Ask A Yogi – Is locking the knees in yoga poses a bad thing?

If you were ever in a choir, did you have a teacher who said, “Don’t lock your knees, you might pass out!”? Well, I never really knew what locked knees felt like until I started practicing yoga seriously, and it turns out our middle-school choir teachers were right.

When your knees have been pushed as straight as possible, you can say that they are “locked.” The knee joint can be extended to 180 degrees. When fully developed, it takes on a certain quality.

When you lock your joint while standing, the ball-and-socket joint is pushed slightly out of position and usually extended backward. This can lead to joint cartilage damage and aching, creaky, and even arthritic joints in the long run.

There are some compelling reasons why you should not lock your knees in the near future, such as in your Yoga practice.

Why we should avoid locking the knees in yoga poses

Our knees have no give when they are closed. Imagine your body as a spring. When we are relaxed and at rest, without any of our joints being closed, we bend in all directions, just like the spring. When our joints become locked, we are like a compressed, rigid spring.

It is difficult to support your body when you lock the knee, particularly during standing poses. Locked knees can immobilize the whole leg and alter your pelvis’ tilt, causing it to tilt forward. It can also cause your spine to become more rigid and out of its relaxed, controlled position.

Sometimes, the knees can become so locked that they obstruct blood flow in your veins. This makes it difficult for your legs to carry blood to your heart. Some people feel dizzy or faint.

These physiological changes make it harder for your body to perform the yoga poses we are aiming to achieve, such as balance and stretching.

Avoiding Knee Locks

How can we avoid this locked-knee trap? Here are some tips.


First and foremost, I would advise you to pay attention to every part of your body. This is done with the breath. Your inhales and exhales will guide you to focus your attention on your body. Please pay attention to how it feels.

Keep your focus on this breath, particularly when you are in poses that require the knees to be held at a 90-degree angle. You will be able to stay grounded while also allowing your body to move into the background.

Start in Mountain Pose

Start your awareness with a simple Mountain pose and give your knees a “micro-bend.” It’s not bent fully, but just a bit. Someone should be able to push you gently, and you won’t fall because you have a slight bend in your knees.

Get the Details

To keep your knees flexible, you can engage other body parts. In order to focus on this particular joint, you must first consider your feet.

Grab the mat with both hands and lift your toes. Sink your heels and ball of foot into the mat. Root down. Feel the arch of your feet being raised at the same time.

This is similar to the effect of rotating your legs inwards towards each other. Both actions require that you actively engage your whole leg dynamically. Your knees cannot be locked to do this.

Think About Your Core

Draw your pelvic floor upwards toward the ceiling. As you lift the crown of your head toward the ceiling, it will align your spine and help you grow taller.

You should now feel like you are about to jump off the ground. The feeling is almost like preparing to jump but without bending the knees too far. It might not be visible, but this is the feeling we’re aiming for. Like a spring, you’re full of potential and coiled.

Try Other Poses

You can extend your awareness by moving into other standing postures. Try Tree position. In this pose, avoid resting the foot on the opposite knee. Instead, try the calf of the inner thigh.

You can give your standing leg some bounce. Sink it down and then raise it back to full standing, but maintain the slightest amount of knee flexion.

Avoid resting your hand directly on your leg in a Triangle Pose. This can cause pressure, which may result in our knee being forced into a twisted position.

Use your core instead to lift the hand from the floor and inside the leg. You can also use a block. Check out for more information on how to avoid locking the knees in standing poses.

Some yogis lock their knees deliberately to gain more flexibility or intensity. Some Bikram instructors even encourage it! The scientific literature suggests that it is not good for your joints if you do this practice long term.

Do what feels right in your body, and never try to go beyond what your body is telling you is good. We can usually listen to our body when it tells us if something is right or if it’s a bit too much.

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