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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Stretch of the Month: The IT Band Down Dog

September's Stretch of the Month, the IT Band Down Dog, lengthens & strengthens the entire body! You gain all the benefits of a regular Down Dog like relieving stress & headaches, reducing back pain, and improving digestion, with additional emphasis on stretching the Iliotibial Band (IT Band). The IT Band extends from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip, and inserts below the knee.  Stretching the IT Band can relieve pain from tightness on the outside of the leg and reduce lateral knee & hip injuries.  Make sure you've warmed up sufficiently before trying it out. 
  • Start on all 4's, tuck the toes and lift your hips up to the ceiling so that you create an upside down triangle position (regular Downward Facing Dog). Stay here for 3 deep breaths.
  • Make sure that your hands are pressed firmly into the floor and your arms are rotating so that the inner creases of your elbows are hugging in by your ears.  The shoulder blades should slide down the back toward the hips, and your sits bones should lengthen up to the ceiling.  Send your heels down to the floor.
  • Bend your right knee to your chest and step the foot underneath the left armpit so that the leg is equidistant between the left hand and the left foot, with the outside edge of the right foot in contact with the floor.  Keep the shoulders and hips squared off as you do this.  Ground the palms and feet back into the mat, draw the right hip back in space so that it is in the same plane as the left hip, and resend both sits bones up to the ceiling.
  • Stay here for 5 deep breaths and repeat to the other side.
Modifications: What if?...
  • " shoulders and back are too tight to do the down dog comfortably" Place your hands on blocks or an elevated surface. 
  • "...I can't feel the IT band stretch" Play with the position of the crossed leg, take it up a little bit closer to your hands or down closer to your opposite leg.  Then make sure to draw the hip back so that your heel drags in closer to your body.
The ITBand Down Dog is especially helpful for runners, so try it after your jog around the park!  Check out the schedule to the right to practice it in Stretch Class all month!