Utthita Trikonasana – Extended Triangle Pose

English name: Extended Triangle Pose

Basic Instructions to a Beginner

  1. Stand in Tāḍāsana
  2. Jump (or walk) and spread the legs into Utthita Hasta Pādāsana*, extend the arms-wrists-fingers to the sides at shoulder level, lift the waistline and armpit chest, keeping the shoulders down and tailbone pulled down and in
  3. Turn the left foot slightly in and the right groin-thigh-knee-tibia-ankle and foot out, all in synchrony, into Pārśva Hasta Pādāsana*.
  4. Press the outer edge of the left foot down to the floor – Inhale – lift the abdomen, diaphragm and chest – Exhale and extend the entire trunk laterally (keeping the left and right of the spine parallel) – bring the right hand in line with the right shoulder – either hold the ankle or place the hand on a brick or on a chair seat, taking into consideration one’s own needs. Keep the upper hand on the waist and work the shoulder blade in and open the chest floor to ceiling.
  5. Keep the head in line with the spine, chin aligned with the centre of the chest and look straight ahead. Stabilise the gaze and let the breath take its natural form in this pose.
  6. To come back: inhale and lift up from the left shoulder and arm, come back to Pārśva Hasta Pādāsana. Then to Utthita Hasta Pādāsana.
  7. Jump (or walk) the feet back to Tāḍāsana

*Utthita Hasta Pādāsana means the feet are parallel to each other and spread apart. Pārśva Hasta Pādāsana means one leg turned outward from Utthita Hasta Pādāsana.

Corrections – Usual points of unawareness

  • Keep the attention (dharana) in the back leg as you go into the pose. Then spread the awareness everywhere (dhyana). The brain wants to move to the descending of the trunk (since it is always attracted to pay attention to movement), be attentive to this and practice keeping the mind in the back leg and foot (this trains the brain to pay attention to that which is anchored and stable).
  • Maintaining a good distance between the feet: the distance between the feet in Trikonasana is approximately 4 to 5 feet apart and may vary from person to person, based on the length of the legs and one’s height. A good bench mark is when in Utthita Hasta Padasana, the ankles are under the wrists. Having a sound judgement to have a just distance between the feet so that there is freedom as well as compactness in the hips and legs comes only through practice and experience.
  • Keep the shoulders moving away from the ears. Among other things, this avoids pain in the neck often experienced in the pose if this action is ignored.
  • Knowing how much to go down: It is necessary to renounce the ambition of going down and touching the floor at any cost if we wish to befriend and learn Trikonasana, and one should work on the basics in a healthy manner with a healthy attitude. Keeping both sides of the spine parallel and equal is primordial to maintain a healthy movement of the spine. So if going all the way down is at the cost of creating deformities in the spine, collapsing ones ribcage, closing up ones lungs and hardening ones diaphragm which leads to labored breathing, then it is essential to use some height under the hand and go down only that much so that the spine remains healthily extended, the sides of the trunk are parallel, the chest is open, and the breath is free.
  • Keep the front-leg-heel aligned with the middle of the arch of the back leg.
  • If the back-inner-knee of the front leg is hurting, this could imply that the leg is not being sufficiently rotated at the thigh and groin. To correct this problem, come back up, bend the front leg slightly, exhale to rotate from the groin, and if needed, exaggerate the turning out of the foot as much as needed to help turn the groin. Once the rotation has been corrected, you can go back over and down into the pose.
  • Flesh of the buttocks down (which helps to anchor the tailbone and lengthen the lumbar spine) and lift from the Pubis to the Navel
  • In regards to the back leg, the top of the thigh must move back in order to take the femur back, without hyperextending the knee.

Variations to learn Utthita Trikonasana (this is not an exhaustive list)

  • Bottom hand pressing a brick
  • Fingertips on the wall, to extend side trunk
  • Hand on chair seat
  • Hand on backrest of chair, to extend side trunk
  • Armpit on the backrest (+ blanket) of a chair
  • Back foot to the wall
  • Back foot raised on a brick against the wall
  • Front foot toe mounds raised up on a brick
  • Facing the wall
  • Back to the wall
  • Using a rope wall for the upper arm and shoulder work
  • Brick lifted with the upper arm to create tricep action + armpit extension + shoulder blade tucking
  • Belt to the back foot, held and tractioned with the back arm
  • Belt to the front foot, held by the top arm, grazing against the upper back at the level of the shoulder blades
  • Outer Elbow on chair seat + brick, to create intensity in shoulder blade + trapezius action like in Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana
  • Back foot raised up on a brick against the wall

Cautions

  • While learning the posture, break down the actions into little learnable, digestible pieces. For example, the front leg rotation and alignment, the pressing down of the feet and finding a real anchoring as in Tadasana, the pressing of the rear foot and engagement of the back leg, the alignment of the hips, the actions of the shoulder blades, the lifting of the chest, etc. In most cases, it takes a few decades to bring all these actions in the body simultaneously and effortlessly. In fact, the first few years of the grind (which makes an inevitable part of any learning) lead to the foundations becoming our second nature. Until it becomes natural to us, which means one doesn’t need a mental reminder, we must sustain a conscious effort.
  • Those suffering from backache, slipped disc, sciatica, and lumbago should not jump into the standing asanas. This would also apply to women who are pregnant or menstruating. In all these situations, take the back foot against the wall.
  • Knowing yourself is imperative in the practice of yoga. Therefore, if you find it difficult due to your body type, age, or other reasons owing to your current situation (whatever the cause maybe), to get into the poses, use the support of a wall in the following ways:
  1. Back foot to the wall
  2. Back facing the wall
  3. Chest facing the wall. The wall provides stability, confidence and reveals lack of alignment.

Those who feel weak and are exhausted by the standing poses can practice a myriad of other poses that do not include bearing one’s weight and are restorative in nature.

Even pregnant women can do these poses. However focus should be given to be well supported with stabilising elements such as taking the back foot to the wall, using a window grill to open the hips and the chest, etc.

Menstruating women are to avoid jumping movements.

If knee pain:

  • Start by observing the alignment of the knees and legs. As mentioned earlier, 99 percent of the people feel a strong stretch in the inner knee tendon. This is because the knee is turning, but the thigh and groin are not following.  Begin by slightly bending the leg. Use your exhalation to rotate the thigh and groin sufficiently.

Release, then extend from the inner groin to the inner knee, then suck the outer thigh up into the hip, simultaneously pressing down the inner foot on the floor. Experiment and experience. See if the pain has transformed into a revelation, then move into the pose again. If the pain remains, tell your teacher.

  • Pay attention to your knee in case you have the habit of hyperextending the knee joint. This can be avoided by the right use of the calf muscles coupled with the correct understanding of how to use the hamstrings to stretch the legs.

If back pain:

  • Start by asking someone to observe the alignment of your back. Is your spine centered? Are you creating a scoliosis just to bring the trunk as far down as possible? Is your tailbone anchored by the action of the flesh of the buttocks descending, creating length in the lumbar spine? Are you working the legs or are they sagging? Maintain the length and spaciousness across the lower back. Study your alignment with the various variations mentioned above.
  • Keep the back-leg foot on the wall for support – this helps to stabilise the pose and maintain alignment.
  • Bring in the action of the legs told for knee pain. The legs in the standing poses need to be kept absolutely vibrant and in action. If not, other parts such as the knee and the back take the load.

If shoulder pain or neck pain:

  • While stretching the arms to the sides at the shoulder level, sometimes people complain about the shoulders feeling stiff or even hurting. This calls for an understanding of the functioning of the shoulders. Try extending from clavicles to the thumbs and trapezius to little fingers, one at a time and then simultaneously. Bring the shoulderblades away from the ears. This creates space between the shoulders and the neck. 

If pain near the hips:

  • Start by asking someone to observe the alignment of the hips
  • Bring the actions of the legs as mentioned for knee pain.

General Effects of Standing Postures

  • One of the standing poses that prepares the pupil for the advanced poses in forward bending, which can then be acquired with ease.
  • You become aware of your legs, especially their inner and outer edges, as well as the front and back of the legs.
  • You feel for the first time the energy of the leg ascending.
  • The arms being spread to the side opens the intercostal muscles of the chest that are between each of the ribs.
  • You learn to work the spine and the organic body from within. They develop the chest.
  • Through the legs you reach the lumbar, sacrum and abdominal regions.
  • Relieves back aches, neck-sprains, reduce the fat around the waist, hips and thighs, reduces acidity, releases gas, removes heaviness and bloating sensations in the stomach.
  • The sluggishness of the vital organs of the body is removed and those organs are stimulated and activated.
  • They benefit women by improving the functioning of the reproductive system, preventing malfunctioning of the ovaries and strengthening the uterus.