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Why do people get bad knees?
There are many reasons why people have knee problems.
Here are a few examples:
• Overdoing it at the weekend
• Irregular, often strenuous exercise
• Bad lifting technique
• Too much sitting
• Poor physical awareness
• Poor coordination
• Balance problems
• Twisting & over-stretching
• Failure to rest appropriately
• Stiff muscles that are not appropriately exercised (or are exercised in an abusive way)
• Locking the knees
• Bending the knees unnecessarily
Many of these causes are also responsible for back problems.
How do you use your knees?
The problem often lies with the way in which the knee is being used.
Functionality needs to be addressed. New insights must be uncovered. Understanding is required.
Old habits can be broken.
For people with bad back or bad
knees, tai chi movements done in a large frame with long, low stances may
actually aggravate their condition or make it worse. Large styles can put
too much strain on the system, specifically the knees, by emphasizing
movements that are too big. Even those who are otherwise healthy despite
being prone to weak knees might experience harm from practicing too large of
a style. A smaller style with higher stances would not put the same pressure
on the knees, and would actually be better for such cases.
In everyday life people usually focus upon the hands.
If your hands are misaligned, it will not cause you harm.
However, your legs and feet are another matter entirely.
Remember that your legs are weight-bearing and that alignment faults with the feet can seriously damage the knees.
Correct usage of the hip joint, combined with accurate placement of the feet and appropriate weight distribution will prevent these problems.
If you are notably overweight, it can badly affect the knees.
Locked knees or overly-straightened legs prevent the knee from acting as suspension for the body.
Relax the knees but do not bend unless squatting down to lift something.
Most people have very tight hamstrings.
Unfortunately, the back compensates for tight hamstring muscles (by slouching); giving the illusion of greater flexibility than is actually present.
We address this in the syllabus by way of psoas exercises, leg stretches, floor exercises and Taoist Yoga.
How many sports were originally conceived with good knee usage in mind?
Be honest here.
Really think it through.
It will explain to you why so many athletes suffer from knee problems and why so many runners are wearing knee braces.
If your knees ache at first when doing taijiquan, rest.
If your thigh and calf muscles ache, this is good.
If your knees are in pain, see your instructor.
Most taijiquan instructors will tell their students to stand with their feet shoulder-width apart.
This is good advice.
The relative distance between your feet in Yang-style taijiquan is shoulder-width apart pretty much all of the time.
Suspended from above
This is the first of Yang's 10 essentials points.
Done correctly, this concern will facilitate a more balance use of the skeleton and this will directly affect the knees.
The thigh muscles will lengthen and draw up from the knees, rather than sag and drop.
Counteracting the pull of gravity will lead to a lighter, more nimble step and reduced pressure on the knees.
The internal is not a gift. It must be worked for,
and discipline is necessary. What is wanted is good balance.
Pluck up the back
If you succeed in correctly suspending the skeleton from above, the spine will lengthen and you will experience the sensation of 'pluck up the back'.
If unfamiliar, your body will revert back to known habits and resist the change in poise.
Be patient and gently re-correct your posture until the muscles of the torso lengthen and strengthen continually.
Relax the knees
Make space behind the knee joint, as if the knee were moving forward.
Do not bend deeply, simply relax.
Done correctly, the legs will free-up considerably and the lower back will feel looser.
This is not a squat.
You are simply relaxing the knees.
Look in a mirror
Stand next to a mirror without trousers on. In profile.
Now do 3 different things, one after the other:
Lock your knees
Relax your knees
Bend your knees
difference between the 3 positions should be visually obvious.
Never lock your knees.
Bend only when squatting to lower the body.
Relax the knees at all times.
Confused about bending?
Bend your knees and try walking.
Relax your knees and try walking.
The contrast between bending and relaxing should be obvious.
A bent knee is for static squatting.
A relaxed knee is for standing, moving and walking.
18 March 1997
Last updated 22 April 2017