Lift your kneecaps...really?

This makes me laugh and keeps me perplexed every time I hear it. I believe I’m quite aware of my body but I don’t seem to feel the muscles that would allow me to lift my kneecaps. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


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Hi MC!

I’m still a beginner to yoga, and I’m not 100% sure if this is the answer you’re looking for, but I have studied quite a bit of anatomy in school. Your kneecap (or patella) is essentially a “floating bone”, meaning it doesn’t have any bony attachments. It is held in place by a ligament (attaching to the shin bone) and by the tendon of your quadriceps muscle. I’m assuming that when they say “lift your kneecaps” they mean tense the muscle on top of your thigh (quadriceps) to bring up your kneecap.

I haven’t heard them use this in any of the videos I’ve watched, so they could have a completely different meaning.

I hope this helps!


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Thanks Jill, I appreciate you taking the time to answer. It makes sense that I should be able to move that “floating bone” as you say but while in down dog, I have no sensation of my quads or any other muscles I could flex to move the patella… Oh well, not a big deal. Was just curious. Thanks again! Namaste, MC

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Hi MC and Jill.

That’s exactly it, Jill. Perfect description. I would just add a couple things:

We teachers are constantly trying to verbalize the subtlety of activating the body (using muscle) without over-tensing. So instead of saying ‘contract the quads’ we say ‘lift the kneecaps’ because it’s meant to be lighter.

Also, that cue is meant to lengthen the back of the knee joint, encouraging those with chronically bent knees to straighten them in poses like mountain and downward facing dog, so directing attention to the knee caps can encourage that.

Lastly, tensing one muscle automatically relaxes its antagonist. In this case, tensing the quadricep automatically relaxes the hamstrings, which really helps release the body into poses like downward facing dog or any stretch that stretches the hamstring muscle.


Excellent, thank you David!