Yoga Anatomy | IT Band and Foam Rolling

foam rollerGrowing up in Oregon my friends and I did a lot of running. Enjoying the beautiful trails and fresh air of the Pacific Northwest. However, between cross country races and track & field meets, leg pain was always an issue.
A lot of this stems from the tightening of the IT band.
The iliotial band is not a muscle, it is a thick band of fascia (connective tissue). It originates from the hip to just below the knee. The IT band is connected to the gluteus maximus and the tensor fascia latae (TFL). When the TFL contracts it pulls the IT band.
The TFL actions include helping the iliopsoas with hip flexion and the glutes with abduction and internal rotation of the leg. Very important stuff especially in running and even walking.
In the case of runners, the IT band can tighten due to a weakness in the gluteal muscles.
So instead of the gluteus medius helping to stabilize the pelvics during a run, the ‘assisting’ muscle like the TFL kicks in. However the TFL cannot stabilize the knee so the IT band tightens to provide that stability. In turn the gluteus medius weakens and it becomes a vicious cycle.
So there are a few things we can do to ensure we are strengthening our gluteal muscles which help to stabilize the pelvis when walking or running.
Do the glutes check.
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1. Step your left foot onto a foam block, allowing the right leg to float
2. Bring the hips in line and then pulse your right leg up and down without using the obliques
3. Count to see how many you can do before feeling stiffness and pain
What did you get? If it was less then 10-12 then you need to work on those glutes. Repeat on the other side.
In the meantime if you are already experiencing tightness in your IT band there is the option of foam rolling or self-myofascial release. Remember the IT is not a muscle so you cannot ‘stretch’ it like one. It must be released using other techniques.
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However there are a few important things to keep in mind when foam rolling. Here are a few tips to follow:
1. Don’t roll over areas where you directly feel pain, instead roll surrounding areas
2. Don’t roll too fast – give your body time to adjust to the compression and register it, slow shorter strokes with the roller are kinder to the body. Wait 5-10 seconds on trouble areas (remembering to not roll directly over the pain areas, but working the surrounding areas).
3. Commit to rolling – a session shouldn’t be a quick 10-15 minutes. A good foam rolling session will get you in a sweat as you are using your body weight and strength to sink into the roller. Dedicate at least 45-60 minutes to rolling.
If you feel sharp pain as you begin to roll, adjust the roller a few inches away from that area and gently work you way around that area. For the IT band don’t roll directly on it instead focus on connected muscles like the gluteals or the TFL.
Specifically in the case of the IT band the pain could indicate inflammation in the area. So be kind to your body.
Here are a few additional stretches recommended by Monduka:
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Weekday Hatha/Ashtanga 200 Hour YTT September 2015

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