Why can’t I hug my knees to my chest?

Find that you can’t do this?

Apanasana aka wind-relieving pose

Let’s explore the possible reasons!

Apanasana (also known as wind-relieving pose or knees-to-chest pose) is a passive pose that is usually done at the end of a yoga sequence to help release tension in the body. However for some of us we notice that our knees can’t touch our chest. And what we end up doing is forcing it to happen, and the pose ends up becoming an active one, which is not what we want!

You can do the active variation, but it is not necessary to help your knees touch your chest.

First let’s see if you can get into the pose if someone helps you. Try doing child’s pose. Place your arms beside your calves since we aren’t focusing on the shoulders for now. Check if you can keep your knees together and touch your knees to your chest and bum to your heels.

If you don’t have tight shoulders, you can do the original child’s pose.

If your knees don’t touch your chest or bum doesn’t touch your heels, do you feel any tightness in your lower back? If you do, get someone to press on your lower back to deepen the stretch. It should feel good (and painless) as the ligaments and tendons are being stretched. A tight lower back is a common reason one cannot hug their knees to their chest.

Or do you feel compression in your hips? This would be a structural reason. Your hips could be built in a certain way that doesn’t allow your thighs to go flat on your abdomen. In this case, you wouldn’t be feeling any pain, but rather a feeling of being ‘stuck’ or ‘hindered’ by your bones. If you do feel pain however, it could be due to tightness, an injury or inflammation in the hip joint. A structural reason would mean that you can’t do Apanasana like how the textbook says, while an injury or tightness can be rectified and you will eventually be able to do the pose to its requirements.

Another structural reason (but less commonly seen in females) are large quadricep muscles (aka thigh muscles). If you do a lot of weight lifting or some other form of quads training, you may have very firm, bulky and curved quads muscles. In this case your thighs may touch your chest, but your knees wouldn’t be able to. In the same vein, a large abdomen can also hinder the pathway of your knees. A large abdomen can be due to multiple reasons, but if it’s due to fat accumulation…that you’ve got to work off first.

Do you feel compression in your knees? You could have a knee injury or wear-and-tear of the knee. In this case, you could place a towel or a soft pillow at the back of your knees while doing child’s pose or Apanasana to reduce the stress on your knees.

Disclaimer: If you have any injuries, especially chronic ones that don’t seem to get better or go away, please seek medical attention.


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