Resolve to Unwind Your IT Band with Yoga
What is the IT Band anyway?
The IT Band, or more precisely Iliotibial Band, is a large sheath of connective tissue (fascia) that connects the hip bone to the knee. Fascia is a fibrous connective tissue that literally holds our muscles together.
What goes wrong?
The repetitive motion of running and cycling combined with weakness in the hamstrings and gluteal muscles can cause tightness and restriction in this area, which can result in unilateral or bilateral hip and/or knee pain. Once pain and tightness sets in, resolution can take some time. Your best option is to avoid issue altogether by building strength and flexibility.
How can Yoga help?
Yoga, practiced on a regular basis (3-6 days a week), can assist in keeping this area strong and flexible, which may help athletes bypass this common injury. The beauty of practicing yoga is that each pose offers both stretching and strengthening to opposing areas, giving more bang to your routine. It is most helpful to practice in a class setting or under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor.
From a stand, step your feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach out to the sides, shoulders wide, palms down. Turn your left foot slightly in and your right foot out to 90 degrees. Extend your torso to the right over your right leg, bending from the hip. Anchor your outer back heel firmly to the floor. Rotate the torso to the left, keeping your two sides long. Rest your right hand on your block or the floor outside your right foot, whatever is possible without rounding forward. Stretch your left arm up, keeping your head in neutral, or let eyes gaze at your left thumb. Reverse your feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.
Alignment tips: Press down through the outer edge of the back foot to start to open the back hip upwards. Stack the shoulders to keep both sides of the torso elongating.
How long: Stay in this pose for 20 – 30 breaths on each side.
Stand facing one of the long edges of the mat, then step the feet apart. Press the outer edges of the feet and balls of the big toes firmly into the floor with inner arches parallel. Draw up through your thighs. Inhale and lift your sternum, as you exhale lean forward from your hips. As you lower, press your fingertips onto the floor directly below your shoulders. Legs and arms are perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.
Push your top thighs straight back to lengthen your torso. Bend your elbows to lower your torso and head into a full forward bend.
Push your thighs back. Keep the weight in the outer edges of your feet. Arms stay parallel to each other. Widen your shoulders across the back. Draw shoulders away from your ears.
How long: Stay for 20 – 30 breaths.
Start from a stand and move your right foot to face at 12 noon and place hands on hips. Your left foot roots down pointing at 10 o’clock. The feet stay 3-4 feet apart and take a wide stance. On an inhalation lift your chest, arching your back slightly and fold forward. Release the hands towards the ground, or place them on a bench, block, step or curb.
Keep a strong and straight back leg. Square hips and chest to the front. Press back through the front thigh and sitting bones. Reach your navel to your front thigh. Extend down through your crown.
Hold the torso and head parallel to the ground for a few breaths. Then, if the flexibility is there, bring your torso closer to your thigh. Hold in the maximum position for 10 – 15 breaths.
Start in a stand or from Pyramid Pose. Your front foot is at 12 noon and the back foot at 10 o’clock. Your feet are in a wide stance. (If you are doing this after Pyramid pose, keep the feet planted as they were.) Bring your hands to hips, squaring the hips forward. Take the left hand to the outside of the right foot, placing it on a block, step, curb. Use your right hand to pull the right hip back. Both legs are straight and strong. Your right arm can remain on the hip or extend up. Gaze can be neutral, down or turn the gaze to your upper hand.
Move inner thighs towards one another, lifting the belly up and in. Extend through your spine, pressing sitting bones away from your crown. Use a block, curb, bench, or step under your forward hand to keep your spine extending. Stack arms, lungs, ribcage.
Stay in this pose from 10 – 20 breaths on each side.
Eagle (once pain has subsided)
Begin from a stand. Inhale when raising the arms up to shoulder level with palms facing up. Arms and shoulders are relaxed. Cross left arm over the right so that the elbows rest on top of each other. Bend your elbows, wrapping forearms around each other with palms facing each other and fingers pointed to the ceiling. If the palms do not touch, keeps one palm resting against the other wrist or forearm. Slightly bend the knees and shift your body weight to your left leg. Cross right leg over left just above the knee. Place your right foot behind your left lower leg and hook your foot over the left calf or ankle. If you are unable to reach the left calf, place your right foot next to left lower leg or place your toes on the ground.
Alignment tips: Your crown lifts toward the ceiling and gaze is straight ahead. Imagine a straight rod from the rooted heel through the hips, shoulders and crown.
How long: Stay here for 20 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Bring your shins one on top of the other. Left over right so that the shins are parallel to the front edge of the mat. Move the left ankle beyond the right knee and place your hands to either side of your hips. Walk your hands forward and relax into this as best you can. You can perform this on your back if your hips are super tight.
Alignment Tips: Stack the shins with the legs at right angles. Top ankle bone extends beyond the lower knee to the outside of the thigh. Flex the feet and lengthen the spine.
How long: Resolve to stay as long as your can, at least a minute or two on each side.
Sit with your right leg bent with foot near your left hip. Place your left foot flat on the floor outside of your right leg. Place your left hand by your left hip and wrap your right arm around your upright leg with the outside of your arm against the outside of your thigh. Lift through your sternum and extend your spine. Turn your head to gaze over your left shoulder.
Alignment Tips: Press down into the grounded hand. Make sure both sitting bones are grounded down. Lift your crown up and twist, keeping a straight spine.
How long: Stay for 10 – 15 breaths on each side.
Begin on your back and grab a strap or towel and loop it over your instep. Begin with a gentle hamstring stretch, grounding both hips down. Take your leg to the outside, opening up the inner leg, grounding down through your hips. Take your leg through center to the outside, crossing over your body. As you stretch, draw your stretching leg’s hip down as much as you can back towards the ground. Make sure to do both sides even if only one side is bothersome.
How long: Stay in each position for 20 – 30 breaths each side.
With persistence and patience, IT Band issues can be overcome without drastic measures. Yoga is just one means of dealing with this issue, and can be highly effective as it works the entire kinetic chain to stretch and strengthen, ironing out issues well before they result in long-term injuries. There are many yoga postures that you can use to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings once the pain has subsided, but it is best to wait to strengthen until you are pain-free.
This was written by Julie Bergfeld,
RYT-500 and owner Metro Power Yoga, Kirkwood MO – www.metropoweryoga.com
Julie Bergfeld, longtime runner, yoga instructor and Metro Power Yoga studio owner, swears by her daily yoga practice to keep her hips, hamstrings and lower back in shape to continue to run and compete. Metro Power Yoga’s mission is to provide people the tools to live sustainably healthy lives. Our yoga will awaken your body, mind and spirit, empowering you to living a more powerful fulfilling life. We make yoga accessible and fun for every body: young, old, in shape and wanting-to-be-in-shape, flexible and the oh-not-so-flexible. Visit just one time and feel the difference.
Metro Power Yoga (www.metropoweryoga.com) is located at 935 S. Kirkwood Rd. Kirkwood, MO 63122.
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