I originally started yoga as a means to bounce back from a recurring knee-injury, so I’ve always been really interested in yoga’s capacity for developing and maintaining greater leg strength and stability in a way that is low-impact and non-stressful for the joints. This week’s sequence will both strengthen and tone your legs.
The practice develops the strength of the hamstrings, adductors, hip-flexors, quads and glutes through a combination of fluid movements in Sun Salutations, static holds in standing, prone and supine positions and standing balances.
I have found standing balances to be particularly beneficial for cultivating strength and proprioception in the lower body because they activate the deeper stabilising muscles that support the joints, such as the knees, ankles and hips.
Yoga’s strengthening capacity usually comes in the form of eccentric contraction, where the muscles are gently lengthened and then held under load, or isometric contraction, where the muscle length does not change as it’s placed under load. This is a beautiful compliment to, and balances out, other forms of strength training and exercises which shorten the muscle fibres as they’re contracted.
If you are using this sequence to help strengthen and stabilise your knees one of the main alignment cues to bear in mind is that the kneecap should track in the same direction as the 2nd/3rd toe. Don’t let the knee roll inwards or outwards but ensure it is tracking straight forward over the center of the foot. This will help protect the soft tissue structures of the knee, such as the menisci, but also ensure better musculo-skeletal balance in the legs.
To develop greater strength and stamina in the legs consider holding the poses for a minimum of 5-8 breaths and longer if possible without strain. You may notice you have one leg that is stronger than the other – if this is the case, explore holding the poses on the weaker side a little longer to even things out.
For a printable version of the sequence, click here.
P.S The O.S slide means – repeat on the Other Side 😉