If there is one injury that plagues my athletes and running friends more than any other it’s the IT Band. I’ve talked here about the specific things I do to keep mine happy since a major flare up years ago. But today I’m bringing someone to answer the constant question how to stretch the IT Band…take it away Beth!!
If you have runner friends, chances are you’ve heard them complain about a tight IT band, or about injuries stemming from their IT band. The IT band, short for iliotibial band, causes a lot of problems for runners, especially women, whose hips are built differently from mens’.
IT Band Syndrome (ITBS) can cause discomfort and pain on the outside of the thigh, hip, and knee. Recovering from problems stemming from a tight IT band can take a combination of treatments, such as strengthening the muscles in the hips, foam rolling, and stretching the IT band and surrounding areas. By now, most runners know that adding a yoga practice to their training can help them in many ways, including helping to increase flexibility. There are many yoga poses that will help stretch the IT band and surrounding areas.
The five included below are the ones that I’ve found to be most effective over years of practicing and teaching yoga.
Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose
Practicing Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose (Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana) lying on your back is a wonderful way to isolate and stretch the IT band and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. I recommend having a strap, belt, or towel handy to place around your foot, which helps make the pose a little more accessible.Begin by lying on your back. Bend your right knee into your chest, flexing your foot. Place your strap, towel, or similar prop around your right foot and extend your right leg straight up above you. Hold on to the strap with your right hand as you press your shoulders into the floor.
Allow your right leg to slowly fall straight over to the left, pausing at the point where you feel a moderate stretch through the outside of your leg. It’s important to practice this pose gently; stretching too far too quickly can actually cause more harm than help. Hold this pose for five breaths, then switch and stretch the left side.
Half Monkey Pose with Twist
Half Monkey Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana) is wonderful for opening up the hamstrings of the front leg, but when you add in a twist, it adds in a stretch through the IT band.
Begin kneeling with your stacked over your left knee. Extend your right leg straight in front of you, flexing your right foot. Start by finding Half Monkey Pose, folding forward with a flat back, stopping when you feel a comfortable stretch in your right hamstring. Hold for a few breaths, then find your way to twisting Half Monkey Pose by bringing your left wrist below your left shoulder and stacking your right shoulder over the left.
If the twist is difficult for you, you can bring a yoga block or other solid support under your left hand, which should make the twist a little easier. Hold the pose with the twist for five breaths, then gently release and repeat on the other side.Got knee pain? Might be a tight IT Band - Stretch it out with these poses from @sublimelyfit and @runtothefinish Click To Tweet
Horizon Lunge allows you to open the outside of your top leg as well as strengthening the thigh of the top leg, so it’s a great pose for runners to try.
Start in Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) with your right foot forward. Your right knee should be stacked directly over your right ankle. Your left heel stacks over your toes and the ball of your left foot. Raise your right arm up by your ear, reaching your hand in front of you, keeping the arm straight.
Rotate your right shoulder back behind you as you sweep your right arm down, bringing it parallel to the ground. Rotate your hips to the side, coming to the knife edge of your left leg. The outside of your left leg should face down to the ground. Hold for a few breaths, then repeat on the left.Reclined Cow Face Pose
Many runners love Reclined Cow Face Pose (Supta Gomukhasana) because it gives you a wonderful stretch through the hips as well as the outer thighs. Begin by lying on your back, bringing your knees into your chest.
Cross your right thigh over your left, stacking your right knee on top of your left knee. Reach for your feet, drawing your feet closer to your chest to bring your legs in for a stretch. If you’re unable to grab your feet, bring your hands to your ankles or shins.
Hold for at least a few breaths, for as long as a minute or two. Be sure to hold the pose for an equal amount of time with the left knee on top of the right. If you only have time for one (find time for more), but I think this is the best IT Band stretch because you’re also relaxing and working the hips, a big part of what we all need.Revolved Triangle
Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana) is an intense pose to come into, but the great IT band stretch is worth it. Try practicing this pose after the other stretches shown here so your body is more open and ready to come into the pose.
Start by standing with your right foot about a foot to a foot and a half (30-45 cm) in front of your left foot. The toes of your right foot point directly forward as the toes of your left foot point at a 45 degree angle up and to the left. In the full pose, you’ll bring your right heel in line with your left heel, but you can keep them a little wider, closer to being in line with your hips, if that helps you feel more steady.
Bring your legs straight, with an option to keep a small bend in the knees if you have tight hamstrings.Once you feel solid in your feet and legs, bring your left hand beneath your left shoulder, reaching it toward the floor. Stack your right shoulder on top of the left as your right hand reaches up above you to the ceiling.
You can bring a yoga block, stool, or other firm support under your bottom hand to make the pose more accessible.
Feel your spine lengthen as you inhale, allowing you to twist a little deeper on your exhales. You should feel a stretch through the outside of your right IT band and outer thigh. Hold for five to ten breaths, carefully bring your hands down toward the floor, then switch sides.
This standing IT Band stretch is different than the one you might often see of crossing your legs and going in to a forward fold. That absolutely works, but we want to come at this from a variety of angles and really work our hips.
Special note: Pregnant women are generally advised not to practice twists in yoga. If you are pregnant or have any other injury and are unsure how to modify these poses to fit your body, please ask a yoga teacher for help.
Don’t stop with just these stretches! You need a full plan to recover. Download my free IT Band Checklist to get started on recovery >>
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Beth is a yoga teacher, running coach, and Pure Barre teacher. She is also the content creator behind Sublimely Fit, where she has some great yoga for runners resources put together for runners who want to learn more about how yoga can help them become stronger and more injury-resistant.
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