If you've struggled with tight IT bands, I feel your pain. When this long band of connective tissue, which runs down the outside of the thigh from the pelvis to just below the shin, shortens, it can lead to major pain in the knees and hips. This often-overlooked ailment can come from a variety of exercises or even from a 9-to-5 desk job. While working with a foam roller can do wonders, I'm also partial to these three yoga postures that work to alleviate IT band problems.
This pose opens up your hips and hip flexors, but also really helps with tight IT bands. Remember to stay still for an extended period of time (at least 10 breaths) and let it do its magic:
- From Downward Facing Dog, step both feet together and bring your right knee forward between your hands so your outer right leg is resting on the mat.
- If your hips are more open, inch your right foot away from you. Make sure your left hip is always pointing down toward the mat. If it begins open up toward the ceiling, draw your right foot back in toward your body.
- Stay here with your hands resting on your right leg or walk your hands out in front of you, allowing your torso to rest over your right knee.
- Hold here, breathing into any areas of tightness and tension for at least five breaths.
- Then place your hands on the mat in front of you, tuck your left toes and step your right foot back. Step your left foot forward, and perform Pigeon Pose on the other leg.
One-Legged Seated Spinal Twist
If the one-legged stance of this spinal twist is too much for you right now, try a sweet reclining spinal twist instead:
- Begin seated on your mat with your legs extended in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and place your right heel as close to your right sit-bone as you can. Then bend your left knee and cross your left foot over your right knee. Plant it on the floor so your left ankle is next to your right knee.
- Reach your left arm behind you and place your palm on the floor. Then bend your right elbow and cross it over the outer side of your left knee. Keep your elbow bent, or if you can, hold onto your left toes.
- Keep your left hand on the floor for stability, or bring your left arm around your lower back. Reach for your shirt, or if you can, hook your fingers on the top of your right thigh. Gaze behind you and over your left shoulder. Continue pressing your right arm into your left knee, and use each inhale to lengthen the spine and each exhale to rotate further to the left.
- Stay here for five or more breaths. Then release the twist, straighten your legs out in front of you, and do this pose with your right knee pointing up.
Keep reading for one more challenging pose.
Double Pigeon Pose
You always tend to hear a lot of deep breaths — and sometimes grunts! — when first getting into Double Pigeon. It's integral to have proper alignment with your legs in this one to protect your knees:
- Start seated in Butterfly Pose. Then bring your right shin on top of your left so both shins are parallel and your right knee is over your left ankle. You'll know you're doing it right when you gaze down, and see that your legs make a little triangle.
- It's OK if your top knee is pointing up toward the ceiling — it just means your hips are tight, so just stay where you are and breathe deeply for five breaths.