Thursday, December 8, 2011

Savasana with needles; Question about IT band

 [Image taken from here]

Yesterday afternoon, I went for my first official acupuncture session at the TCM place near where I live (I had previously tried acupuncture during a recent open house at this place; see this post).

The whole session was quite pleasant; I lay on the table for about half an hour with needles stuck in various meridian points on the elbows, hands and knees. The entire time, I was either looking up at the ceiling or closing my eyes. I felt very relaxed and calm afterwards. But I am unable to tell whether this state of being relaxed came from the acupuncture itself or from simply lying on the table and not doing anything for half an hour. In any case, I'll take what I can get :-) In some ways, I feel that the whole experience is like an extra-long savasana, plus needles, of course.


Before the acupuncture session, the acupuncturist held my left foot at various angles, and told me to exert pressure against his hand. He then concluded that I have a tight left IT band. Interesting. I have always associated tight IT bands with outer knee pain rather than inner knee pain. And I also realized that there seem to be very few postures in Ashtanga that actually stretch the IT band. There's Utthita Trikonasana in standing. There's also Ardha Matsyendrasana, but one has to get to second series before one can get the benefits of that posture (if you follow the series, that is). The lotus postures and their variations in primary presuppose that one already has fairly open IT bands, so they're not that helpful for me (in any case, I'm modifying all the padmasana variations on the left side in primary, so this is really a moot point anyway).

I suppose one possibility is to do certain hip/IT band openers outside of practice; things like threading-the-needle pose, for instance. I also know that the so-called pigeon pose is helpful for some people in this regard, but I distrust that pose (I think the risk of compromising the SI joint and knee is too great in that pose).

Anybody out there know of any ways to stretch/open the IT band?


  1. Gurjii himself used to advocate pigeon as a prep pose (pre the start of your practice) for lbh work, if done with alignment and consciousness it's a great pose. the poses are trustworthy, it's the people practising them ;)

  2. Hey Nobel:)
    As a former massage therapist, there really isn't a way to "stretch" the ITBand. It is a tendon that holds your bones together and well, tendons don't stretch. BUT:) what you CAN do is work on the muscles surrounding the IT Band, like Tensor Fascellate(sounds like a porn star or a coffee drink) it's at the top of your hip, passed the joint, also the Psoas(front top of thigh) and the hip flexors in general as well at hams. Pigeon is a wonderful tool as well as double pigeon(stacking legs on top of one another like logs, then switch one on top of the other)jathara Parivirtanasana is great too, a supine stretch, arms out, palms flat and taking straight legs side to side(keep ur legs hi, feet to hands). Lastly rockin the baby, take ur foot in one elbow crook and the knee in the other, draw the leg to you and sit up, and rock it out. I hope these help and u can understand my instructions...I bloody well hope so or my student's are screwed!haha!

  3. Nobel, your accupuncture experience seems different than mine, did you have electricity going through the needles? cause when I did I had to "actively" relax, maybe my discomfort tollerance is too big, it took me two sessions to actually get to relax... sissy me! Hope it is helping!

    Great to hear from Jaya too, that is so funny about the tensor that sounds like a porn star or a coffee drink... no tensor facellate no prana? hee hee

  4. I meant to say maybe my discomfort tollerance is NOT too big...

  5. Hi Nobel; You should definitely try giving yourself a myofascial release along the ITband; from the glutes down to right above the lateral part of the knee. This can be accomplished by foam rolling; I personally use a tennis ball; and or my rolled up mat and roll along the side of the area very slowly, as the tighter your IT band; the more painful this will be. But it is extremely is how to video... hope it helps and best of luck

  6. Working (intelligently) the bent leg in Janu A-C is a good way to work on the muscles that connect to the IT Band. It is also easy to look for and work any trigger points in the glutes and thighs when you are sitting around, oh say thinking of things to blog about. Oh and sitting in siddhasana and using the breath to connect to and release the muscles around the hip is nice, maybe trying some kundalini yoga style kriyas while sitting as well.

  7. Thank you all for your helpful and generous suggestions and comments. I'll try to respond to all of you, but please excuse me if I don't get around to responding to every single one.

    Anonymous, interesting that Guruji himself recommended pigeon as a prep posture. I personally have more faith in double pigeon, simply because one doesn't have to deal with that trailing back leg. But I'll have to think about this one some more.

    thanks for your suggestions, JayaKrishna. Tensor Fascellate... maybe there will be soon be a new porn star with that moniker ;-) Yes, I already do double pigeon before practice to get into the gluteus medius (I have sensed tightness there); Jatara Parivartanasana (JP) is a good idea. Actually, I used to do JP regularly in my pre-Ashtanga days. Maybe that's why I didn't have tight IT bands back in the day (is "tight" even the right expression, since the IT band, as you mentioned, is actually a tendon, and tendons probably cannot be tight or open?) Anyway, I think I'll include JP in my pre-practice routine from tomorrow onwards. I actually enjoy doing that pose a lot :-) Gosh, at this rate, I'm going to be spending more time in pre-practice than in the actual practice :-)

    Thanks for sharing, Claudia. Actually, having needles in me is probably the furthest I can be naturally comfortable with as far as invasive procedures go ;-) It probably also helps that I grew up watching lots of people undergo acupuncture, even if I never tried it myself.

    Hello RV and Tom, I'll look into your suggestions too. I've never tried foam rolling, but well, I guess there's always a first time, right? :-)

  8. Bharadvajasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana. Trouble is that they don't come until after Supta Vajrasana in practice. But I discovered most recently a new one: Parsvakonasana B (aka Parivrtta Parsvakonasana). Can really stretch the TFL here. I've been staying longer in that pose lately, especially on the tighter side.

  9. Thanks for the Parivrtta Parsvakonasana tip, Frank. I'll try staying in it longer.

  10. Hi Noble,
    Greetings from Malaysia, how's your ITB? Can try using a foam roller, it might help, most runners suffering from ITB swear by the foam roller