The trendy go-to remedy for a tight IT band—foam rolling—can actually do more harm than good. Here’s why, plus the yoga poses that’ll help you keep your IT band healthy.
Tight IT band? Read this before you break out that foam roller!
THE ILIOTIBIAL (IT) BAND may not be top of mind for most yogis. After all, the thick fascial tissue (similar to a tendon) isn’t typically aggravated by yoga alone. But if you love jump backs, or if you practice yoga to help balance a fitness regimen filled with high-impact or explosive activities (think running, hiking, dancing, or high-intensity interval training) you likely have an embodied sense of this fibrous structure, and you might say it feels “tight.” And you’re right: The tendinous fibers of the IT band have a firmness that serve as a natural protector of your outer thigh. Yet before you use yoga to help “stretch” or heal your IT band, it’s important to know the basics about how this tissue can become irritated and what to do to help it feel better.
If you feel pain on the outside of your knee, particularly when bending it, this may be a sign that you’re dealing with IT Band Syndrome. For example, pain may occur when you walk up or down stairs or move into yoga poses that require a deep bend in one knee, such as Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II). The source? IT band tension caused by imbalances in your tensor fasciae latae or gluteus maximus muscles—the two hip-based connection points for your IT band. When these muscles pull on your IT band, which connects into your knee’s joint capsule and the outside of your shin bone, it can lead to pain in your outer knee.
The good news? IT band issues are usually not very serious and respond well to strengthening and releasing tension in the muscles surrounding the tendon— especially your gluteus maximus and tensor fasciae latae, as well as the neighboring quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and hip rotators.