A classic standing posture, the triangle pose is found in many traditional styles of yoga, including Ashtanga yoga and Iyengar yoga. Known as trikonasana in Sanskrit (triko =triangle; asanas = pose), triangle pose involves a lot of moving parts.
“Trikonasana is a pose that sounds incredibly simple, but actually takes a lifetime to master,” says Stephanie Saunders, vice president of fitness programming at BODi and certified yoga instructor. “And beyond the different postures and arm positions you can use, muscle tension and joint restriction can change the pose from day to day.”
Triangle pose is also known by its full Sanskrit name of utthita trikonasanaor pose in an elongated triangle (utthita means extended). You’ll often hear teachers shorten it to trikonasanabut full and abbreviated names are used interchangeably.
Pose of the triangle: step by step instructions
You must be a good multi-tasker in the triangle pose. You create lateral flexion/extension of the spine, stretch your hamstrings, strengthen your quadriceps, and resist gravity with your head, neck, and arms, all without losing your balance. Phew!
- Stand straight in mountain pose — chest up, big toes touching, heels slightly apart — near the top of your mat.
- Step your left foot back about 3-4 feet as you rotate your torso to your left, extending your arms out to your sides in a T formation.
- Point your right toes up on your mat and position your left foot at 45 degrees. Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot.
- Straighten both legs, rotating your front leg slightly outward, and hinge your hip to lean your torso onto your right leg without twisting or bending at the waist.
- Lower your right hand toward a block or the floor, inside or outside your right foot, and extend your left hand toward the ceiling.
- Look to your left hand and hold for five or more breaths. Focus on keeping your chest open (think: collarbones wide).
- Inhale and stand up, your arms still forming a T.
- Switch sides by rotating your feet—left foot pointing toward the back of your mat, right foot at a 45-degree angle—and repeat.
How to Make Triangle Pose Easier
A common cue for the triangle pose is to imagine yourself between two panes of glass. While this image may seem odd, it encourages you to keep your whole body in one plane to avoid slumping in your lower back or leaning forward (toward your inner thigh) to plant your hand. Here are some tips for modifying the pose of the triangle.
- Place your hand on a block and move the block to a larger side if necessary.
- If your hips or hamstrings are tight, move your feet hip-distance apart instead of aligning your heel against your arch.
How to Make Triangle Pose More Difficult
The pose of the triangle is already difficult! There are ways to intensify it, but Saunders suggests using trikonasana to tune into what’s going on in your body.
Ask yourself, “Can you resist gravity and extend the spine?” Can you maintain the integrity of your feet without collapsing? Can you step back a bit when you feel tension in your knee? If you answered “yes” and want to go even further, try these variations.
- Wrap your first two fingers and your thumb around your front big toe.
- Rather than planting your hand, let it float above the ground to stimulate your obliques.
Beginner’s Tips for Doing the Triangle Pose
The triangle pose is a classic for a reason; Take your time with this. “Instead of striving for triangle perfection, this particular pose should be about travel,” recommends Saunders.
“Use it as a diagnostic tool, to see where you might be tight in the ankles, hamstrings, hips, pelvis, spine and neck. And then pick an area to work on. A big plus can be seen in the triangle from small changes.
Here are more tips to help you learn triangle pose.
- Avoid collapsing in your lower back. Keep your core engaged and your spine extended straight (not down toward your inner thigh).
- Try not to put too much weight on your planted hand, regardless of its position.
- If looking at your top hand hurts your neck, look down instead.
- The triangle pose should feel like your chest is opening up, but avoid the urge to lean your top shoulder and arm back.
- Some styles of yoga teach the triangle pose with the feet as far apart as they would be in the crescent lunge or warrior 1 or 2. Saunders prefers a shorter position, as it keeps the pelvis in better alignment and avoids overstretching your hamstrings.
Advantages of the triangular pose
Over time, you will begin to notice the following benefits of trikonasana in your body.
1. Strengthens the lower body and core
In the triangle pose, you engage the muscles supporting your ankles, knees, and hips, primarily the calves, quadriceps, and glutes. Trikonasana also strengthens your obliques and lower back as you work to maintain a straight spine.
2. Stretch almost your entire body
The triangle pose lengthens the muscles up and down your body, especially the hamstrings and adductors. Additionally, your torso bends laterally (lateral flexion), stretching the obliques.
3. Promotes Concentration and Breathing
Trikonasana also helps you learn to concentrate in the midst of chaos; there’s so much going on at once physically, and sometimes all you can do is breathe through it.
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