IT Band

Usually, yoga practices are used to relax your mind and your body, therefore all the movements must be completed slowly, avoiding energetic actions.

However, yoga is often used before or after other activities (like running, going to the gym and so on) that require big effort and tension through your muscles.

In this case, yoga also becomes a way to warm up your body before the exercise and stretch it after going to the gym.

One of the biggest (and most important) tissues we have on our legs is the IT Band (more specifically the iliobitial tract), and it’s necessary to take care of it, as it is essential for stability.

There is also the IT band syndrome, which is painful and you should do your best to avoid this problem; some yoga poses, which require a great extension of the leg, may cause it.

In this article, we will focus on the structure and function of the IT band, analyzing how it works, then we will talk about the IT syndrome, how to recognize it and how to prevent it.

Finally, we will focus on some yoga exercises to take care of the health of this important tissue in our body and reduce the chance of getting the IT syndrome.

As you will read, yoga can be a great help to get a healthy IT band, but it may also cause it. Here’s how to do/prevent it!

What is IT Band?

The iliotibial band is a fascial tissue, similar to a tendon, that runs down from the top of the pelvis to the shin bone and connects the gluteus maximus (the biggest muscle we have on the gluteus) to the tibia.

This large tissue has the purpose of keeping hips and knees stable, and it is responsible for flexing, extending, abducting and rotating the hip (it is an important tissue for many yoga poses, especially the ones that need balance, such as the Tree Pose).

It is a long band that connects different important muscles on your legs and with the great purpose of stabilization.

It is also very resistant, therefore it usually doesn’t present any problems during daily routines that don’t require stress on the legs.

However, some actions and sports, like cycling, skiing and so on, may cause muscle inflammation and a lot of pain, if the injury is severe.

What is IT band Syndrome?

Let us focus now on the main issue that can occur on this band: the IT band syndrome.

It is said that iliotibial band syndrome often occurs in cases of overuse. Infact, IT band gets inflamed if the user keeps compress the knee, causing rubbing and consuming the zone.

ITBS is caused by excessive movement of the iliotibial band, poor physical condition or exercise without a previous warm-up.

This injury is the most frequent one that affects the knee, runners and cyclists often experience it, therefore don’t feel anxious if you have it: all of the athletes recovered their form after ITBS, most of the times without a surgery!

How do you recognize that you have ITBS?

If you feel pain on the outside of your knee when you begin the exercise, when you bend it and during the whole exercise, this might be a sign of ITBS.

The reason is that all the muscles connected to the IT band might pull too much the tendon, causing pain, sometimes acute, to the outer knee. The main source of ITBS is your habits, so make sure not to stress too much this part of your body.

Unfortunately, yoga is not immune to ITBS, even if you don’t practice intensive activities: some position that require great extension of the leg, such as the Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana), if performed too often, can inflammate the iliotibial band and give pain to the user.

If you feel pain on your IT band, the thing to do is rest and put some ice on the injured part and stop doing intensive activities that require movement of the knee.

Sometimes ITBS will be healed applying anti-inflammatory medication and by time, however, if the pain is unbearable, the person might be force to have a surgical treatment.

The surgery is pretty invasive and intense, so it is usually better to continue with conservative treatments (medication) for 6 moths or more, before deciding to do the surgery.

    To sum it up, in order to avoid ITBS:
  • Avoid intensive exercises that require an excessive use of the knee (running, cycling etc.), especially without a warm-up
  • don’t exaggerate with knee/buttocks stretching and avoid positions that leave your knee bended for a long time (like the Thunderbolt Pose, or Vajirasana)
  • Don’t sit for too long, as the chair blocks the IT band and creates tension
  • Maintain the flexibility and strength of your IT band, low back, hips and leg muscles, so you can prevent the injury

    How to prevent/heal ITBS

    The first tip to have a strong IT band is to empower it with some exercises: fortunately, yoga has many positions that can give you strong legs and tendons!

    Instead of sitting on the floor or a chair, try to complete your exercises on a yoga ball which doesn’t stress the area too much.

    Another interesting tool to use for leg strengthening is a resistance band; the two most important things to focus on are to strengthen the gluteus maximus (more generally the gluteus muscles) and to avoid excessive motion of the leg.

    Talking about yoga, here there are some interesting positions for a strong IT band.

    The first we recommend is the Half Moon Pose, a great pose to strengthen every muscle of your legs, while maintaining balance and steadiness.

    Start standing up with your feet close to each other, then slowly widen your legs and lift your arms until you make a T shape with them.

    Turn your standing foot (right one) outward until you make a 90° angle from the original position, take a breath and bend your upper body towards the standing foot. Put your right hand on your ankle and lift the left one to the ceiling.

    After that, slowly move the right hand and touch the ground, then lift the left leg to make a 90° angle with the floor.

    You should use your finger tips of your right hand to keep the balance, and be careful not to hyper extend the standing knee. Keep the pose for 1 minute, slowly breathing, then go back to the standing position and repeat the whole process 3-4 times.

    Vasisthasana has a strong impact on the glute muscle especially to tear and strengthen the Gluteus Minimus, which then promotes stability in the pelvic area of the bones and Gluteal Region.

    Lie on your left side, placing your left forearm on the ground and driving your scapula toward your hip. Line up your feet with your shoulders. Activate your outer foot so that your ankle stays strong, rising up into Side Plank Pose.

    Lift your right foot away from your left so your feet are hip-width apart. Hold for up to 1 minute, then repeat on the other side.

    Anantasana can be another great way to loosen the tension of your IT band!

    Lie on one of your sides and sustain your head with the arm that stands one the ground, lift your leg avoiding the rotation of the hip for now.

    When you reached the max height with your leg, flex the hip forward, keeping the leg raised, then lower the leg maintaining the hip rotated and finally go back to the original position. The action should take 30 seconds, repeat it for 2-3 times for each leg.

    Conclusions

    Yoga is a great option to strengthen your muscles and avoid injuries, however, other activities can be a valid option too.

    You can choose a large variety of exercises with a resistance band, and all of them can help you recovering/preventing ITBS (never exaggerate with them, or you will have the opposite effect!).

    A good exercise is the lateral band walk: begin standing with resistance band on your quadriceps and walk laterally 10 steps in one direction and perform 3-4 sets with both your legs.

    One of the most known exercises for this section of the leg is the side plank: lay on your left side on the ground, use your elbow to lift the torso and lift your hip for 10 seconds, repeat it for 3-5 sets on both your sides.

    Don’t add time to the repetitions: instead, add repetition, but keep the time with your hip lifted under 10 seconds, so you minimize the lactic acid.

    In this article, we saw the basic structure of IT band, what it connects in our body and how important it is.

    Then we described IT band syndrome, how to diagnose it and some exercises (both yoga and not) to prevent it.

    We hope you found this article interesting and useful, but we hope you will never experience ITBS: because we prefer to prevent injuries, and not heal from them!