Triangle Pose (Trikanasana) is sometimes referred to as the “pinnacle” of the standing series, and for good reason: four honest Triangles can feel like the last few steps of a hike up Mt. Everest, with a little less snow, a little more sweat.
(Speaking of snow, eventually you will build enough strength and stability in this posture to do it in bare feet on ice. Without slipping. As Louise would ask, “Can you believe it?”)
This entire 90-minute series is carefully sequenced so that each posture prepares you for the ones that follow, and by the time you get to Triangle, you’ve beautifully opened your neck and shoulders as well as your back and hips. Your body is ready for the challenge of this “master posture.”
Triangle is a challenging posture. You are giving it everything you’ve got: your strength, balance, and flexibility (three sides of a triangle?) are all pushed to their limits, constantly adjusting as your hips lower and your spine twists. Your major muscle groups are working hard, so your heart rate elevates; you have to focus on keeping your breathing steady and calm, and you need the mental strength to coordinate the precise positioning of many body parts all at once.
When you are a beginner, this posture can feel impossible. Trust me, it’s not. With determination and patience, this posture will not only improve: it will build confidence in your own strength and grit. On days when your strength and alignment come together, Triangle Pose can feel fantastic.
Tips from the podium:
- Go wide. Take a large, 4 to 5-foot step to begin with, rather than adjusting your stance during the posture. The actual width of your step will depend on your height.
- Line it up. When you turn your right (or left) foot out, turn it all the way so that your foot is parallel with the long side of your mat. Two heels in one line.
- Get down. Bend your knee and sit down. Hips down. Hips down. Hips down. One day you’ll be able to keep both of your hips facing the side as you lower down, but until then, you might need to bring your straight leg hip down and forward to get the depth you need.
- Line it up again! Your knee should track out over your foot, not to the right or left of it. You’re aiming for an “upside down letter L” or 90-degree angle with the bent leg thigh parallel to the floor, weight traveling through your lower leg into your heel. Try to envision where your femur bone is inside your thigh: that’s what you’re getting parallel. Depending on your anatomy, your knee angle might be slightly smaller than 90 degrees and your knee might be somewhere between exactly over your ankle and closer to your toes, but your knee should never go beyond your toes. If it is, you need a wider stance.
- That’s right, get down! Seriously? Yes! Gently bounce, breathe to handle the therapeutic discomfort, and get your hips down. Feet slipping? Contract your inner thighs, put the weight of your bent leg into your heel, and push the outside edge of your straight leg foot into the ground.
- Elbow to the knee, not above and not below. When you move your arms, it’s so important that your elbow and knee are in the same spot. Check and be honest about this alignment. You are trying to create a triangular space with your upper arm, thigh, and torso.
- Aim. The goal is for your fingers to just barely touch between your big and second toes. Sit down lower, gently push your knee back, and stretch down out of your shoulder without moving your elbow from your knee. If you’re not quite there yet, make sure your fingers are at least pointing to the exact space between the big and second toe. This brings your knees and shoulders into better alignment.
- Stretch up! Stretch down! Ideally, your arms create one long line, perpendicular to the ground. As you stretch your fingertips further away from each other, think about creating space between your scapulae.
- Turn and twist. This posture is a twist for your entire spine. Push your bent knee back with gentle elbow pressure, opening the hip. Push your straight leg hip down and forward to get two hips, two knees in alignment to support the twist. Suck your stomach in, and twist at the lumbar spine. Continue to stretch your arms apart, pull your top arm back (if it’s not yet perpendicular), twisting at the thoracic spine. Look up at the ceiling, chin to the shoulder, twisting at the cervical spine.
- Breathe. Take breaths that are as long, slow, and calm as you can. Yes, your heart is racing, but you’ve got this.
- Cheer yourself on! As in so many other postures, it will probably be easier to do this posture on one side than on the other. Tap into that strength and flexibility, and use it to drive your less-strong side.
- Increases your heart rate, contributing to cardiovascular fitness.
- Improves balance.
- Intensely stretches the sides of the body.
- Helps realign the spine.
- Increases strength and flexibility of the hip joint.
- Firms upper thighs and hips.
- Strengthens and stretches the deltoid, trapezius, scapulae, and latissimus muscles.
- Good for frozen shoulder.
- Helps to balance adrenal glands and production of cortisol.
- Builds focus and body awareness.
–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory, Chelmsford