My right knee cap hurts when I do lunge salutes. Should I skip these altogether? Do you suggest a certain position to keep more weight off of the knee? – Kristen, Manassas, VA
When we have physical discomfort or pain, the body is revealing an imbalance that needs to be supported and addressed. If you run towards the pose that you may feel discomfort in with more physical and internal awareness, a lot of times you will address the problem and relieve the pain indefinitely! At this time I would work on your alignment and foundation before throwing the pose out all together.
Pain in your knee can be a result of a few different things… Your patella may be tracking incorrectly due to an imbalance between your medial and lateral quadricep muscle. Your foundation may be misaligned and this can cause you to exploit the areas of your legs that are strong and flexible and avoid the areas that are weak and inflexible. Your psoas and hip flexors may be tight and this pulls on the inner thigh, knee and inner ankle of your back leg. You could also be hitting a nerve on your back knee and need some padding beneath your knee.
Here are my suggestions….
Organize your feet specifically… Your front foot should be parallel to the side of your mat, and you should weight the triad of your foot equally (ball of your big toe, ball of your little toe , and center of your heel). Examine your knee and make sure it is aligned with your ankle and hip. The tendency is for the knee to track in or out. Once you have established your front leg explore your back foot . Make sure your toes point straight back from your hip and that the inner line of your leg is long ( this tends to shorten in lunges from the hip flexors being tight) . Now, steer your front leg sitting bone towards your inner back leg. From your lowest back ribs lift your chest and from your chest lift your head.
Depending on which lunge you are practicing will determine if your front knee can track forward of the ankle. In most lunges if your knee is aligned with your hip and ankle , it can begin the journey forward, this deepens the stretch in the back leg. In all lunges that your back knee is off the floor begin to extend your back leg as much as possible to straighten your knee. If you ever have pain in your front knee you can always turn the front foot out slightly to take the pressure off of the knee. You should not feel pain in your knee joint and must learn to navigate through the pose with integrity so it is effective and therapeutic. Remember to relax the intensity of your efforts and breathe with awareness to realign the grain of your tissue.
Move in the proper direction of the pose and heal your body. As Patanjali states in the Yoga Sutras, Heyam Duhkham Anagatam, Yoga is a self reliant healing system. It is the effort that you apply today that will help you to avoid future pain and suffering. You can heal your physical body, your mental body and your emotional body.