Asana of the Week: Trikonasana

This week we're going back to basics with Trikonasana, also known as Triangle Pose. Trikonasana is a favorite of beginners and advanced practitioners alike, offering a delightful stretch for the hamstring and inner thigh of the extended leg while strengthening the legs and core, lengthening the waist, and providing a gentle opening across the chest and through the hips.

To come into this pose from standing, step your feet to a wide stance (3.5-4 feet apart, maybe more depending on your height and flexibility). Point your right toes forward and left toes in at about a 30 degree angle. Open your pelvis and chest to the side, pulling the left hip back in preparation, then hinge over to the right, aligning the spine directly over the right leg. Bring your hand either to rest on the leg or to the floor to the inside, on top of, or to the outside of the foot. You've got lots of options here with the hand position. I have experimented with all of these, as well as the Ashtanga toe lock, in my Trikonasana practice, and I haven't decided if any one hand position is superior to the other. The toe lock demands very strong grounding through the legs, resting the hand on the leg is nice if flexibility is lacking, and bringing the hand to floor at the inner edge of the foot is helpful in maintaining length in the low back and openness of the hips. Different strokes for different folks.

A common tendency here is to collapse in the low back, rounding the spine and allowing the top hip to roll forward and down. Keep the spine long and the hips open by pulling the left hip back and tucking the right hip under the body, stacking the hips one on top of the other and pulling the pelvis open to the side.  You will probably feel a strong stretch in the top side of the torso.  Imagine you are lengthening both side bodies equally with every inhalation, and rolling the torso open with every exhalation.

Another challenge in Trikonasana is preventing compression of the cervical spine. A good way to prevent this is to think of keeping the chin parallel with the top of the shoulder and look past the front of the shoulder to gaze to the thumb, rather than over the top of it. Of course, the best way to prevent compression of the neck is to simply keep your gaze to the floor or look to the side with the spine in a neutral position.

When practicing Trikonasana in a flow sequence, moving into Ardha Chandrasana (half-moon pose) is a natural and smooth transition from Triangle Pose since the hips and shoulders are already nicely stacked. Ardha Chandrasana is also a natural progression of the anatomical actions of Triangle Pose: it extends the stretch a little higher up the right leg into the hip and groin, and intensifies the actions of the already engaged left hip and glutes as you float the leg straight up and back.

Here's a nice Trikonasana sequence to open the hips and strengthen the legs:
  1. Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1)
  2. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)
  3. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
  4. Ardha Chandrasana (Half-moon Pose)
  5. Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing splits)
  6. Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)
  7. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-legged Pigeon)
  8. Agnistambhasana (Firelog Pose)
  9. Vinyasa
  10. Repeat on the other side.

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