In Yoga Tune Up®, we take the body apart muscle by muscle in order to put it back together again in a healthier, more balanced way.  What this part by part method can teach us is that every part of us needs individual attention: one part out of whack can cause a chain reaction throughout the body.  Take the hip flexors for example.  Their main job anatomically is to bring the front side of your thigh closer to your belly.  That means they are working when you walk up stairs, do a Warrior Pose, dance the Can-Can or do a Ninja Kick.  They get shorted whenever we are sitting whether we are at work, driving, watching TV or reading Yoga Tune Up® Blogs.  If your hip flexors are shortened because of the kind of work that you ask them to do, you may have an anteriorly tilted pelvis, which means that if you imagined that your hips are a bowl full water, the front lip of that bowl is tipped forward and down so that the water pours out onto your feet.  To take that one step further, if the front lip is tipped forward and down, then the back edge must be lifted, so the muscles in your low back may be tight and painful as well.

The TFL assists in hip flexion and can end up pretty tight as a result.

Now that we have zoomed out to look at the bigger picture, let us refine our view in true Yoga Tune Up® fashion.  One of the hip flexors that can be tight is called the Tensor Fasciae Latae.  If your find the boney protrusion on the front of your hips and place your heel of the hand on that, and then reach your fingers towards the seam of your pants diagonally, you will be right over your TFL.

The Tensor Fasciae Latae may sound like the newest specialty beverage at the local coffee shop, but it is, in fact, a muscle of the lower extremity.  It attaches from the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (the front of your hip that you were just poking) to the Iliotibial band, otherwise known as the often sore strip of fascia right under the athletic stripe on your workout pants.  When activated, the TFL flexes, abducts, and medially rotates the thigh at the hip joint.  The TFL works when you are walking, standing, balancing on one leg, but not so much when you are lying in savasana.  If your TFL is weak, it increases the likelihood that you walk like a duck with your feet turned out, and if it is tight, chances are good that you feel a lot of tension down the side of your thigh through the iliotibial band.  Because it is a hip flexor and most humans in this part of the world spend most of their time sitting, chances are good that it is somewhat shortened.  Add to that the fact that many of the activities we do to make up for our sedentary life styles include a lot of hip flexion, (running, power walking, kick boxing, remember step classes(!) and even yoga), it’s a pretty good bet that your TFL needs pain relief or just a little TLC. Here are three Yoga Tune Up® Tensor Fasciae Latae stretches that get at that overworked, under-appreciated coffee beverage, uh, make that, muscle.

  1. Abductor Lifts static or Dynamic
  2. Triangle in Parallel
  3. Bridge Lifts Minivini

I’ll be including a video clip of the Bridge Lifts with my blog on Friday!

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Bo OConnor

Bo's interest in the body was peaked in her theater classes in college. She found peoples unconscious expression of themselves through their movement patterns and habitual postures fascinating. She began exploring the human body through dance and yoga during that time. Yoga Tune Up® provides a clear and specific road map to explore, understand, heal and strengthen the body. Bo continues down the path of exploring the inner workings of the body by teaching and practicing YTU and massage therapy.

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Megan

This was a great article. I have been reading that main causes for external rotation of the hip (walking like a duck) can be caused by a weak glute med and tight hip flexors; I did not know that the TFL played such an important role in this as well. Thank you.

Lisa S

I’m excited to teach my partner these exercises and to have him massage his TFL with the YTU therapy balls – he walks like a duck! It’s subtle but it’s there AND he has SI pain, which can be a result of the duck walk – so this might help everything balance out.

Gary Carlisle

I am going to add these poses to my Yoga Tune Up® routine You have convinced me that they will help my Tensor Fasciae Latae. I also like you explanation of how Yoga Tune Up® takes the body apart muscle by muscle in order to put it back together again in a healthier, more balanced way. What more plain and simple explanation of this flavor of body healing.

Amanda Joyce

Too true that the TFL often needs a little TLC! My name is Amanda… and I am a duck walker. 🙁 However, recognizing this is the first step to recovery! The IT band has often gotten an unfair portion of my attention and those days are over! Abductor Lifts, here I come! Triangle in Parallel, let’s get this party started!

Lauren C

I love this post! The analogy of your hips being a bowl full of water if your tensor fascia latae is shortened is so helpful for me. The fact that it attributes to back pain is so interesting and makes so much sense! Since I sit at a desk all day, I will definitely work on the TYU exercises to lengthen the TFL!

Tune Up Your Hips With Abductor Lifts | Yoga Tune Up

[…] much underappreciated tensor fascia latae (TFL) and gluteus medius are key to hip and leg stability. If these muscles get ignored, the IT […]

Angela Medina

Pigeon pose! I swear my TFL always benefits (even if it doesn’t exactly ‘love’ the pose)

Allison

Thank you, Bo, for helping me identify exactly where this Tiny f_ _ _ing coffee drink, er…muscle lives in my body. While I have always been well aware of the role of (and pain) of psoas, TFL is not at the forefront of my consciousness. I shall practice triangle and bridge with a new appreciation!

Do Your Legs Move Left and Right? | Yoga Tune Up

[…] major hip abductors are: All three Gluteus siblings, Maximus, Medius and Minimus; the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL); and the Sartorius.  These muscles not only move the leg laterally away from the centerline, […]

Melissa Tilley

Great article and well deserved attention for the TFL. It is such a small muscle, but has an important role in hip flexion. Since having a pair of yoga tune up balls, this is one of my favourite places to work on first. I was very excited to share the wonders of using the Yoga tune up balls with my students yesterday. They felt stored tension and some much needed release! Thank you for providing some YTU poses that will assist this muscle. I have been relying on the balls to do the work and this has opened up some… Read more »

Julia Ho

Yes, the TFL is such a a culprit for so much hip tension! I have now made a concerted effort to not sit on chairs as much as possible. For example, I’m sitting on the floor right now writing this comment on a nice bolster at a low table. One of my fav. YTU ball massage is to roll out my IT band. It hurts so much yet, it’s sooo good for you.

Terry Littlefield

This is a great anatomy lesson in and of itself. I am motivated to begin reading the blogs standing up. The fact that the hip flexors attach to the ASIS and IT band just confirms the issues that I consistently deal with. I do walk with neutral feet though so that’s one plus here. I must relax this TFL and IT band to begin to open the release the hip flexor. I also get cramping when I do core work because my hip flexors fire up. The left one is more painful but both will activate during core work like… Read more »

Kirsten

Thanks for this gem Bo! I noticed a while back when I was doing core work in a supine position, my hip flexors would fire up and get cranky before I coup really tap into my target area. I would end up stopping the exercise to pound out a cramp. Seeing as the TFL is one of the hip flexors, I’ve been working out the tension with my Yoga Tune-Up Balls, making them less cranky. Now my core is able to engage and power up long before my TFL wants to lend a helping hand!

silvia marisol

tensor Fascia Lata! Yes, exactly, Bo, we do get ourselves in situations (like CLASSES) where we have much homework to do, as I am NOW, and we sit more than usual. Can be the down side of travel also, especially if you’re driving. Lately I’ve been practicing Hot Yoga, due to the fact that I was living with my son & daughter-in-law caring for my new grand baby. I no longer had my Yoga space & privacy, etc. & started attending the Hot Yoga studio conveniently located down the street. When I mention that I do this type of highly… Read more »

Angela

Thinking of a fancy latte is how I have remembered this name, TFL! I was introduced to my TFL when I began to have knee pain and leaned that my TFL was shortened and cause me patella femora. A few weeks on the therapy balls in combination with stretching and reintroducing new patterns of behaviors, my knee pain was relieved. MY TFL definitely taught me about the chain of reactions and actions within my own body.

Nathania

My TFL on my left side is really over-developed and tight due to a horseback riding injury that magnifies my propensity for external rotation. Since I started doing Yoga Tune Up and worked on strengthening my abductors, the TFL has slowly begun to release some of the tension and I notice my ability to internally rotate is much improved. Thanks for the great article.

Jamie Leigh

Triangle in parallel = no freaking joke. Try it. If you havent been introduced to your TFL before, this will get you well acquainted.

Bobbi

Fantastic post! I hear you. Every time I talk about this muscle, I think of that espresso beverage, the latte. I am a yogi who sits at a desk for work and bike commutes and who has really crank TFL. I’ve also noticed that my low back muscles are feeling tight these days. You put it all together for me here. I’m doing PT, which has been a great education. I’ve learned a lot about my body alignment and muscle patterns. Hopefully some day soon, I will balance out. It takes time though.

Heidi Knapp

This is wonderful information with great exercises. In the past I have had people approach me saying “I think it is my IT band, what do I do.” With out being Yoga Tune Up savvy I didn’t have an answer I was wishing to provide. I have come across this in athletes, mostly overuse. I am happy that I know have greater understanding of how/why and how to help. Can’t wait to explore. What do you think about those who complain of illiotibial band syndrome? Of course considering this only when there is no serious irritation or inflammation?

Kristin Marvin

Hip flexors are the achilles heel of so many runners! They will stretch their hips to death but never really properly get into the TFL. The ball can do so much more than stretching itself. I have used ball rolling on coaching runners for several years now and I know that it has impacted them by reducing risk of injury and increasing mobility.

Cathy Favelle

I’m glad I found this blog! I am chronically tight in my hip flexors…..lot’s of spinning, downhill skiing, sitting at computers, driving to work and not taking the time to properly stretch and contract these important muscles. Thanks for the great explanation of the TFL. Can’t wait to add the suggested poses to my exercise regime!

AA

Wonderful post! Who knew how important the Tensor Fasciae Latae really was! As an american who sits for lont amounts of time regularly, I can only imagine how shortened my TFL has become! Thank you for the great recommendations on yoga poses to treat this area of the body, Will be trying them as soon as I get out of this chair! 🙂

Lloyd

After looking at myself in the mirror I noticed that my “normal” stance includes an anterior tilted pelvis and my back muscles are shortened. I’ve been working to lengthen my lower back and create space so that my back sin’t dumping into pelvis. I have been the Yoga Tune Up Balls along the iliac crest, glutes and piriformis.

Christine

If I had a dime for every time my TFL made it’s presence known…I spent a long time unwinding the duck walk thing, but it’s almost like my TFL didn’t get the message and likes to get cranky still. I love the bridge lifts minivini to help iron it out–I’ll add your other suggestions to stretngthen as well. Bonus: the screwball legs move we did on the block in the hips immersion is also fabulous for letting gravity give you a little extra ‘oomph’ by wringing out that TFL is internal rotation. LOVE!

chau

Yes, spinning seems to undo the hip opening from the yoga class before. Looking forward to working on this culprit area.

Tiffany C

Thanks for the tips on loosening up the TFL. My psoas and TFL are both tight, causing pain and discomfort which my right hip flexor is acutely aware of when driving (at least I can try to straighten my left leg out). Sitting all day and spin class don’t help either. I’m looking forward to the improvement from incorporating these exercises into my routine.

Christina Powers

The anatomical breakdown was helpful and really paInted a clear picture of how the TFL helps and can hinder you. The balance between the hip flecked and the TFL helps maintain the health of both the hip, knee, and lumbar spine. The YTU ball also do a great job of removing the fuzz that keeps this muscle stiff.

Peggy Sue Honeyman-Scott

Thanks for sharing in clear language, the information on TFL . After a lifetime of skiing, running, cycling and yoga I am definately a candidate for these exercise’s. I was just told yesterday that I walked funny! I’m looking forward to working on the exercise’s provided and will report back with my changes! Also, looking forward to viewing your bridge lifts video

Caroline M

I had no idea I was walking like a duck with your feet turned out till I was demonstrating marching and looked down at my feet and then turning my feet straight I noticed the tension down the side of my thigh through the iliotibial band. I guess these three little magic poses are just what I need. Thanks for the list.

Tracy Crooks

As I sit replying to this post I am observing my posture. If I am not mindful I am sitting with a posterior tilted pelvis causing strain and pain in my lower back.( Love YTU Side Winder) I just returned from a long walk and I can feel it tightening in TFL and IT a sure sign I need to do more work in this area. YTU bridge lifts and Abductor lifts dynamic and static will be the focus of my practice this morning

todd lavictoire

i’m glad you list the postures at the bottom… i often teach students with IT and TFL issues, but forget these when sequencing. This list will help me in tomorrow’s classes 🙂

Luisa

OMG anterior tilt and walking like a duck. Was Bo watching me when she wrote this article? Cycling, working at the computer, hiking, or working at a desk all day, I am in hip flexion more often than not. Nice to know that an easy remedy would be to purposely do hip extention on a daily basis. Yoga has many poses to extend our hips and counteract some of the tightness produced in our regular lives. Then Yoga Tune Up balls are able to get deeper into the tissues and muscles to release the tightness that is still left behind.

Heather

A few of my favorite YTU poses that stretch the TFL include Monk Walks (and strengthens!) Reversed Spinal Twist Backbend Variations, and the Pelvic Primer Series on the block (bottom/standing leg TFL lengthens.) My favorite strengtheners also include the Abductor Lifts, and Parsva Bakasana! Thanks Bo.

melanie sloane

Thank you for such a great description of the TFL muscle

dilshad keshwani

Thanks for your very informative article. I am thrilled with the use of humor to bring forward your ideas. It is indeed important to stretch these tight TFL muscles. The bridge lifts minivini are fun to open these shortened muscles, besides providing fullness of breaths, which also work wonders to de-stress the body and mind. Yoga poses if done correctly, with understanding, work wonders on many fronts.

Cat

Great tutorial on the Tensor Fasciae Latae. I had to jump up and try Triangle in parallel. Along with yoga, I love activities that are probably causing my TFL to shorten and tighten. I’m going to try the suggested poses along with the great ideas posted by Leslie – nice research!

Leslie

I look forward to working on those poses to
1. Strengthen my weak and flaccid TFL
2. Decrease the lateral rotation of my right hip, which is transmitting pain to my knee.

At the same time, I would think that strengthening the gluteus maximus, hamstrings and adductors would help as they are the antagonist muscles of the hip (yes, I am peeking in my books).

The synergists (while I’m still peeking) for the TFL: quads, iliopsoas, anterior part of gluteus maximus at IT band insertion, and the gluteus medius.

carina

This is a great article about TFL. I like the way how you phrase the example. Now, I can have a better picture and can visualize the position of it. Just by wording, sometime I am not sure wxactly where the TFL lie since there are so many others mucsle surrounding the hip. It made my anatomy lesson much easier to understand. Thanks

Sally

Thank you for this article. I have been diagnosed with FAI, hip impingement, that is inoperable since i also have hip dysplasia. The technical jargon doesn’t help me much, but your article explains why I am much tighter and sore after a long car ride than I am after a day of teaching. Clearly standing and walking are helping me keep my hip flexors more extended. This may also explain why my favorite yoga pose is bridge (I feel so good afterward)

hcb10960

I often get a double shortening whammy as a graphic designer (computer and sitting) and from cycling many miles a week. These are three of my favorite YTU poses to strengthen, soothe and work my own TFL. Especially moving bridges with breath.

And…Starbucks totally needs to get a call suggesting the Tensor Fascia Latte–a specialty coffee drink for athletes and yogis.

Brett

Great article! Thanks Bo!

adan

i really needed this article, glad i saved it to finally read! i’ve had a hard time understanding anterior pelvic tilts, much less finding boney protrusions on my hips 😉 the add-on with the bowl image, plus the add-on about the rear rim then tilting up and tightening the lower back muscles was priceless i’ve had painful IT bands i’ve rolled out pretty well, and had been wondering why i’d been favoring bridges somewhat lately, and now i guess i know why i’d actually read ahead and saw the minivini bridge lifts video and want to refer to it in… Read more »

Robin

Spending long days sitting at a desk can really wreak havoc on the body! Working to loosen my stubborn hip flexors has always been a challenge for me. I’m eager to explore the relationship between the TFL and other muscles that restrict our movement in the hips. Although my yoga practice has helped me to gain some flexibility, I sometimes feel I’m not releasing the exact place where I hold tension. I’m hoping that having a better understanding of how the TFL functions will allow me to better target this cranky area. I will definitely be trying these 3 poses… Read more »

Susan McGurn

I enjoy reading other perspectives when speaking in laymans terms about movement of the body and how it relates to everyday life. Although familiar with the TFL, what it does and its location, it is good to have an arsenal of terms to explain the relationship of how muscles affect movement or posture. Knowledge of a variety of ways to locate the TFL (such as heel of hand on ASIS) and a little catch phrase that a tightTFL can make you( “Walk like a duck with feet turned out) is valuable for any fitness professional. Each time you add a… Read more »

Claire

I’m commenting on the blog from desk at work and suddenly aware of the posterior tilt of my pelvis and taking in how many hours a day I send in this position for well over three decades!! It’s been said many times in my yoga classes that that our lifestyle of sitting for hours (in cars, office, classrooms etc) shortens our muscles and interferes with posture, but actually seeing the illustration in combination with this blog gives me a better understanding why so many, including myself, experience tightness in the hips. I can already see how this knowledge of the… Read more »

Rachel

This is a very timely post for me. I just started training for a half marathon and was surprised by how quickly I was losing hip flexibility. Now that I understand the relationship between TFL, tight hips, and running, (and now know where my TFL is!) I will be sure to do the exercises listed. Thanks for the great article.

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[…] Yoga Tune Up® Blog « Tensor Fasciae Latae: Not Your New Coffee Drink […]

Jennifer Hessmer

A tight and shortened TFL from a lifestyle of hip flexion (from sitting at computers and standing many hours of the day) and long distance running as a choice of exercise, leaves many of us with ITBand inflammation, tightness and pain. I am so excited to focus on these three Yoga Tune Up poses to help my overworked TFL. I look forward to the video clip of the Bridge Lifts.

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[…] Tensor Fascia Latae – Not Your New Coffee Drink ~ Yoga Tune Up […]

Lindsey

Thank you for this post on the TFL. I was a gymnast for 12 years and, of course, have been very flexible my entire life, especially throughout my hips. For the past 9 years I have been running a lot, and after my first marathon in 2009, it felt as though my hips seized up and have not relaxed. Now they are very tight! Many yoga poses, especially pigeon pose, used to be easy and painless for me, but now it is very painful and a lot of my flexibility has been lost. After reading your post, I think that… Read more »