Essentials: Pre-Race Fuel, KT Tape & post-race bananas

When I woke up, I drank a little coffee & ate a protein bar about an hour before the race, plus a gu gel 15 minutes before the race started. Normally I just prepare plain baked chicken and sweet potatoes and eat the morning of, but I wanted to 1) try something different and 2) add a little caffeine to see if that had any affect on my energy levels. Also, something that didn’t upset my stomach while I was running. Any recommendations? I know everyone is different, but I am curious to see what amount of food is good to eat before running without feeling too bogged down, especially for races that are less than an hour long. Speaking of upset stomach – I recently did a 10-day doterra cleanse (basically taking 2-3 vitamins a day), followed up with Hyperbiotics probiotics*. (I didn’t take the doterra probiotics, because they normally hurt my stomach). The Hyperbiotics pills are just a tiny small pill in the shape of a ball, and are super easy to take. I’ve been taking them 1-2x a day for about a month and have noticed a little bit of an improvement with my stomach issues, so I am planning on taking 1x day go-forward. In other exciting news… my 100 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Belize is less than a month away!!  I am already beginning to stock up on protein bars & pack my suitcase (mostly bathing suits & yoga clothes so far :)). Has anyone ever been to Belize? any recommendations for travel, side excursions, secret spots, etc? I can’t wait to practice  yoga 2x a day, put my toes in the sand & swim in the salty ocean 🙂

Take me back to sandy beaches and ocean sunsets ASAP please

Take me back to sandy beaches and ocean sunsets ASAP please

*Hyperbiotics provided me with a bottle of their Hyperbiotics PRO-15 to try, Powered by BrandBacker.

Quick Tabata Workout

T-minus 11 days until my ACL/Meniscus surgery, and I am trying to fit a few more workouts in before I can’t use my left leg for a while. So, after a day of lounging around and grocery shopping, I put together a quick Tabata workout. Tabata is what I do when I don’t feel like doing an insanity workout or leaving the house – but, it CAN be intense, depending on how hard you push yourself 🙂 Also, studies have shown that an average of 15 calories are burned a minute! Obviously, Tabata is the workout of choice if you want to drop weight quick while doing shorter workouts. Here’s the breakdown:

•    1 Tabata Set is 4 minutes long
•    20 seconds of intense training (do the exercise as HARD AS YOU CAN)
•    Rest for 10 seconds
•     Repeat for a total of 8 rounds

I usually do 4-8 sets, depending on how much time and energy I have. Today, I decided to workout my legs, butt & abs with a little bit of cardio. Remember to rest 1 minute in between each set!

Set 1:

4 rounds of hanging abs, alternating pike & tuck

4 rounds of monster walks (works butt/upper part of butt & hips – great for runners!)

Set 2:

4 rounds of jumping jacks

4 rounds of donkey kicks w/resistance band

Set 3:

4 rounds of squats

4 rounds of crunches

Set 4:

4 rounds of jumping lunges

4 rounds of side plank dips

Set 5:

8 rounds of fire hydrants, alternating legs (hips/butt)

Set 6:

4 rounds of lying hip bridges (hips/butt/abs)

4 rounds of plank w/alternating arm/leg lift (Can do this on hands or forearms)

By the end of each set, you should feel like you are dying. Not really, but your muscles should be burning and you should be sweating from pushing so hard.

recommend using the Pocket WOD app – it has timing intervals for intervals/tabata, a stopwatch & countdown. Bonus: its free!

Now off to stretch!

Cat Stretch

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