The “Ball Plow” as a means to combat IT band pain
I’ve been an athlete for the better part of my life, developing and nurturing a love of running since I was in high school. Running originally brought me to yoga, as I sought out an exercise to counter how tight my hips, thighs, hamstrings, and calves felt constantly. Yoga proved to be an ideal solution; where running tightens the body, yoga brings release and stretch.
Throughout my own yoga journey, both as a practitioner and as a teacher, I’m constantly searching for ways that yoga can impact other facets of my life. As any yogi will tell you, there are many; yoga helps to relieve stress, increase mindfulness and body awareness, and help to prevent and heal injuries. As a runner, this last one is particularly crucial. Like nearly all athletes, I’ve had my fair share of minor aches and injuries over the years. My latest battle has been against outer knee pain, which, most likely, is caused by a stressed IT band. On the worst days, this has prevented me from running long distances or completing planned workouts. Not actually a muscle, the iliotibial tract is a long band of connective tissue that runs from the outer hip, down along the upper leg, and outside the knee to the upper shin. Tightness can cause the IT band to constrict, pulling on the connections on either end; this, Penn Medicine tells me, is what has caused the pain I’ve experienced outside my knee.
As I’ve been on the hunt for a lasting remedy, I’ve recently transitioned away from foam rolling and more towards incorporating lacrosse or tennis balls into my regular yoga practice. By focusing on one pressure point, a ball can allow for deeper release of the built up tension. Inspired by Teagan Schweitzer’s recent myofascial release workshop at Maha, and Jill Miller’s book The Roll Model, my latest preferred method of torture is what’s known as the “ball plow.” As shown in this video, the method involves placing one or two balls (tennis balls work fine, but denser ones like these lacrosse balls allow for deeper release) under the outer thigh, and “going in one direction, constantly, with a ton of pressure, and then lightening the load when you return.”
I have yet to find a magical cure for any of the aches and pains that come with running (and if anyone knows of any that are legal, please, enlighten me), but focusing on release techniques in addition to my regular yoga practice is definitely making a difference. I urge any athletes – whether for rehabilitation or preventative purposes – to begin incorporating more of these types of exercises in your routine!
This article was submitted by Liz Coda. Join Liz for Yogahour Mondays and Fridays at 5p!
Liz began practicing yoga while in college. An avid runner, she took up yoga as a way to stretch and build strength to support her running, but quickly fell in love with yoga on its own. She moved to Philadelphia in 2013 to begin teaching middle school, and deepened her yoga practice as a way to destress and center herself amidst a hectic work life. She completed her 200 hour Yogahour Teacher Training at Maha in 2017. She’s excited to offer students a fun yet challenging practice to help them build strength and confidence.