I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get students (and at times teachers) to understand the importance of lifting their kneecaps. Coming from a gymnastics background, you learn at a young age what functional anatomy feels like in your body—by virtue of an insane amount of repetitions. You understand that your practice must be built on a strong foundation. There’s no way you can flip on a tiny beam without paying attention to the little details—such as the role played by the feet and kneecaps. If you’re looking for longevity in your practice, correct approach and a strong foundation are key.
Last week, we focused on understanding foot placement. Once that understanding has occurred, we can then progress to kneecaps. The best thing to do is practice by yourself, as shown in the video.
Sit down on your butt with your legs extended forward. Lift your kneecaps up towards your quads. When done correctly, the heels of the feet lift off the floor and the quads are engaged. When done incorrectly, the feet don’t lift and the quads are soft.
Sometimes students find it hard to lift their kneecaps; it might take practice using the fore-mentioned technique. Unfortunately, students often misunderstand this cue and hyperextend their knees. A hyper-extension is when you “lock out” the knee by pushing it back rather than lifting it up. This is not healthy for the knee joint and doesn’t allow you to use the bigger muscle group (the quads).
If you suffer from hyper-extension or knee pain, you may find it helpful to put a little bend in your knee as you rebuild this part of the body.
Lifting your kneecaps is something that needs to be learned at the start of the practice in something like Mountain Pose—and it must continually be practiced and understood in poses such as Plank and Triangle. This way, as your practice progresses into balancing postures (such as Warrior III) and inversions (such as Handstands), you clearly understand the role played by the lower half of the body.