Attention, all you Hikers-Bikers-Runners: you’ve got something called an Iliotibial band, and chances are that it’s tight through your sport of choice.
It may also be tight even if you’re not of the hiking-biking-running ilk: a lot of incorrect sitting (see my previous visual yoga blog) and chances are that you’ll need this stretch
If stretching your Iliotibial band sounds a tad technical, call it “stretching the outside of the leg.” It lacks specificity, but you also don’t have to dust off your physiology books to know where we’re headed.
If you’re particularly tight, do this with a yoga block. Or you might find that you can do this just fine without one. Try this in 3 easy steps:
1. Shift the weight of your body onto your left foot and raise your right leg out to the side. Hold a block in your right hand. Stay for a couple of breaths in this balance pose.
2. Cross your right leg behind your left leg. Look at the floor to make balance, and this transition, more stable.
3. Sink through your outer right hip without bringing it down to the floor. In other words, hang off the floor with your right hip, which is where the stretch happens now. Keep your back upright and rest your left forearm on top of your left thigh, as pictured. Notice that the height of the block has been changed here. Feel free to use the height shown in the previous two illustrations, to use even less height, or to rest your right palm on the floor instead (and dispense with the block altogether), so long as you don’t sit and so long as your back remains upright and lifted.
Stay for five slow breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Easier for stretching the IT band than other more standard poses in yoga…. yet just as effective as stretching it.
Avoid if: Either hip joint hurts while in the pose. Or avoid if your IT Band is so tight that instead of stretching, this feels like torture. (In fact, if anything in yoga feels like torture, seriously, skip it or ask your teacher for an alternate position. “No pain, no gain” may be a dubiously accepted axiom for muscle-building, but flexibility is borne of muscular relaxation, and you can’t relax if any muscle is feeling overstretched… and hence tightens to protect itself.)
Final thoughts: If you thought “IT Band Stretch” was some sort of music band put together by the Information Technology department, chances are you sit too long and need this stretch.