If you’re experiencing irritation in your knee, you may be having IT band pain. Your iliotibial band, also known as the IT band, stretches from your hip to the knee, and overuse of it can cause pain and tenderness. Rather than turning to foam rolling, you can help improve a tight IT band by increasing flexibility, and there are some common yoga poses that can help specifically with this area of the body. “Considering [that] the IT band is an area where many other tissues attach, it is worth doing some yoga for,” says Yoga Instructor Hope Zvara.
Even if you aren’t a regular practicing yogi, you can try these simple poses at home. They will help strengthen and stretch your muscles to help relieve tightness and prevent pain. Here are five of the best yoga stretches for the IT band.
Need some guidance with your yoga practice? Try using an instructor on the Aaptiv app.
Figure 4 Stretch
Thread the needle, also known as the Figure 4 stretch or reclined pigeon, opens up the hip and glute while allowing for a deeper stretch where the IT band attaches to the hip. Lay on your back with your knees bent, soles of your feet on the ground, and arms down by your side with palms facing down. Draw your left foot up to the ceiling and flex the toes back toward your body.
Bend the left knee, and cross your left ankle just above the right knee. Draw your right knee up to your chest as you clasp your hands behind your right hamstring or shin. ”Focus on lengthening the low back to the floor rather than allowing the pelvis and low back to curl up toward the navel,” says Yoga Instructor Heather Evans.
Crossed Leg Forward Fold
“This pose creates additional length in the outside of the crossed leg, opening up more space for the IT band to stretch,” says Evans. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your arms by your sides, palms facing forward. Cross your right foot over your left so that your legs are crossed, and lift your arms up over your head. Draw your navel towards your spine and fold forward from the hips. As you fold forward, your arms come down, and your fingertips touch the floor, your feet, or shins.
Standing pigeon is similar to the cross-legged forward fold, but you sit back rather than fold forward. “An excellent hip opener, this pose lengthens the IT band where it connects into the hip,” says Evans. To begin, stand with your feet hip-width apart with your arms by your sides, palms facing forward. As you inhale, lift your left leg off the floor and cross your left ankle just above the right knee, creating the shape of the number four with your legs. “Keep the left foot flexed to protect the knee,” says Evans. Bring your hands to your hips as you begin to bend your right knee, and lower your pelvis back and down, as though you want to sit down in a chair.
Reclined Twist (With a Strap)
The pose lengthens the entirety of the outside of the leg, especially as the foot flexes. “With the strap supporting the leg, your focus goes to elongating the space between the hip and knee,” says Evans.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep the soles of feet on the ground and your arms down by your side, palms facing down. Keep a yoga strap or belt nearby. Bend your left knee, flex your foot, and wrap the strap around the ball of your foot, taking one side of each strap in each hand. Bring your left foot up to the ceiling with the strap taut, bringing both sides of the strap into your right hand and extending your left arm out from the shoulder along the floor, palm facing down.
Draw the left leg across the body using the straps to support the leg. Continue to flex both feet and ground the back of the right leg down into the floor. Repeat on the other side. “The further the foot comes to the floor and the more the foot flexes, the more intense the IT stretch,” says Evans.
“This pose opens up the glute and outer hip, relieving tension in the IT band while also benefiting the spine and lower back with a gentle twist,” says Evans. Sit with your legs extended out in front of you, keeping your spine long and your arms down by your sides. Flex both feet, cross your left foot over your right thigh, and bring the sole to the floor. Twist your torso to the left, wrapping your right arm around the left leg as you bring your left hand behind you for support. Continue to lengthen the right leg as you flex the right foot. “As you inhale, lengthen your spine,” says Evans. “As you exhale, twist a little deeper.”
Stretching the IT band through these yoga poses can help strengthen the surrounding muscles and help release tension. You can also find other helpful yoga poses to stretch the rest of your body by using the Aaptiv app.