Yoga For IT Band: 7 Poses For Deep Relief

+ How Yoga Can Help IT Band Pain Beyond Stretching

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Many people may have heard of the iliotibial band or the IT band syndrome, and yet far from everyone knows where it is located in the body, let alone its functions and peculiarities.

This article will explore the IT band through the lens of yoga, sharing ways this ancient practice can help to relieve tension, build up endurance, and prevent injury.

From understanding the anatomy and common issues associated with the IT band to discovering targeted yoga poses, I am about to guide you on a journey toward happy hips and painless movement.

a woman clutching her it band

What is the IT Band?

The iliotibial band, also known as the iliotibial tract, is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh. It extends from the ilium1 Ilium. (n.d.). Physiopedia. (a part of the pelvis) all the way down the side of the leg, crossing the knee joint, and attaching to the tibia2 Cleveland Clinic. (2022, May 6). Tibia (Shin Bone): Location, Anatomy & Common Conditions. Cleveland Clinic. (shinbone).

It is commonly abbreviated as IT band3 Iliotibial tract. (n.d.). Kenhub. or even ITB. I wonder if medics simply didn’t want to spell out “iliotibial” every time.

The IT band acts as the connective tissue for two muscles in the pelvis:

  • Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) is a small muscle located on the lateral aspect of the hip. It originates from the anterior side of the iliac crest, which is a prominent ridge of the pelvis. The primary functions of the TFL4 Tensor Fascia Lata. (2014). Physiopedia. are hip flexion, abduction, and internal rotation.
  • Gluteus Maximus is the largest muscle of the buttocks. It originates from the posterior portion of the ilium, as well as the sacrum and coccyx (tailbone). The primary function of the gluteus maximus is hip extension, but it also assists in lateral rotation and abduction of the thigh.

Some sources also include Gluteus Medius as part of the IT tract. The gluteus medius is the second largest muscle in the buttocks, situated on the outer surface of the pelvis. It plays a crucial role in stabilizing the pelvis during asymmetrical lower body movement.

As a whole, the IT band works to stabilize the knee during activities that involve single-leg support such as running, walking, cycling, and standing on one leg.

Cow face pose: great for your IT band!

Common IT Band Injuries

Injuries or a tight IT band are common among athletes, particularly runners, cyclists, and those who engage in repetitive knee-bending activities. 

The most common condition is the iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), which occurs when the IT band is inflamed or irritated due to overuse or biomechanical factors. Typical symptoms of ITBS include loss of hip flexor mobility and pain on the outside of the knee, usually exacerbated during activities like running or climbing stairs.

When the IT band is under stress, it is also vulnerable to bruising or tearing, especially in case of direct impact on the outside of the thigh or knee.

Prevention vs Recovery

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that people often only learn about the IT band after they get injured. Unfortunately, recovering from an injury takes more time and effort than prevention.

For instance, treatment for IT band syndrome involves rest, ice, and a long recovery that includes a routine of yoga stretches and strengthening exercises. In severe cases, ITBS may even require medical intervention such as corticosteroid injections.

On the other hand, strengthening the IT band and creating more elasticity in the tissues through yoga and exercise can help you avoid the pain altogether.

4 Yoga for IT Band Techniques

No more boring anatomy speak, I promise! We are finally about to dive into all the amazing ways yoga can keep your IT tract in top shape.

1. Stretching 

If there’s one thing you can expect in a yoga class, it is a hearty stretch. There are plenty of standing, seated, and supine poses that can help release tension in the IT band and surrounding muscles, promoting flexibility and reducing tightness.

2. Hip and Core Strength

As a secondary measure, many yoga poses work toward engaging the muscles around the hips and core, which are important for stabilizing the pelvis and reducing strain on the IT band.

3. Mindfulness and Body Awareness

It should come as no surprise that yoga benefits extend past the physical aspect. Yoga encourages keen awareness of your body, allowing practitioners to tune into sensations and imbalances.

When you learn to pay attention to how certain movements and postures feel, you can modify your practice and other physical activity to avoid aggravating the IT band and supporting muscles.

4. Stress Relief

Stress may contribute to tension and stiffness in the muscles, exacerbating budding IT band issues. Through breathing techniques and mindfulness practice, yoga can help relieve stress, reducing the overall risk of IT band injury.

7 Poses: Yoga for IT Band

You don’t have to center your entire practice around your iliotibial band. However, sprinkling the following yoga poses into your sequence is a great way to keep your IT band happy.

1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) with ankles crossed

This is my personal favorite among the IT band stretches. Crossing your right foot over your left foot in Uttanasana can help you lengthen through the entirety of the iliotibial band.

It’s a simple change that shifts the focus of this asana and brings variety into your practice. If you’re a runner or cyclist, this is an amazing way to decompress after a long workout.

2. Revolved Triangle (Parivrita Trikonasana)

An annotated image of woman wearing black yoga clothes doing revolved triangle pose

Adding the twist to the Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) mimics the same lengthening motion you perform in a crossed-ankle variation of Uttanasana.

You can make this asana more accessible by elevating your hand onto a yoga block or introducing a slight bend to the front knee.

3. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Kapotasana) variations

Whether you prefer a lower back bend in One-Legged King Pigeon or a snooze in Sleeping Pigeon, variations of Eka Pada Kapotasana provide an excellent gluteal stretch, including the piriformis muscle, which can often be tight and contribute to IT band issues. 

By releasing tension in these areas, Pigeon Pose indirectly helps alleviate strain on the IT band and promotes greater flexibility and mobility in the hip joint.

4. Reclined Figure of Four (Supta Kapotasana)

Even modified, Pigeon Pose can prove to be too intense for some practitioners. The reclined variation (also known as Supine Pigeon Pose) is a great alternative. It’s relaxing and gentle on the knees, which is why it is often included towards the end of a yoga class.

5. Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing a half moon pose

A striking standing balance, this asana involves hip abduction, which engages both the gluteus medius and tensor fasciae latae.

This pose also strengthens the muscles supporting the IT band, enhancing stability and reducing the risk of IT band-related discomfort. 

6. Side Plank (Vasisthasana) variations

Side plank strengthens the entire side body, including the obliques, quadratus lumborum, and gluteus medius, which are all connected to the IT band. By building strength in these muscles, side plank stabilizes the pelvis and hip joint, reducing strain on the IT band and improving overall functional movement patterns.

To keep things dynamic, you can try different variations of Side Plank:

  • Kneeling side plank
  • Kneeling side plank with hip abduction (top leg lifted)
  • Side plank with hip abduction (top leg lifted)
  • Forearm side plank
  • Fallen Triangle Pose

7. Foam Rolling

If you own a roller or a fascia massage ball, you can complement your IT band yoga practice with foam rolling5 IT Band Foam Rolling: Does it Actually Help? (2020, June 26). Healthline. This is a common recommendation among physiotherapists, particularly as a prophylactic measure.

Foam rolling can increase blood flow to the area to reduce inflammation, as well as affect tissue flexibility. It is worth noting that if you suffer from an IT band injury, you should consult a medical professional before attempting any foam rolling.

The most popular foam rolling exercise is to rest the side of your thigh on a roller or massage ball, moving up and down or in a circular motion.

Another great option is an isometric wall press, where the foam roller sits between your glute or thigh and the wall. 

a woman foam rolling her it band


What IT band symptoms are a cause of concern?

While it is normal to experience some tightness in your glute and thigh, you should keep an eye out for any signs of injury or inflammation. This is particularly relevant for athletes at the risk of repetition injury, such as runners, cyclists, and team sports players.

Seek medical advice if you start experiencing persistent tensor fasciae latae pain, knee pain, or limited mobility despite yoga practice. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist or sports medicine specialist for personalized assessment and treatment.

How often should I practice yoga to see improvements in my IT band flexibility and comfort?

This truly depends on each person’s unique circumstances. Between your starting point, your physical activity levels, and any pre-existing conditions, the timeline can vary significantly.

In any case, the key to success is consistency and moderation. Listen to your body to avoid overexerting yourself, and focus on the journey.

In addition to yoga, what other self-care practices can complement my IT band-focused routine?

To enhance your yoga regimen, you may incorporate complementary practices such as foam rolling, strength training, and proper rest and recovery to support overall IT band health and prevent overuse injuries.

Once again, this is especially important for athletes and people whose job or lifestyle involves a lot of repetitive movement like walking, running, squatting, and lifting things.

Get Started

Eager to give it a go? This 15 minute yoga Yin sequence with yoga teacher Joelle is the perfect place to start.

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An avid yoga practitioner, Cat completed her training as a Hatha yoga teacher in 2016. She firmly believes that with the right guidance, yoga can benefit everyone, regardless of age, gender, size, or ability. With a background in journalism, Cat realized she could share her yoga experience with others, kickstarting her freelance writing career.

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