Triangle Pose: Utthita Trikonasana
Triangle Pose is a standing yoga pose that opens the chest and shoulders, encourages balance and stability while strengthening and stretching the tightest muscles of our legs.
*A readability note from the author: In the article, I use the adjectives lower and upper, followed by the part of the body, to indicate the side closer or further from the mat, when the body is engaged in triangle pose.
The etymology of the traditional name “Utthita Trikonasana” comes from three Sanskrit words: ‘utthita’ – extended, ‘tri’ – three, and ‘kona’ – angle. It translates as: “extended three-angle posture.” Indeed, when you engage in the asana, you create three (tri)angles within your body. (photo, above, highlighting the three triangles).
How to get there
There are many ways to enter this pose; we will start by standing in Mountain Pose – Tadasana, at the beginning of the mat. With an exhalation, turn sideways and step or jump your feet a little-bit-apart. Your ideal triangle stance is unique to your legs: you won’t fully benefit from the pose if they are too close together. If they are too wide apart, you might feel a straining sensation in your hips. So how do you know if you have spread your legs adequately apart? You want to feel stable through both legs and feel a pleasant stretch sensation when folding in the pose.
Lift your arms parallel to the floor and straighten your legs. Turn the front toes to face forward and the back foot to 45 degrees, aligning your feet so that an imaginary line running from your front heel intersects the inner arch of your back foot. Exhale and lengthen the torso over the plane of the front leg, start bending from the hip joint. To avoid straining the lower back and damaging the SI joint, allow the back hip to roll forward.
To prevent knee hyperextension, bend the front knee, lift the heel, and activate the calf. Then gradually straighten the leg while keeping the calf engaged. The lower hand, anchored to the leg or a block, supports the opening of the rib cage. The thumb is facing the direction of the front foot (photo detail) to avoid an involuntary internal rotation of the shoulder.
The upper arm also helps open the chest. Extend it towards the ceiling and bring the hand in line with the shoulder and the palm facing forward. There are many variations of the arms in Trikonasana that can change the intention of the pose. I will examine the most common ones later in the article.
Keep your shoulder relaxed and the neck in line with the spine. Look straight ahead, or tuck the chin in, creating that sexy double chin, and look up towards your upper thumb. Breath smoothly as you keep pressing through the feet, reaching out through fingertips and crown of the head, and rotating the ribcage upwards.
To come out of the pose, press your feet firmly into the floor, engage the core, inhale and come back to standing straight.
Physical and mental benefits of Triangle Pose
We involve multiple muscles in the lower and upper body In Trikonasana. While the lower body is engaged and, therefore, strengthening, the upper body is lengthening, with exceptions.
Triangle pose stretches the hamstrings, groins, glutes, hips, and ankles.
The quadriceps of the legs are active, lifting the knees and lengthening the lower hamstrings of both legs.
Flexing the hip stretches the upper hamstring of the back leg and the anterior gluteus maximus muscle.
We also stretch the outside of the posterior ankle by pressing the back foot firmly on the ground.
This pose activates the three erector spinal muscles (the muscles that support the spine) and the upper’s obliques. It stretches the chest and the upper shoulder
The erector spinal muscles are active, with their upper part turning gently and twisting the rib cage.
The lower obliques are engaged, lengthening the upper one.
When practicing trikonasana, we bend the body sideways, improving overall spine flexibility.
The benefits of this pose also reach the physiological and physiological spheres of the body.
The triangle is one of the strongest and most interesting forms, as it holds its shape thanks to the support of the base. Many building foundations and reinforcements include triangle shape elements. Focusing on the triangles that the body creates can help cultivate steadiness, mental stability, and ease within the body.
The movements generated through the asana improve digestion by stimulating the abdominal organs, and it helps in case of acid reflux as it strengthens the liver.
Triangle offers many variations which change the intention of the pose. Some adjustments will reduce the work of a particular body part, making it more accessible; other variations intensify the stretch and performance of specific muscles. Let’s look at the most common modifications
Hand on a block
The first variation includes the use of a block to lay the bottom hand. Each yoga block has three levels, low, medium, and high, depending on whether you place it flat, on its side, or at its end. I like to place my block in front of my anterior shin, halfway between the ankle and the knee. Some people prefer to put it behind the leg; in my opinion, it is a matter of stability. Using a block helps manage the distribution of weight between the front and back legs.
Extension of the upper arm
Extend the upper arm towards the front of the mat, with the palm facing down, reaching through the fingers. This variation changes the intention of the pose in the upper body. Rather than stretching and twisting the chest, through the external rotation of the shoulder, reaching the arm forward extends the side of your body – the Latissimus dorsi and partly the trapezius muscles.
Both arms lifted
Many students rely too much on the bottom arm and dump all the weight on their hands. In the long run, this can be detrimental for the wrist. Extend the bottom and upper arms parallel to each other to turn this pose into a great abs workout and learn how to engage the lower oblique, even when the hand is resting on a block.
Stick behind the back
Traditional yoga schools teach the Trikonasana as a two-dimensional pose, where the hips are in one line, like the shoulders. Some bodies can manage that, or better phrased, some hips have the shape to support that, but others are not designed for it. Trying to align the hips can bring a tremendous strain to the back hip joint and lower back, leading to tears. Using a stick can assist you in learning the natural alignment of your hips, strengthen the core, and provide you with an excellent shoulder mobility exercise. Run the bar horizontally behind the back and hold it under your armpits, pump your hips back and lean towards the front of the leg, notice the natural direction of the back hip.
Upper shoulder rotation
Many practitioners erroneously think that rotating the upper arm behind the back towards the opposite inner tight is an external shoulder rotation movement. In reality, it is an internal rotation. This variation improves the mobility of the shoulder, preparing the body for the full binding version.
Any asana that involves moving one hand around your back and the other under the leg internally rotates the shoulders and moves the shoulder blades closer together. The tension created by the bind spirals the chest open and upward, deepening the posture. Contrarily, in poses like Dancer Pose or King Pigeon, the bind opens the front body, causing the external rotation of the shoulders. Certain schools claim that binds behind the back constrain the heart by shrinking the rib cage but are great to stretch and massage the tissues and organs.
Binding prompts you to balance striving and struggling. Struggling towards a pose can cause injury and frustration. Striving towards the bind includes respect for where the body and mind are at in that given moment.
While aspiring towards a natural bind, practitioners can use a variety of straps and other props to “bridge the gap.”
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