Pigeon Pose: An Advanced Iliotibial (IT) Band Stretch

Learn how to perform an advanced Iliotibial band stretch.

Woman sitting in yoga position at home, side view
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If you are a runner, your iliotibial, or IT, band is something you'll want to stretch as it is a common cause of knee pain.

Here's why: The iliotibial (IT) band is a tough group of fibers that run along the outside of the thigh and stabilizes the entire leg during activities such as running or stair-climbing. It begins at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shin bone (tibia) just below the knee joint.

 

And, many runners experience Iliotibial band friction syndrome due to inflammation and irritation of a tight, inflexible IT band. To prevent this, it helps to perform regular IT Band stretches.

There are many different ways to stretch your IT band. This is a more advanced stretch, that is sometimes called the Pigeon Pose in yoga. For a simpler stretch, see the Standing Iliotibial Band Stretch.

Before You Stretch the IT Band

Because this stretch is more advanced, it often helps if you loosen the IT Band by using a foam roller before doing this stretch. Rolling is a form of self-myofascial release. Fascia — the sheets of connective tissue throughout your body — and muscles can hold tension. When you release it, flexibility and mobility are restored, or at least easier to achieve.

When you use a foam roller on your muscles, it acts as a warm-up, increasing blood flow to area you are rolling, so it is a great preparation for more traditional stretching.

Use this foam roller move to roll out your IT band prior to doing pigeon pose.

IT Band Roll
Setup: Lie sideways with your right outer thigh on the roller. Bring your left leg forward and place your foot near the roller. You should be resting on your right forearm, with your left hand on the floor in front of you for balance and control.


Action: Roll up and down the outside of your thigh in movements of 3-5 inches for 8 to 10 rolls. Lift your hips, position the roller farther down your thigh and repeat. Continue until you’ve come to just above the knee. Immediately do pigeon pose on the same side holding it for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

How to Do Pigeon Pose, an Advanced IT Band Stretch

  1. Start in a push up position on your hand and toes.
  2. Slide your right knee forward toward your right hand and your right foot toward your left hand. You will have to angle your knee so the outer sides of your knee and ankle are touching the floor (see picture).
  3. Bring your left hip forward, sliding your left leg back as far as comfortable. Lower your body straight down with your weight balanced between your right leg and the left thigh. Keep your hips square to the floor.
  4. You can either stay up on your hands, or fold forward and let your forearms rest on the floor in front of you or fully extended your arms in front of you. You should feeling a deep stretch in your right hip and the outer thigh.
  1. Breathe slowly and deeply from your belly. Hold the stretch 30-60 seconds and release. Repeat on the other leg, or if you have a roller, roll the other leg and then do the other side.

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