Have you experienced knee, hip, or low-back pain? The IT band is a common denominator of these three areas… and we have simple tips and yoga poses to help relieve this pain!
As you can see below, the IT is a tendon connecting your outer hip to the tibia. Our muscles and groups of muscles are surrounded by a saran-wrap layer of fascia. This fascia connects to other fascia throughout our bodies. This is one reason why when we are tight in one area of our body, it often leads to pain in other nearby areas, for example; pain often associated with the IT band or tight quads and outer hamstring muscles (biceps femoris) can travel into our lower back. We are completely connected, and if one part of our body is not functioning optimally, other parts try to compensate, which can further lead to problems. We can also use this to our benefit – this is one of the key ideas behind Yin Yoga.
How Does Yin Yoga Help?
Yin Yoga is about melting into your body, not forcing a stretch. Poses are held for 1-5 minutes, to allow muscles and surrounding fascia to release, which then allows other nearby muscles and fascia to release. Holding a gentle stretch pose for more than a minute, allows fascia to ‘liquify’, which then helps you to reset your posture and body. If you stretch for under a minute, the muscles essentially snap right back into place. The key here is to gently allow your body to relax into the release – never force yourself into a stretch. Yin poses should be comfortable to hold for the entire 5 minutes. Breathe into the pose, and trust your body to do the rest.
Biking, skiing, and running require us to have strong lower bodies, which is fabulous, as long as we keep ourselves strong and healthy. It can be a challenge to really take the time to stretch, but it is very important for the longevity of our health.
Strengthen and Stretch Your IT Band
Here are a few stretches to help relax the muscles and fascia surrounding your IT band, to help ease pain in the knee, glutes, and low back:
- Sleeping Swan – Stretch
This is a gentle version of Pigeon. Sitting on your mat, place your left calf parallel the top of the mat, your right calf parallel to the side. Take a deep inhale, exhale and twist towards the floor on your left. This is a Yin pose, meaning alingment is not important – you are welcome to try moving your body towards the back, and playing with your leg placement – brining your feet closer to or further away from your body so you get the optimal stretch in your sciatic and IT. Try it on both sides, holding for 5 minutes. This is a loved stretch for pregnant women!
- Pigeon – Stretch
You can start from a table position, sweeping your right leg behind you, bringing your knee into your chest, and your calf as parallel as is comfortable to the front edge of your mat. You are welcome to melt down towards the mat as you relax in this pose. Again, this is a yin pose, so find a comfortable position to hold for 5 minutes.
- Roll It Out!
If you have a dowel or foam roller, this can work wonders!
- Clamshell – Strengthen
This is a Pilates based exercise to help gently strengthen the IT band and inner leg for balance. Begin by lying down on your side with your legs and feet touching, one on top of the other. As you inhale, slowly lift your top knee upwards, keeping your feet touching. Exhale to release. Repeat 30 -60 times on each side, slowly building up to resistance.
- Side-Shuffle – Strengthen
This is similar to the Clamshell. Standing place a resistance band around both your ankles with legs apart. Bring your left leg towards your right, step away with your right, bring your left back to your right & continue shuffling along. Try 10 steps to the right, then to the left 10 steps. Repeat until you feel gentle resistance.
- Bridge – Core Strengthening
Often our glutes are much stronger than our core, which can also create tension in the low back creating strain in other areas of our body. When doing the Clamshell or Side-Shuffle, make sure your core is engaged. The core are the deep muscles between our pelvis holding everything in place. Try lying on your back, take a deep inhale allowing your stomach to relax, then exhale out hissing. Feel that contraction? That’s your core!
Continuing to lay on your back, bring the soles of your feet to the ground with your knees in the air. Inhale, exhale engaging the core, and slowly lift your hips up as you inhale, exhaling as you release to the ground. Repeat 30 times.
For more tips, check out our classes, Yin in particular!