This is the first in a series of articles designed to deepen your practice of asana (Hatha Yoga) on a pose by pose basis. So often in class settings we blaze through and don’t really know where to put which foot or the instructor goes so fast, we don’t really get into the pose in a way where we can pause, align and reap all the benefits.
So, let’s get to it, shall we?
Let’s dive deep into Trikonasana (Triangle Pose).
This is one of my absolute favorites – Trikonasana. It’s about so much more than angles and edges in the body. Although, it is genuinely full of varying degrees of angles and sharp edges on first glance and when you begin to practice this particular pose, it can FEEL kind of sharp and intense (especially in the front leg and the top shoulder).
However, we are going deep and sometimes to smooth out the edges, you have to mindfully acknowledge them while utilizing the breath to allow yourself to soften into the pose in some areas of your body. Once you find that place of softness, you can really elongate and spin your heart toward the sky (or the ceiling depending on where you are) and reap the benefits of the twist…it is a twist after all.
Here’s a a bound version of Trikonasana – the bind being the right arm reaching under and around the right leg to take the left wrist or fingers. This is NOT a starting place for Trikonasana but it IS a deeping into the pose once all the other elements of the pose and the alignment of it comes together. It took me awhile in my own practice to get into it so go slow and breathe deep and know, with practice, it will come.
Now, let’s break it down.
I’m going to explain to you how to deepen into this pose so you can really reap all the benefits. Believe me…they are numerous.
First of all when you step your foot back on your mat make sure that back foot is turned in at a 30-45 degree angle. Toes will be forward, heel is back. Press into the outer edge of that foot.
The toes on the front leg should be pointed directly to the front of your mat.
Keeping the feet right where they are, lift only the toes and feel your weight on all four corners of your feet. Feel the quads and knee caps lift a little when you do this. Keep that strong, balanced feeling in the legs while dropping the toes back down.
Even though the legs are wide, envision a lifting up and in of the inner thighs and lift the pelvic floor. This is important. The pelvic floor lift will help keep the deep core line of the body working for you. As soon as you feel the lift in the pelvic floor, the navel will want to move a little deeper toward the spine – mula bandha and uddiyana bandha. Just breathe here and feel that lovely engagement.
Keep pressing into the outside of the foot to the rear of your mat. See if you can equally distribute the weight between both legs.
Reach the same arm forward as the front leg (right leg forward, right arm reaches and vice versa). Reach the arm and your torso forward allowing the shoulders to come in front of the front hip and let the front arm lower toward a block or the ground and the opposite arm to lift up toward the sky.
See if you can stack the shoulder of the top arm over the bottom arm. Even though your hips are not technically stacked, think about the idea of the hip behind stacking right on top of the hip in front. Hips are open to the left if the right leg is forward and open to the right if the left leg is forward.
Lengthen from your tailbone all the way up the spine and out the crown of the head. Stay grounded through the legs and feet. Check in and make sure the pelvic floor is lifted and the navel is still moving in toward the spine. Spin your heart toward the sky but keep the stack in the shoulders.
Lift your pelvic floor if you lost it.
Gaze at the mat, gaze to the wall your body is now facing or gaze up at the sky – find the most comfortable place for your neck. Make sure the palm of the lifted arm is facing the same way your torso is facing.
If the shoulder is tight or there is any discomfort with the neck, bend the elbow of the lifted arm and bring the back of the palm to the low back or even around to the front hip for the beginnings of a bind.
Remember you are lengthening and spinning your heart while staying grounded through the feet and legs to move energy (prana) and breath through the body. You are wringing out your spine in any twist so in the sweetness and the deepening of Trikonasana, you get to be rinsed clean for a shinier, happier you.
Breathe here for a good 10 breaths. In Ashtanga, we’d go for 5 long ujjai inhales and exhales. Focus on your breath and the alignment of the pose. With each inhale see where you an soften. Look for the places where you grip and hold and send that inhale to that area of your body. With each exhale, envision new spaciousness, a release and a healthy deepening of the pose.
When you are ready to come out of the pose, be sure to engage the low belly muscles and inner thighs to lift your torso up. Drop the arms and step the foot behind to meet the foot at the front of your mat. Then, step the opposite leg back and get busy on the opposite side.
In yoga, you always work both sides of the body with the same number of breaths and the same alignment principles. This is powerful stuff and I hope you’ll find it enhances your practice. Practice it daily over the course of this month and see how your practice changes both on the mat and off.
Benefits of Trikonasana:
- Stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles
- Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine
- Stimulates the abdominal organs
- Helps relieve stress
- Improves digestion
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Relieves backache, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
- Therapeutic for anxiety, flat feet, infertility, neck pain, osteoporosis, and sciatica
- If you are working on Hanumanasana (yoga splits) this is a fantastic preparatory pose
When you go through this process, I want to know how it went! Leave a comment below about your own experience or if you have any tips to share, please do it below.