The iliotibial band (ITB) is a band of tissue that runs along the outside of your hip and thigh. On the sides of our hips we have a couple of muscles responsible for the motion known as hip abduction, the movement of your leg away from the centerline of your body. Basically, if you’re standing up and you lift your leg out to the side without rotating your foot or leaning your upper body in the opposite direction as pictured here using a chair – we worked on this with a tube in last week’s yoga class without a prop and without shoes to really work it !(FYI – rotating your foot out would be cheating) you’ve just abducted your hip.
Hip abduction is mainly responsible for dynamic stabilization of your knee during movement, particularly walking and running. Our knees have a tendency to shift sideways or laterally, during movement and our bodies use hip abduction as a way to mitigate this issue.
Your IT band is attached to a smallish muscle called your tensor fascia latae (TFL), which is meant to stabilize your knee and assist in abduction, (think abduct which means take away from the body sideways) but the prime mover is actually your gluteus medius, one of the muscles in your buttocks (found, on the upper part of the lateral aspect of your glutes).
This is why I recommend tube walking for personal training clients. Once you have mastered the proper placement using the chair (above) take it to a sideways tube walk wiht proper foot placement. My clients now how!
If your glute medius isn’t firing properly or is weak, it can’t do much to stabilize your knee and when any prime mover muscle is too weak to perform a movement on its own some of the stabilizers and assistive muscles will kick in to help. This can happen due to fatigue as well and leg muscles fatigue from a variety of reasons because to put it simply we use them to get everywhere and if the gait is off, problems ensue. If you run, hike, even walk a lot or start doing a repetitive motion with poor gait – even cardio – the IT band can inflamed.
What to do? Mobilize your IT band and posterior chain with yoga! You might be surprised to know that those who think they have tight hamstrings are actually dealing with more of an issue of their entire posterior chain clenching and pulling when and where it shouldn’t. For example if you have an exaggerated posterior pelvic tilt when squatting – be it getting in and out of a seat to doing a squat exercise. There are a variety of stretches that can be performed to help these areas, from this supine twist and kneeling to a variety of standing postures to the every popular Down Dog and One Legged Down Dog.
Why is Down Dog and One Legged Down Dog so beneficial for a regular practice? These are great poses because not only do they decompress and neutralize your spine, but consistent practice will correct most of the movement faults associated with a lot of issues. They also help the body to workout harder, as these poses even help correct movement faults with everything from kettle bell swinging to overhead presses.
Down Dog makes a great warmup and variations of the pose can target and help that IT band.
Getting and preserving flexibility is essential to overall fitness and health as are core and hip strengthening, exercises, good footwear with arch supports to help you maintain a proper gait. Meet me on the mat this week as we work our IT band, helping it become more flexible total body.