i think i have a crush on Triangle Pose: confessions of a yoga teacher.

i think i have a crush on Triangle Pose… We’ve been hanging out a lot recently. i like how Trikonasana makes me feel. i admit, i think about Triangle pose while i’m in other poses… and i dream about spending long sunny afternoons together. i just want to set my mat as close as possible to Triangle pose…

(i’m not sure why this is so funny to me. Hopefully, you appreciate my yoga nerd sensibilities and weird humor ;) ).

But all kidding aside, i really do love Triangle Pose. It’s always been one of my favorites- because there is so much to explore within this posture. It’s challenging, empowering and deeply satisfying when done with intelligent and integrated action. When i do this pose well, i feel like a star fish- radiating open in all directions, and yet, absolutely connected to the core of my being. In general, it strengthens the legs, back, spinal and core muscles. It opens the hips, stretches the legs, balances the sacro-iliac joint, and massages the abdominal organs, among many other benefits. It is a pose to heal, strengthen and open the body- and it’s a great pose for practitioners of all levels.

After i sprained my ankle last September, one of the biggest surprises i found was that in Triangle Pose, i could no longer fully straighten my front leg! It was sort of a HUGE and humbling discovery. i had always been able to touch the floor easily with my bottom hand (as i’m demonstrating in this old picture of me above). Now, that idea seems impossible and no longer important. As i write this, i am finally able to straighten my front leg, but i need to use a tall size block under my bottom hand (because that’s as far as i can go, folks).

i am interested in writing about this pose because it is such an important one for me in my practice. i have to admit that the longer i practice Triangle pose- year after year, practice after practice- my experience of this pose continues to grow and unfold for me. For many years, i have been using Trikonasana as the central posture in my home practice. i deliberately repeat this pose, side by side- especially in the last few months while rehabilitating my ankle. And i’m happy to report that my hips and spine have never felt better. This writing is intended as a way for me to express what i understand and experience in this amazing, healing, transformative pose- to break down the different elements of this pose that i love so much- and i hope you find this information as exciting as i do! (Yoga nerds of the world unite!)

i remember hearing in the early days of my yoga practice that Triangle Pose received its name because of the many triangles this pose creates. (i’m not sure if this is entirely accurate, but it’s an interesting idea.) In the picture shown here, i have tried to highlight the different triangles i see: the triangle connecting the legs with the floor- the triangle made with the bottom arm, side torso and front leg- the triangle from the shoulders to the crown of the head- and so on. i imagine these lines forming triangular shapes, within and around my body. Being one of the strongest structures in nature, these basic geometric triangles arise out of the form of the physical posture- and the pose begins to come alive.

i enjoy sensing the triangles of my shoulder blades, which remain firm and secure onto the back body.

Triangles.. from a bird’s eye view.

Visualize triangles made from the center of the chest (the sternum) to the top of the shoulders (the coracoid process)- and from the top of the shoulders, to the spinous process of the vertebrae in the upper back. In the image to the right, we are looking down at the rib cage, thoracic spine and shoulder girdle- as if from a bird’s eye view. If in Triangle pose the chest or ribs protrude forward too far (pinching the upper back)- OR- the upper back rounds, the shoulders collapse, and the chest is closed… misaligning the upper body in either direction would distort the symmetry of these two triangles. Ideally, we want to evenly spread wide through the upper back and through the chest, so the triangles on either side of the body are balanced.

Meditation Practice: The Sacred Pyramids.

There are two more triangles i have been playing with in my home practice that i would like to share. i find this visualization extremely helpful to use in almost any posture, and my students tell me how much they enjoy using them too. Try reading this as a guided meditation:

The First Pyramid: Sit Bones to the Center of the Earth.

As you sit reading this, visualize your two sitting bones at the bottom of your pelvis. These bony edges mark the bottom tips of the ischial tuberosity (you can feel them if you are sitting, and you try to walk forward). From the sitting bones, visualize sending roots down through your chair, through the soil, into the Earth. The center of the Earth is roughly 4,000 miles down. Visualize connecting your roots into a final solitary point as you reach into the very center of this amazing planet. This forms the first triangle, or pyramid. As you visualize rooting down into the Earth, observe how solid your sitting posture becomes. As you root down into the Earth, observe that the quality of your posture becomes steady, grounded, and connected.


The Second Pyramid: Sit Bones to the Base of the Skull.

As much as you are rooting down through the sitting bones, draw this Earth energy up into the body. From the two sitting bones, draw imaginary lines up the sides of the spine to the base of the skull. This forms the second triangle- a tall pyramid structure. As you lift enthusiastically up through the torso and spine, imagine the “pyramid of your spine” as strong as the Egyptian Pyramids. Notice how this pyramid image encourages your posture to be centered, steady and solid. As you create this image in your body, do you notice that it is easier for you to sit in stillness? As you imagine this long triangular, pyramid support for the spine, feel how the core muscles along the spine activate in such a way to hold the length and integrity of the spine. This support gives space for the side body to lift, and room for the organs to breathe. Notice as well, that because appropriate core muscles are engaged, the shoulders and the neck muscles are free to relax. Allow your breath to easily move in and out, without disturbing the vibrant structure of both pyramids.

The Beloved Trikonasana- Triangle Pose. A detailed walk through…

To come into the pose:

Step the feet wide apart, so that with the arms outstretched, the ankles are beneath the wrists. Bend the right knee, and turn the entire right leg open as one unit. Align the right knee with the second toe, facing directly to the back wall. Angle the left leg in, by stepping the heel of the left foot slightly behind the toes. Align the feet- front heel to back arch. With your hands on your hips, notice that as you align the front (right) knee with the second toe, the back (left) hip has to come forward slightly, so there is no strain on the inner right knee or inner thigh. Allow this to happen, and maintain this position in your hips as you move into and while holding the pose. Although the left hip is a little in front of the right, turn your chest to face the side of the room- so that there is a subtle twist in the spine, just above the belly.

Inhale, lift your chest and spread the arms open wide. Exhale, extend your torso to the right, shift your hips to the left- keeping the spine in one long continuously flowing line. When the hips cannot shift any more to the left side, slide your bottom (right) hand down to the shin, or a block behind the shin. Lift the top arm directly up toward the ceiling.

i teach primarily in the Yoga Works method- which means that we can look at a pose in reference to three main platforms, or sections of the body. The three platforms are: the feet/ ankles, the pelvic girdle and the shoulder girdle. i will describe what is happening in Trikonasana at each of these three platforms.

Foundation: Ankles and Feet.

Press into the big toe mound of the front foot, and the outer edge and heel of the back foot. Visualize sending roots from these points in the feet down into the center of the Earth. Just as equally as you ground down through your feet, draw the effort back up the legs, lift the inner arches of the feet, as the outer ankles hug in. Lift the knees and thighs with positive tone. As if ’slurping’ the thigh muscles into the hip sockets, feel how solid and steady the legs are beneath you- giving you support and grounded-ness.

Pelvic Girdle.

Draw the bottom (right) hip into the midline (without cranking the hips open to the side wall), and press the back (left) thigh straight back- until the pelvis is centered and neutral on the Sagittal Plane. Allow the sacrum to expand wide with your breath, as you draw the low belly in and up. Reach your sacrum toward the back (left) heel and lengthen through the lower back.

Elongate the torso evenly on all sides. Bring in the visualization of the spine like a pyramid- connecting and stabilizing the entire spine, including the neck.

Shoulder Girdle.

Roll your shoulders open and back. Press the shoulder blades forward toward the chest, lift the sternum up, and broaden across the chest- yet keep the belly and the front ribs drawn in, so that the back body remains expanded. Draw the sides of the neck back- remember, the neck is still a part of the “pyramid of your spine.” Spread the arms wide, and lift vibrantly up through the top hand and fingers.

Keep the feet, legs, and pelvis exactly where they are. Once this has been set, add a subtle twist in the spine. i like to use an exhale, to absorb the belly toward the spine and keep the lower back elongated. Slowly, turn the ribs and chest first toward the side wall- eventually, the ribs and chest may begin to turn toward the ceiling. Keep the bottom (right) shoulder blade firm onto the back. Once the upper back creates the twist, then the neck and gaze may turn to look up. If you lose the connection of the front (right) knee with the second toe, or the hips begin to crank open- take the twist out of the pose, so that your posture remains stable in the foundation and core of the pose. Bring back the image of the “spine like a pyramid”- even with the twist, the spine remains as one connected continuous triangle.

To come out of the pose:

Ground down into the feet, lift the top hand up. With an inhale, slowly rise back up to stand. Repeat these instructions on the second side.

Relationship Status: i’m in it for life, baby.

As my relationship with Triangle pose continues to mature and expand, i am pleased to say that i notice positive changes in many aspects of my life- beyond just having good form in a yoga pose. With consistent practice, i feel happier. As my practice blossoms, i am more content, conscious and engaged in my life. Playing with alignment and breath, i express the radiant “star-fish” nature of the pose. My body feels like it is being put back together- i feel myself as an integrated, interconnected, fully embodied Being. And the more i experience this Self-connection, Self-integration, the better i can open my eyes and ears to the world around me, the better i relate to and communicate with others. Sometimes the phrase that comes up for me in my practice is: i feel nourished. When i practice Triangle pose, what inevitably unfolds for me is a rare beauty, intimacy and joy in being alive. It helps shine light on how grateful i am to have this moment to Be. i think that’s the gift of a truly great relationship.

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