Whether it is running, suryanamaskar or vinyasa in Yoga, high impact marshal arts or any such dynamic movements, it is bound to cause the gluteal maximus, hamstrings and the iliotibial (IT) band a lot of stress, because of being repetitive, high impact and high intensity in nature. This resulting stiffness in the muscles as well as the connective tissues is one of the key contributors to other associated problems such as back pain, knee pain, achilles tendon, plantar fascia etc. Upon further in-depth analysis, IT band tends to be the biggest culprit among all. Many a time, the practitioner is not even aware of the intensity of the stiffness of IT band until it makes its presence known, discordantly.
Static stretches are definitely one of the solutions. This needs to be performed not only post activity, but also, needs to make part of your daily stretch regime for the efficacy of an injury-free performance. The best way to go about this practice would be to start with the stretches which initially focus on gluteal opening (gluteal muscles make an integral part of IT band, it would start easing the tension around IT band automatically when targeted first) then moving onto specific IT band stretches (targeted stretches for IT band). If one attempts directly targeting these muscles, they might counter react and get more tensed, leading to spasm. Most of the stretches involved in gluteal muscles automatically cover the hamstrings stretches.
In this blog, I am showing a series of performances which need to be performed by holding each posture at least for 30 seconds to a minute, as per your comfort. You can use wall as a prop to support your position. This consists of:
(1) Placing the foot on the wall
The left foot is placed on the wall. The placing of the leg should be parallel to the floor but if the hamstrings are very tight and quadriceps weak, it may be difficult to place your foot at 900 angle. In that case, one can place the leg at the comfortable position. Going above 900 on the wall will have a better engagement of hamstrings. Do observe caution and perform within capacity.
- Raising the arms above your head and moving the whole body, specially the upper part of the body backward will create more space in the frontal part of the spine so that it can have a strong grounding on the left leg while bending forward.
- Going forward will engage the opening of the hips in three dimensionse. opening it at the back, opening it at the sides and opening it to the ceiling.
- Place the palms, as away as possible from the body, on the wall, to create more length at the back of spine; scoop your tummy in by rolling it in and place it on your thigh, then place your chest on the knee and finally your forehead on the shin; the whole upper part of your body is firmly resting on your left leg; slide your palms softly down towards your left toes to feel the maximum stretch; Hold on to your toes.
(2) Opening left arm to the extreme left
- Basically, you are trying to assume a posture wherein your spine is in a twisting mode so that you are releasing any tension from your lower back.
- Your IT bands (both the legs) are highly engaged in this (press the heel on the floor firmly to engage the IT band for the leg on the floor).
- You can hold the left toes with the right hand and softly move your body weight away from the wall to optimize the stretch; make sure that your right foot sticks firmly on the floor, otherwise, you will lose balance.
- In this position, along with your hamstrings and gluteal muscles, your IT band is in full stretch.
(3) Half Uttansana
This simple posture works directly on gluteal muscles and your hamstrings. After being in the posture for sometimes, slide your heels slightly away from each other and push the outer edges of the feet along with the heels on the floor to shift the stretch to IT band.
These simple stretches can be performed immediately post a run. Engaged performance, with holding, will help target every tiny part of these areas from different angles, wherein, you can apply your awareness to maximize the release.
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Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.