March 30th, 2010
Triangle pose or utthita trikonasana (extended three-angle pose) in sanskrit, is a pose that many students, beginner to advanced, can try with modifications and enjoy the opportunity to create length in the body on all sides. Triangle pose is a lovely standing pose to take after a few warming surya namaskars (sun salutations) to open the heart, lengthen both sides of the torso, and play with the energy and weight distribution between the arms and legs.
Why We Love It: Like most yoga asanas, triangle pose is the result of opposing forces in the body at work. Weight is distributed evenly through both legs and feet; there is an open channel of energy from bottom fingertips across an open chest, to top fingertips–the bottom hand reaches down into the Earth, as the top hand energetically extends toward the sky; both side bodies extend long and parallel to the floor (no collapsing in the bottom side body, see modifications below if you do), while the heart gently opens upward and the pelvis stays parallel to the long side of the mat. As David Life re-enforced this past weekend at Meet the Innovators, this is a tug o’ war of opposing forces in the body where nobody wins (but really, everybody wins). The pose itself actually creates three different triangles in the body and the core of the energy in this pose radiates from the heart center outwards.
Getting Into It: Take Warrior II foot position by stepping one foot back and checking foot alignment. The toes of the front foot point straight ahead and the heel of that foot is in the same lane as in the arch of the back foot. Back foot is turned in slightly (toes point toward the top of the mat somewhere between 30 and 60 degrees). Chest and pelvis face the long side of the mat. Ground down through both feet and raise the arms up shoulder height, parallel to the mat. Hinge at the hip and reach forward with the front arm, straight out until you can reach no further than tic-toc the arm down to the shin or floor and extend the top arm, from the heart, to the sky. Make sure weight is distributed evenly through both feet and wiggle your toes to ensure you are not clenching. Lengthen the neck and then turn the head to gaze at the top thumb.
Tips from David Life that we really enjoyed: Bend the top arm and bring the hand to the top hip-bone. Use the hand to gently open the hip to the side and up as you tuck the back of the back of the bottom thigh and bum under. Then bring that top arm to the heart and gently open your heart to the sky. Then, from the heart center (not the shoulder), extend the arm up and gaze at the top thumb.
Modifications:Place the bottom hand on the shin or a block stacked up long-ways on the floor so you don’t collapse into the bottom side of the torso. If looking at the top hand puts strain on your neck, look down at your bottom big toe. If you are feeling unbalanced, you can also achieve the same sense of heart opening by placing the top hand on the hip and gently pulling that hip open to the sky and keeping the hand there. Also try this pose with the back side of the body against a wall for extra balance support; see if you can make the back body, hips, and legs feel one-dimensional by lining up with the wall behind you.
Benefits: Trikonasana can help remove stiffness in the legs and knees, help open the channels of energy in the heart, and prepare the body for other more intensive standing poses.
Graphics and photography: Brandon Bloch and Kiril Tchangov.