February 11, 2011

How to ruin your knees with yoga, running, tennis or skiing

Hello, boys and girls, this is Mr. Rogers and today we discuss the fine art of ruining your knees.

Can you say “knee replacement surgery?” I hope you never have to.

Actually, ruining your knees is not a fine art. It’s a rough art. You can do it without your parents’ supervision. Just go running in poorly-designed shoes, and after a decade or two, you’ll have managed to whittle that cartilage in your knees down to nothing. What about you, little Timmy? Running’s not your thing? Well, if you like, you can make sharp, quick stops to catch and return little Lindy’s devastating serve on the tennis court. What? You practice yoga? Well, then, they’ve got a couple of yoga poses where you bend your knees and press your feet all the way to the floor, and that will also do the trick! Just ask for them by name: bhekasana and virasana.

So why are we talking about this today? You see, boys and girls, my neighbor Ricardo here is a yoga instructor – that’s right, he gets to act mellow like me for a living. And through the years, he has seen people come into his classes and have trouble with a simple squatting position. Well, you know – it’s simple for him, but not so simple for some of the other boys and girls who are runners or tennis players, or cyclists, or skiers, or like to race boats that require them to be on their knees hanging over one side of the boat, as crazy as that sounds. Doesn’t that sound crazy to you? No? You must have rich parents, then.

Anyway, that’s all stuff my neighbor Ricardo the yoga instructor has seen. He also says things like “the body is an extraordinary self-repairing machine… if you give it enough rest and a chance to repair.” But that’s not going to happen, boys and girls, if you’re pushing yourself or doing competitive sports three days a week, or running ultra-marathons, or stuff like that, because that speeds up the damage like crazy. Of course, you’re all between two and five years old, but someday you’ll be collecting Social Security, and you want to do it without rolling around in a wheelchair, as fun as that may sound to you right now. However, racing in a wheelchair is better than say, tennis or racquetball, because in a wheelchair at least you use both arms, whereas a sport that emphasizes only one side of the body makes you more at risk for injuries because uneven wear makes for weaker bones.

And those yoga poses don’t do your knees any favors either – unless you started practicing yoga inside your mommy’s belly and come out with naturally hyperextended knees. But if you don’t mind helping knee surgeons pay they mortgage, you can bend those knees like there’s no tomorrow.

So that’s why, boys and girls, you’ll never see Mr. Rogers at an Ironman competition. Or on the ski slopes. Or in those intense yoga classes. Why do that when I can get all my exercise from putting on my cardigan sweater at the beginning of each show?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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