11.26.2010

Asana of the Week: Parivrtta Trikonasana


Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) is a standing twist which stretches the muscles of the outer hip and lengthens the hamstrings while toning the legs, back, and sides.  It is an awkward pose, to be sure, and it's a little bit harder than it looks.

The challenge here for most practitioners, myself included, is balancing the pelvis.  The front hip must be continually tucking back, and the rear hip moving forward to bring the pelvis into balance.  If the hip abductors or rotators are weak, the gluteus maximus will engage to compensate which causes the pelvis to tilt posteriorly and collapses the low back.  This throws the hips out of alignment and makes it difficult to ground into the back foot, which anchors the pose, resulting in a battle of the opposing rotations of the pelvis versus the torso and a teetering, misaligned pose.

It is helpful to begin in Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Posture) to prepare the hips and hamstrings for Revolved Triangle since the pelvis is already squared and level in this position.  When moving into Parivrtta Trikonasana from Parsvottanasana, the legs and hips remain the same, both legs active and grounding, as you "lengthen the spine in a spiraling motion from the sacrum through the top of the head" (Swenson, Ashtanga Yoga:  The Practice Manual).  Traditionally, the bottom hand is placed to the outer edge of the foot; however, this placement can make balance and breathing especially difficult if the outer hips are not open enough to allow for free rotation of the torso.  If this is the case, the hand may be placed to the inside of the foot, on top of the the foot, or on the shin.  Another option is to use a block.  This is one of the few poses for which I like to offer a block in my classes.  I don't often use props because I dislike the distraction, but a block is especially helpful here in making space for the breath in the twist while keeping the pelvis squared.

I practice Parivrtta Trikonasana with the palm on the floor to the inside of the foot, as pictured, so that I can focus on really grounding through that back heel, which never wants to stay down.  It's difficult to tell from the photo, but my left heel is not quite on the floor, which is an accurate representation of how this pose generally plays out in my practice.  Tight hip abductors and short achilles tendons have made progress in this pose slow going.  It has been one of the least comfortable postures for me since the beginning.  The yoga teacher in me says that this means I should practice it every day, but I don't.  I was for a while, and made significant headway, but these days, not so much.  Let's change that, shall we?

For the next week, I will practice Parivrtta Trikonasana every day with mindfulness and honest effort.  I will observe myself in the pose and attempt to discern a path in the direction I wish to move, toward space and groundedness.  I will report back on my findings.

I gather that Parivrtta Trikonasana is an awkward and uncomfortable position for many practitioners.  Readers: what's your experience with this pose?  How do you prepare the body?  Which variations do you prefer to practice?

And, as always, a flow...

Parivrtta Trikonasana Sequence:  Use standing twists as an effective way to warm and open the hips.

1.  Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
2.  Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
3.  Parivrtta Utkatasana  (Revolved Chair Pose) - Bring hands to heart center.  Twist to the right.
4.  Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) - Step the left foot back to lunge variation.
5.  Parsvottansana (Intense Side Stretch Posture)
6.  Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
7.  Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half-Moon Pose)
8.  Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing Splits)
9.  Uttanasana (Intense Stretch/Standing Forward Fold)
10.  Repeat steps 1-9 on the opposite side.

5 comments:

  1. Great post. When we practice this in class (say to right side), we start with the back foot (heel) at the wall, and facing the side, with a brick in the back hand. We stand very tall with the back arm straight up (holding the brick) and then slowly turn to the front (brick still in hand) and lean up and over the foot. This allows us to push a little with the back heel and I find that really helps me to square the hips. Once there, its all about how you lengthen in multiple directions. I am a long way off from a good one, but moving in the right direction. Looking forward to your report back this week!

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  2. Ah, so nice to hear I am not alone with this one. Since I'm an ashtangi, I just do my best for the 5 breaths and move on, but it also means I practice it everyday. I have seen slow improvement. Sometimes I place my hand in front of the foot. Sometimes down on the floor on the outside of the foot and spend the 5 breaths trying to straighten the front leg. Other times I put the focus onto the back leg. So many things to work on! Thanks for the tips, I need all the help I can get!

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  3. JodiB - I'll have to give it a try with the back heel at the wall. Sounds like it could be helpful.

    Loo - Very true, so many actions in this pose to pay attention to. There's no checking out in Parivrtta Trikonasana.

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  4. Hi,

    Was in a class yesterday where my teacher led us into the pose. We go into the pose standing and making sure our hips are square. As we twist to the right, to drop our left hip so that we are twisting from our hips and not our lower back.
    I find it easier to lengthen my arms to the front if you swing your arms back as you twist and I am able to practice with my palm place on the outside of my foot. You can keep your right hand on your waist first to ensure that you are stable before you raise it overhead. Do not throw your hand back. My teacher also remind us to ground our back heel on the mat by pressing on the big and little toes and keeping the arches of our feet lifted and not to lock the front knee as we keep our leg straight.

    Love and light,
    Karin

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  5. Hi Karin - Thanks for passing along the tips!

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