Yoga Anatomy: 3 Steps to Helping Hyperextended Knees in Trikonasana

Step #1. Isolate the Hamstrings

A skeleton figure in Triangle yoga Pose (Trikonasana), attempting to drag foot back and engage the hamstringsWe are sometimes instructed to “hug the thigh bone” in a yoga class. This is an example of co-activation. You can use a series of cues that isolate the different muscles surrounding a bone in order to achieve this effect.

You can apply this technique to correct hyperextension of the knee in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). Begin by isolating the hamstrings.

  1. The cue for this is to slightly bend the knee and attempt to “scrub,” or drag, the front foot toward the back, as shown in the image below. The mat will prevent the foot from moving, but the hamstrings will engage. The hamstrings are knee flexors and contracting them prevents hyperextension.

  2. Maintaining tension in these muscles, engage the quadriceps to straighten the knee. 

From this image below, you can see that this agonist/antagonist muscle group, the hamstrings, and quadriceps, surrounds the femur and crosses the knee joint. Co-contracting these muscles creates the ”hug” that we sometimes hear about and prevents hyperextension of the knee in the pose.

A skeleton figure in Triangle yoga Pose (Trikonasana), showing how co-contracting the hamstrings and quadriceps prevent hyperextension of the knees

A skeleton figure in Triangle yoga pose (Trikonasana) with a close up on the arm pressing into mat and the leg

Step # 2. Engage Your Front Foot

1. Co-activate the muscles that evert and invert the foot to spread the weight evenly across the sole.

2. Activate the peroneus longus and brevis to press the ball of the foot into the mat.

3. Then spread the force across the bottom of the foot to the outside edge by engaging the tibialis posterior muscle.

Click here for more about these important muscles and how to use them in Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

A skeleton figure in Triangle yoga pose (Trikonasana) showing close up how to press the big toe into the mat and help prevent hyperextension of the knee


Step #3. Bring In the Big Toe Flexors

You can also use the big toe flexors—the flexors hallucis longus and brevis—to aid in counteracting knee hyperextension in Trikonasana.

  1. Follow the cue outlined above for co-contracting the quadriceps and hamstrings to align the femur and tibia.

  2. Press the fleshy part of the big toe into the mat. This engages the big toe flexors. Because the floor prevents the toe from fully flexing, this force is transmuted to drawing the knee forward and out of hyperextension. In effect, it synergizes the attempt to drag the front foot towards the back one. 


Want more tips to protect your knees? Also, read Dr. Ray Long’s Yoga for Healthy Knees: Understanding Biomechanics Can Protect Your Knees in Lotus Pose.

Also study knee health with YogaUOnline and Doug Keller – Yoga for Healthy Knees: Keys to Retaining Lifelong Mobility.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Bandha. 

Photos by the Daily Bandha.

YogaUOnline contributor Ray Long MDAuthor Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga. Ray graduated from The University of Michigan Medical School with post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, The University of Montreal and Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over twenty years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters.

YogaUOnline contributor Chris Macivor3d Graphic Designer / Illustrator Chris Macivor has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years. He is a graduate of Etobicoke School of the Arts, Sheridan College and Seneca College. Chris considers himself to be equally artistic and technical in nature. As such his work has spanned many genres from film and television to video games and underwater imagery.  


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