A twist on trikonasana

Alyson in variation of trikonasana or triangle standing yoga pose

Trikonasana (triangle pose, or more correctly utthita trikonsasna – extended triangle), is one of the ‘classic’ yoga poses that is depicted in most books on yoga (and now in yoga images and videos online).

However, there are several different ways of approaching this posture, and this Yoga Journal article outlines five different styles of yoga and how they approach trikonasana.

My current practice and teaching is to think about what our intention is for each posture and I have found that the approach that often works best for many students is to think of trikonasana as a rotation (twist) for the spine. Starting from there, I align (no pun intended) with Peter Blackaby’s approach and we come into the pose moving forwards rather than sideways (feet facing forwards, about hip width apart).

In a recent class I taught we explored both the ‘Peter Blackaby’ style, as well as the version I like best, which is a wide-legged position. I was under the impression this was the Sivananda style, but after reading the above article I don’t think it is. My version could also be seen as revolved wide-leg standing forward fold (parivrtta prasarita padottanasana) but in most pictures of that pose the hand holds the foot, and so it’s quite different for the lower back. I do know that it’s not the Iyengar version though.

Which way do you like to practice trikonasana, if at all?

Alyson in variation of trikonasana or triangle standing yoga pose
The variation of a standing twist I like best.

4 thoughts on “A twist on trikonasana

  1. Yes, I’ve always thought of the pose you’re doing here as a revolved variation of prasarita padottanasana.
    I too do the ‘parallel hip width feet’ version of triangle, which I learned from Pete Blackaby and Judy Cameron. I quite often teach both that and the more commonly known Iyengar-type triangle in the same session, so people can explore how they feel in both. For me, I find it interesting that I *look* superficially similar in both (I don’t have much external hip rotation) but the blackaby type one feels much more like a spinal rotation and a balance. Whereas what I’ll call the traditional one (since I first learned it in the 1980s!) feels more like a side stretch. Because of my external rotation/potential SI joint issues, I’ve also been interested in the approach of physio/yoga teachers such as Lara Heimann (who as you may know recommends keeping a micro bend in the front i.e. turned out leg) and Ginger Garner, e.g. https://integrativelifestylemed.com/pose-of-the-week-triangle/
    I encourage people to explore these versions and see what feels best for their body, bearing in mind longer-term impacts but being mindful of the potential of creating a nocebo effect by thinking or saying ‘doing it like X will cause an injury’. In my own practice, in the ‘trad’ version, I often move in and out of a small bend in the front leg and find that this can make me feel more comfortably aligned once I settle into a hold with both legs straight. And I quite like doing the ‘blackaby’ one with one hand or forearm on a chair (instead of on my front leg) and the other palm on my sacrum – helps me balance and focus on keeping length in the spine as I rotate, and again I then often feel more comfortable and aligned, and can take one hand down to the ankle and the other up to the sky…
    Ooh this is a real yoga nerd comment, isn’t it πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Catherine, thanks for your detailed and thoughtful comment about trikonasana. It certainly is a pose, if done traditionally, that can cause people discomfort, so finding better ways into it and being in it is good. Looks like I do a hybrid trikonasana / prasaritta padottasana then!

      1. Oh, I don’t know – maybe others think of it as a triangle variation? Or I’ve heard it/similar called Rishi’s Pose – don’t know where that comes from, I think the earliest reference I’ve seen to it called that is in Hittleman. Would be interesting to hear what other people have been taught as trikonasana/prasarita padottanasana variations πŸ™‚

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