Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) In Depth

Level: Fundamentals to Advanced

I'm very excited to present to you this excerpt from my manuscript "Yoga: Practice and Play," beautifully illustrated by my cover artist (and mother) Barbara Hulanicki. (For more info about her, check out her website at www.barbarahulanickidesign.com.)

In the manuscript I work with the idea that the body has only a limited number of mechanical actions of which it is capable, and that all poses, be they simple or complex, are made up of combinations of those actions. It is possible to use simpler poses to refine and develop these actions, creating opening, flexibility and stamina in the body which can then be taken on to much more complex poses.

In the article we will work through a complete blueprint of all the mechanical actions of the pose, with variations to highlight and emphasize each.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) is given as a beginner pose, but its simplicity can offer even the advanced practitioner the opportunity to delve deep into the actions of the body. It can be taken as its most obvious category, a standing pose, but it can also be taken as any of these:

1) A forward extension, requiring a full stretch of the legs and full range of motion in the hip socket as the pelvis tilts over the thigh bone. The trunk itself must also extend (the back ribs must come into the trunk and the chest stay open) lest it collapse forward.

2) A hip opener, as the front thigh must turn out as much as possible to organize the hip socket and allow for the most optimal lateral tilt of the pelvis.

3) A twist, as the pelvis and trunk must rotate slightly down towards the floor while coming into the pose and requiring a compensatory upward rotation to bring it back to its lateral extension.

4) A backward extension, as the sacrum must absorb, the shoulder blades must come into the back, the back ribs into the trunk and the chest must stay open lest the trunk collapse forward.

The specific body actions we will be looking at in Utthita Trikonasana are the following:

Coordinating the arms and legs to lengthen the trunk
Uniform stretching of the arms and trunk
Rotating the trunk
Stretching the legs
Extending through the big toe mound
Grounding through the heel
Outwardly rotating the thigh
Lengthening the outer thigh/outer hip away from the trunk
Shoulder action with arms to the side
Lateral extension with twisting action

I hope this will help you refine your pose and give you ideas as to how to better integrate Utthita Trikonasana into your practice.

Click here for the fully illustrated article in printable PDF form.

Basic Asana Cycle #1/Week #3 (Fundamentals)

Level: Fundamentals
Theme: Engaging abs, revolving trunk, opening chest

This is the third in our 4-week cycle of basic yoga poses.

The general theme of this sequence is twisting. The most important thing in a revolved pose is to keep the trunk as balanced as possible. If you do not take special care to maintain a balanced trunk, the twisting action will cause one side to shorten as the oblique abdominal muscles engage, pulling the chest down and distorting the spine. The net result will not be the desired revolving around your central axis, but a distorted and uneven slump. The other thing to watch out for is the pelvis. Without proper gounding, the pelvis will turn and the hips will become uneven. This means you will be losing the bottom part of the twist. A well-executed revolved pose will engage and tone all the muscles of the trunk and abdomen and will stimulate all of the vertebrae and their relevant muscles and nerves in a largely balanced fashion. In addition, it is important also to throw in the occasional symmetrical pose to even out the inevitable imbalances that come from our generally asymmetrical frames.

Click here for a fully illustrated, printable PDF of the sequence.

The Sequence

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
Parvatasana in Vajrasana (Mountain in Thunderbolt Pose)
Parshva Vajrasana (Side Thunderbolt Pose)
Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III)
Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose)
Utthita Marichyasana (Extended Marichi's Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Malasana (Garland Pose)
Adho Mukha Marichyasana (Downward Facing Marichi's Pose)
Marichyasana I (Marichi's Pose I)
Marichyasana III (Marichi's Pose III)
Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
Salamba Sarvangasana I (Shoulder Stand I)
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

Click here for a fully illustrated, printable PDF of the sequence.