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WHOLE POSE: EXTENDED TRIANGLE

Utthita Trikonasana (extended three angle, or triangle pose) pose is a challenging posture most effective at psoas and groin opening, with a plethora of other benefits not least of which is digestive health. This is one of the trickiest poses to master as there are many contradicting cues and approaches that can throw you off in a group setting.

POSE TYPE
Standing Pose

BENEFITS
This complex pose stretches and strengthens thighs, knees, and lengthens groins, hamstrings, and calves as well as elongating shoulders, chest, and spine. As in all poses, there’s a lot going on here! Triangle pose stimulates the abdominal organs, improves digestion, helps ease symptoms of menopause, relieves backache in some cases (although use caution if you have sciatica). Triangle pose can be used therapeutically to treat anxiety, flat feet, infertility, neck pain, and osteoporosis in some individuals.

HOW TO PRACTICE
Begin at the top of your mat, facing forward in “tadasana”, or standing mountain pose with arms down by your sides. Stand at your tallest height with feet rooted to the mat. Great prep for this pose includes chair pose and/or tree pose. This pose can also be integrated into a flowing, vinyasa yoga style practice.

STEP BY STEP

  • From tadasana step right foot back about three feet, or a little shorter depending on your height
  • Press outer edge of back foot firmly on mat and parallel with the back edge of mat
  • Keep font leg as straight as possible without locking knee joint. Press down ball of left foot and outer heel
  • Check that left knee cap does not sickle or collapse inwards — the inner left quadriceps should wrap externally toward outer edge of mat, engaging to protect the knee
  • Wrap left hip-crease and sitting bone toward inner right heel and begin to extend the torso from the left hip crease out to the left middle finger
  • Gently place left hand onto the floor (or a block) on the OUTSIDE of the left foot (this ensures torso is parallel over legs)
  • Place right hand on hip then slowly extend right fingertips up toward ceiling (arms to a ‘T’)
  • Pivot gaze up toward right hand. If neck fatigues, look straight ahead (neutral) or down at the left foot
  • Continue to press firmly into outer blade of right foot, and wrap left sitting bone toward right heel.
  • Soften the right hip point down forward just slightly – no need to stack hips
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathe deeply and evenly
  • Soften left knee, press feet firmly and lift torso up. Step lightly back to tadasana
  • Switch legs and perform triangle pose on the opposite side

WAYS TO MODIFY
Triangle pose is a contradiction because when performed correctly it can ease sciatica and lower back pain, but if performed incorrectly it can aggravate those conditions. There are ways to modify to ensure a healthy back in triangle pose.

  • Use a block at it’s highest height beneath the hand that reaches for the outer heel. This provides more space for your SIJ (sacroiliac joint or SI joint) and allows more length in the spine. It’s good idea to use a block in triangle pose even if you’re able to touch the floor, the hand on the block should feel stable.
  • Shorten the stance between the feet to see if that feels more stable and be sure to left the inner arch of the back foot while keeping the four corners of your foot pressing to the floor.
  • If you have neck issues, gaze straight ahead or down rather than turning your gaze toward the ceiling
  • Bend the front knee more deeply than you think at first, and then slowly ease it more straight as you linger in the pose

SARA’S TIPS
Ever heard that cue to imagine that your body is “in between two panes of glass” in triangle pose? This is a common triangle pose cue used to encourage students to stack the hips. Modern research in postural alignment suggests that this approach aggravates the SIJ, leading to lower back pain and sciatica. A softer approach is to allow the top hip to soften slightly forward, almost downward. Try this in your next triangle pose and see how this feels!

As with all poses, aim for steadiness and ease. If your breath is strained, come out of the pose and take child’s pose until you return to a sense of calm.

Namaste.

Supplemental Resources for the Whole Pose feature include Yoga Journal and Yoga International.

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