Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

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Iyengar's difficulty rating: 3* out of 60*

Pretty much every yoga practitioner is familiar with some form of Triangle Pose these days. But that almost seems to increase the confusion about how to perform it. Everybody has something to say. So how far apart should the feet be? How should the legs and hips rotate? Where should the bottom hand go?

I'm a moderately precise alignment teacher. When I want something specific from my students, I don't hesitate to ask for it. But whenever someone asks me what they "should" be doing, I usually keep my response intentionally vague for three reasons:

  • I have seen very little evidence that there's one right way to do anything.
  • I believe in empowered embodiment: nobody - not some scientist, psychic, or guru - is better suited to fully understand your body than you.
  • The process of finding one's own meaningful answers can be even more important than the answers one finds.

So when I'm in a flippant mood, my mantra might be, "Everything works, except when it doesn't."

What does that mean for your Triangle Pose? Experiment! Lately I've been playing with the distance between my feet. Light On Yoga recommends a distance of 3-3.5 feet, which is shorter than I usually go, even when studying with Iyengar teachers.

Upon investigation, a short Trikonasana provides me with more intense hip stretching, and makes opening my chest and lengthening my sides more challenging. It also circulates energy through my legs, but lacks a feeling of expansion and opening. Taking a much longer Trikonasana makes opening my chest and lengthening my sides easy; it's a great preparation for backbending. But it's much harder to access energy in my legs and tone my quadriceps. With less quadriceps tone, the pose feels like a better hamstring stretch... but that sensation may actually be more of a strain than a true opening. And gravity feels heavier, pushing me towards hyperextension in my knee. Taking a long stance helps me focus on the back of my body; taking a short stance causes me to focus on the front of my body. All of these nuances can inform and improve your practice and/or teaching, but your experiences, conclusions, and applications could be different.

How do you practice Triangle Pose? And what do you learn by experimenting with variations on the form?

How to improve your Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose):

  • Explore and deepen hip rotation with postures like Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2 Pose) and Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
  • Strengthen the adductors in your legs with postures like Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold Pose)
  • Lengthen the sides of your torso with postures like Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1 Pose)
  • Practice twisting your spine open with postures like Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head to Knee Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) prepares you for:

  • All other standing poses, especially open-hip postures like Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) and postures requiring a strong back leg like Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1 Pose)
  • Postures requiring hamstring length, including Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose) and Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose)
  • Several arm balances, especially Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose or Sage Vasistha Pose), Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (Hurdler's Pose or Sage Koundinya Pose) and Visvamitrasana (Friend of the World Pose)