Thursday, October 6, 2016


1. Spot the triangles
Photo credit
Tri = three
kona = angle (think cone or corner)
asana = posture


Often called Utthita Trikonasana

Utthita = striving, exerting, extended


While we teach it to beginners, Trikonasana is a difficult pose, especially to practice in its extended form. In fact you would be forgiven for thinking it is trickinasana, the Tricky pose!

In the picture to the right is a man practising a well aligned Utthita Trikonasana and the picture is overlaid with triangles to demonstrate how it gets its name.You could also find another triangle from his hand to hand to crown of head.

Utthita trikonasana requires flexibility in the hips, external rotation in the thighs and exceptional alignment through the spine.

One of the biggest traps for many is to try and immediately emulate the way the chap in the picture is doing it, hand all the way down to the foot. Without the prerequisite opening of the body and alignment some very unfortunate things result. In the pictures below the one on the left shows what immediately happens when it is attempted to take the hand lower before the body is ready (and it may never be, by the way, more on that later.) See how the body has dragged forwards? Our colourful triangle man above would look more like the picture below right if we viewed him from the correct angle.

2. Photo credit

Going back to our colourful man of the triangles above, do you notice how the sides of his torso are the same length. All too often the attempt to "make the shape" results in a student actually doing a side bend, contracting the waist on the lower side of the body, like this:

3. Photo credit: 
Notice that this model has her back foot turned out at 90 degrees to the front foot and that her stance is not very wide.  Both of these factors might be contributing to her difficulties.

There are many ways to improve your alignment and expression in the pose, and the effort to gain better alignment will give you a more authentic Trikonasana perfect for you. No doubt you have heard these solutions form your teacher.

4. You can still make triangles when you modify the pose 
Photo credit
Start at the foundations. An ideal distance lengthwise down the mat for your feet to be is about a leg length. however you must be stable and comfortable in the distance you choose.  What that is will however impact upon your finished pose.

Then have your front foot pointing straight forwards and allow the back foot to angle in, maybe 45 degrees, with the toes pointing more towards the front than out to the side.  This will allow you to compensate for an inability to find external rotation in the hips and prevent you from putting undue pressure on your sacroiliac joint in a quest for ... what?

The one thing that the model above who is doing a side bend is doing correct is to not try to come down too far. Let go of the ambition to get the hand on the floor.  one day, after many moons of practice, that might happen. But who cares?  A comfortable and beautifully aligned Trikonasana is surely more important.

Your teacher will offer many suggestions and practices that will work towards your inner discovery of alignment.

What is it that makes it so very tricky?

Trikonasana challenges us even to the structure of our body! In this article I will just address hips on this subject.  It is very likely that not all of your constraints are muscular.  If you encounter a bony constraint, there may not be any further you will ever go, short of surgery to knock off a bit of bone and I really hope that no-one would ever seriously contemplate that!

5. Bone on bone - the greater trocanter meets the rim of the acetebulum
Photo credit:
Consider the illustration to the right. As the leg is taken out the knobbly bit at the top of the femur, the greater trocanter, is bumping up against the rim of the hip socket, or acetebulum. There is nowhere else to go.

In the next picture, bleow, you can see that when the thigh is rotated outwardly it may free the constraint and more outward movement is possible in the thigh. - Maybe. The ability to draw the thigh into such external rotation is also dependent on your unique structure and some very strong muscles to make it possible. Another scenario is that instead of rotating the thigh externally, the temptation is to tilt the pelvis forward which will tend to bring the whole torso forward and you finish up with the alignment flaw we saw in figure 2 above. At some point or other we may have to accept that this is as far as we go, in this body we are blessed to have.

6. Photo credit:

Why do we do Trikonasana, what are its benefits?

The pose strengthens parts of the knees, spine, core muscles and shoulders and stimulates abdominal organs. It stretches the thighs, knees and ankles, hips, groins, calves, shoulders, chest and spine. It builds better posture through an inner discovery of the connection between the head and the tail.

But these are but physical benefits. Perhaps its most profound lessons for us lay elsewhere. Tricky trikonasana gives us opportunities to explore some of the trickiest yamas and niyamas of the Yoga Sutras.

Santosha - contentment - can you be content with where you are and give up wanting to be like the chap in the colourful triangle picture at the top?

Satya - truthfulness - can you really honour and discover your own truth in this pose?

Ahimsa - non-violence - can you kindly meet yourself where you are and not violently try to push into something that you are not?

Brahmacharya - conservation of the life-force - can you find a place of ease and not over strive and exhaust yourself in the practice of Trikonasana?

Svadhyaya - self study - what can you learn about yourself as you meet and greet all of the nuances of your, perfect-for-you Trikonasana.


First published in "On the Mat" 2013 

While traditions vary across India, the festival of Navaratri honours the Goddess in her different forms, mainly as Saraswati, Goddess of learning and culture, Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Durga, Goddess of strength, courage and encompassing the ferocity of a mother in protecting her young.
Maa Durga

The word navaratri literally means nine nights, and the festival of Navaratri lasts nine days and nine nights. It occurs during the first nine days of the bright half of the month of Aashwayyuja in the Indian calendar. In our western calendar it is a "moveable feast" like Easter is, because the western calendar is not linked to the phases of the moon.

West Bengal celebrates Navaratri as Durga Puja. Kolkata (Calcutta) probably derived its name form Kali, another name of Durga. The last three nights and days are given over to magnificent welcomings of Maa Durga to her earthly home. Huge displays of earthen sculptures of Durga with her sons Ganesha and  Kartika, and Saraswati and Lakshmi are erected as the focus of large communal prayer meetings followed by mass feedings and cultural celebrations. On the tenth day they are taken in a procession to a nearby river where they are ceremoniously immersed.

Dancing Dandiya in tradiational dress
In western India, especially in the state of Gugarat, people spend the nine nights in party mode, dancing the garba and dandiya dances all through the night, with a puja for the Goddess and food served for everyone present. Women dressed in beautiful brightly coloured clothes with a wide skirt, blouse and scarf draped gracefully, dance the garba, a graceful dance in circular patterns, moving in a big circle around a central pot containing a lamp. Men and women participate in the dandiya, which features bamboo sticks held in the hands that are brought together, either one's own or another's, as the intricate patterns of the dance proceed.  The dance commences slowly but as it progresses the tempo increases to a frenzy.

In Mysore in the southern state of Karnataka, the biggest day is Dusshera, the tenth day after Navaratri, when the city turns on a parade to celebrate Chamundi, a form of Durga, and her victory over the demon. Chamundi is the family deity of the Maharaja of Mysore and the parade features the palace elephants decked out in all their glory,hoses and courtiers, who wend their way throughout he city and all the way to Chamundi Hill which overlooks the city.

A typical golu display
Many places throughout India have a custom during Navaratri of erecting tiered displays of dolls called by various names such as golu, kolu, bombe habba, bommala koluvlu. The displays are erected in the house on an odd number of tiers (usually 7, 9 or 11). Just like we store our Christmas decorations and get them  out from some high shelf, or from under a bed where they have languished for a year, so too the golu dolls emerge at the beginning of the festival, the steps are arranged and the dolls displayed. Deities are displayed on the top tiers, and depictions of householders lower down as well as animals on the lower shelves. Women and children visit each other during this festival to view each other's displays, sing some bhajans for the goddess and take home packages of prasadam from that house (often the day's sundal, see the recipe section). Unlike Christmas trees which can tend to linger for ages, the golu display is promptly packed up at the end of the festival and put away for another year.