The power of the trinity is recognized in cultures around the world. The number 3 represents a perfect balance, and has been used in mantra and divine representations in the Yoga tradition for centuries.
Your body can mirror this divine representation in trikonasana, triangle pose. Aligning the natural triangles in the sacrum, sternum and skull as you create triangles with your legs and body, and building from the three anchor points of your feet and front hand, this pose offers a beautiful flow of prana through your whole being.
The key to practicing this pose safely is proper hip alignment. Similar to virbhadrasana B, the sustainable (and hip-supportive) practice of trikonasana is one where the front hip faces forward, instead of to the side as is taught in most modern asana classes. This may take some getting used to if you’re accustomed to wrenching your hips to align with the long side of your mat, but practicing trikonasana in the way we’ve outlined below will ensure you can practice for your whole life with no pain, and gain the benefits of flexibility and balanced energy right now.
Here at Hale Pule, we talk about asana with three designations: essence, anchor and strength. This is a simple tool to remember the intention of the pose, where your body is grounded and the muscles you engage for proper alignment. These components will support optimal energy flow and a sustainable practice throughout your life.
Trikonasana from the ground up
This is a great pose to include in your everyday practice as it builds strength and internal connection. Be sure to use a block at whatever height you need to keep your legs and spine fully extended – gently opening the backs of the legs will create faster progress than if you overextend.
1. Begin in tadasana, mountain pose, at the front of your mat. Bend your knees and jump to your right to face the long side of your mat, keeping your knees bent as you land. Your feet should be about the distance of one leg apart.
2. Keep your gaze elevated and lower quadriceps activated (both should stay this way throughout the whole pose), then pivot on both heels at the same time to face the back of your mat. You can also turn one heel at a time, starting with your left foot first to protect the back knee. Be sure your front hip is straight ahead and your back toes are turned about 10 degrees off the midline of your mat.
3. Hold a block in your right hand and lift your arms with the aim to create one line between them (but don’t force it). Keep your spine fully extended and fold forward over your front leg, placing the block under your shoulder on the right side of your foot. Your front hip will still be straight ahead. Lengthen and turn your chest to the left while keeping your left arm in the air and aligned with your upper back. Your gaze will start down toward your lower hand, then straight in front of you. Eventually you can look up to the thumb of your upper hand. Hold for 15-20 breaths.
4. To come out of the pose, turn your head straight down toward the floor. Keep both arms extended, breathe and come to standing with an extended spine. Repeat on the other side, keeping your arms up as you transition.
Common trouble spots
Hyperextended elbows. We are being kind to our hips in trikonasana, we want to extend the same care toward our other joints. If you have a tendency to hyperextend, keep a slight bend in your elbows so that they remain straight.
Back foot turned out. Any time you extend your back foot beyond 10 degrees from the midline of your mat, you risk straining the inner knee of your back leg and miss the opportunity to lengthen the back of your leg.
Spine curved. Keep your spine straight as you extend down to the floor. If your spine is curved, adjust your block to a higher setting or use more than one block.
Kinked neck. There’s no need to strain your neck to look up at your top hand. Allow your gaze to be a natural expression of the gentle spiraling of your spine, maintaining natural alignment of the head with the spine.
Gripping the block. Keep the flow of prana fluid through your whole body by extending your hand over the block and rebounding off of it instead of gripping it.