Trikonasana – “Triangle” pose.
It’s so easy to miss instructions, we can tend to switch off and do what we’ve always done, the way that we’ve always done it. But, although most people who begin Yoga, hope to feel better in their physical body, many end up feeling worse.
It’s simple techniques and tweaks that make a massive difference. Here is one pretty simple rule when it comes to alignment in Trikonasana that will prevent pain and niggles in your hips and lower back and help you build strength and enhance range of movement.
Check out the photo above. The first three are a selection of the many interpretations of Trikonasana that can often be seen in most classes if that pose is offered. In the fourth example on the right though, you can see that my heels, my shoulders and the tops of my thighs (head of the femur) are all in one, pretty perfect line. My bum isn’t sticking out to the side. The outside of my front foot is parallel with the side of the mat. My knee is centred with all five of my toes rather than rolling in. My arm isn’t being forced back and neither am I collapsing into the front leg. Instead I am pushing out through my back foot, which means my weight is nicely distributed. If my hamstring was tight, I would bring my hand up to hold on below my knee or even higher.
Other little tweaks might involve getting a feeling of rolling the thigh of the back leg inwards – this is called “spiralling” and it creates muscle strength due to resistance.
In other words, technically, the thigh of the back leg is externally rotated, but it is possible create resistance by trying to roll that thigh inwards (internal rotation) – always ‘resisting’ that idea – instead.
The thigh of the front leg is essentially “internally rotated”, but you can “resist” this by “feeling” as if you are trying to roll the thigh out (external rotation). The easiest way to do this is to squeeze the heel of the front foot towards the opposite side of the mat. This also engages the ankle and creates a “bandha” (energy locks – or muscular co-contractions in physio language). Ideally, even if you are very flexible, it’s good to keep a tiny bend in the knee of the front leg. This engages all the muscles around the knee to keep in strong and safe. Again, this is “bandha“
The raised arm shouldn’t be stretched back. Visualise your shoulder, nice and smooth, without any wrinkles or crinkles (use the mirror to check). If your neck is sore, maybe don’t look up. Or turn your head up for a few seconds only so you can build strength in weak neck muscles. None of this should feel forced.
Trikonasana also involves a rotation at the trunk – just one more area where most people are incredibly stiff and have limited movement. Try not to overarch your back and flare your chest up. Instead keep your ribs in (if you are not sure, pop your fingers just below your breast bone where the flesh is nice and soft. If you cough or do a forced exhale, you feel those muscles switch on. When the ribs are in, those muscles become naturally firm. When you stick your chest out the muscles are long, but not firm. You want them firm.
Instead of turning your head and hurting your neck, try popping the hand of the raised arm on the belly button and, without letting the ribs stick out, feel a rotation – no matter how slight – emanating from there. Your arm could go up or you maybe you could just rest that hand on your hip.
When I took the photos, those first three felt very unpleasant and I feel lucky I got away with it!
To reiterate here are some simple alignment rules:
- Knees ALWAYS track with toes. Anchor your feet firmly. In asymmetric poses, the outside of the front foot should be aligned with the outside of the mat, but it should feel as if you are trying to squeeze the heel towards the other side of the mat.
- – Never have your legs ramrod straight so the joints are locked. They are weak in this position.
- – Heels ALWAYS align with the head of both femurs. No bottoms sticking out to the sides in an asymmetric pose.
- Try not to over-do back-arching in these poses, particularly if you have a niggle.
- -Resist gravity – float as if towards the ceiling.
- Play around – what’s the best version for you? 🕉🙏❤️