The iliotibial band silently has goaded more than a few people into a yoga practice.
According to WebMD.com, the IT band is fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh. It provides stability to the knee and hip and helps prevent dislocation of those joints. The band rubs against bone every time we bend the knee or flex the hip, which is a frequent occurrence for hikers, cyclists and runners. Over time that band might overdevelop, tighten and rub across the hip bone or the outer part of the knee.
I'm no doctor, but I do know there are many yoga postures and stretches that potentially can keep that little band of tissue flexible. Check with your doctor before doing the following movements:
- Bananasana - The yin yoga posture resembles a banana. Lie on your back with your legs together, toes pointed and arms stretched overhead on the ground. Clasp your hands or grab your opposite elbows, then arch your torso and legs to the right. Keep your shoulders down and don't twist or lift your hips off the ground. Hold for three to five minutes, or however long is comfortable, and change sides. For a more intense stretch, cross your left ankle on top of your right ankle and then arch the legs and torso to the right. Remember, you never want to feel pain in a posture. If you do, release the pose or ease back until the sensation is more comfortable.
- Standing IT band stretch - From standing, cross your right leg behind your left leg, so the pinkie toes line up next to each other. Soften the knees as you fold forward over the legs. Hold, then change sides.
- Seated IT band stretch - Have a seat on the ground and extend your legs in front of you. If this is uncomfortable, sit on a towel, bolster, rolled-up yoga mat or yoga block. Pull your right knee toward you. Grab the outside edge of your right foot with your left hand. Twist your body open to the right as you press your lifted right leg straight out in front of you. You should feel the stretch down the outside of your right leg. Your right hand either can rest on the ground behind you or you can extend the arm straight behind you. Hold, then change sides.
- Reclined spinal twist - Rest on your back and hug your right knee into your chest. Guide it across your body to the left, reach your right arm to the right and look toward your right fingers. Gently press down on the outside of the right thigh. You also can extend the top right leg. Hold, then change sides.