Every yoga instructor I’ve ever followed has advised those with sensitive knees in the class to cushion their joints with towels or blankets during certain weight-bearing poses. I actually have that very concern, but I’ve ignored the tip, thinking it couldn’t possibly make my experience any more enjoyable. I’ll also admit I never wanted to look weak in front of my peers.
Doing yoga exclusively at home – and really diving into the motivation behind my personal practice – helped me conquer so many of my insecurities. After I reached for that towel and tucked it under my knees during Camel Pose, I finally got to feel that glorious stretch in my lower back and shoulders without painful pressure in my knees. I only wish I took advantage of my instructors’ advice sooner – it was only there to help me.
Tess Koenig, a yoga instructor based in New York City, prefers that students use props rather than force a posture or deal with pain in a pose, and offers the use of a towel or blanket in positions where the bone may be supported by the ground in weight-bearing positions.
“Towels and blankets offer that support to help you maintain your breath on your knees, as does a mat folded over twice if those props are not available to you,” Koenig says.
While there are many poses that could benefit from a folded towel or a blanket as a prop, Koenig specifically mentions Cat/Cow, Modified Push-Up or Chaturanga, and Camel Pose.
“Typically we see Cat/Cow in the beginning of practice, when our bodies are still warming up, which is even more so a reason to use padding instead of forcing your way through discomfort as your body is lubricating for practice,” Koenig says.
During Modified Push-Up or Chaturanga, Koenig says you’re rolled onto the front of your kneecaps during optimal alignment: “That can be a lot to maintain for many repetitions or during Vinyasa.”
To make Camel Pose more comfortable, Koenig recommends evenly laying out a towel or a blanket and kneeling on it with your knees – hip width-distance apart – before settling into the posture.