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.

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