Utthita Trikonasana, or Extended Triangle Pose, is fundamental standing pose for most every yoga practice session. This pose inspires not because of its complexity, but because of its simplicity. Its smooth clean lines evoke the archetypal images of the Great Pyramids or a Sri Yantra as seen below.
This pose is accessible to just about anyone. I have even seen this pose taught to people who do not have use of their legs. In this blog post, I will present the classic asana as it was taught to me by my teachers, and give a few variations for those who cannot attain the classic pose.
To begin, lay out a sticky mat and two blocks.
Stand in Tadasana (see last post). From here, jump the feet 4 to 4.5 feet (1.25 meters) apart. This is shockingly wide for many of my beginner students. A good measurement is to see if the wrists are above the feet. I placed straps around my wrists to demonstrate the length of the feet. Like Tadasana in my last post, the thighs press back until the kneecaps tighten. This pose is called Utthita Hasta Padasana (Extended Hand Foot Pose).
Often times students do not mind their feet, and they are rotated out like a duck’s. This is incorrect.
Next, pick up the left toes leaving the heel on the ground
And rotate the foot to the right
Then rotate the entire right leg from the hip socket to the foot to the right. Keep the quadriceps engaged. This pose is called Parsva Hasta Padasana (Side Hand Foot Pose)
Make sure the right heel is intersected with the left foot’s arch.
Now you are ready to come into the pose. Keep both sides of the chest the same length as you extend the torso laterally into the pose. A common mistake here is the student droops down to touch the floor. Instead, try to touch the imaginary side wall with the crown of your head and resist taking your hand down until the last moment.
I was not able to get into the pose in the three seconds that my computer allows me, so I will show you Iyengar’s pose which is flawless.
Like a Sri Yantra, he becomes three triangles, and his self dissipates. Now there is now only Purusha.
Back here on Earth, these are some common mistakes made by beginners. First, the buttocks stick out and the head moves forward.
To correct, move the tailbone forward and the head back until they are on the same plane.
If you are not able to reach the block without the buttocks sticking out, use a chair.
Many new students are also afraid to fall backwards by taking the head back. If you are experiencing this, use a wall to lean back on. Even experienced students benefit from wall work as it gives you a very quick assessment of your back body’s alignment.
Another mistake I commonly see is that the bottom shoulder is not rolling out and the neck is crunched.
This may be a symptom of having too high of a block. First try rolling your downward shoulder back. If the neck is still crunched, go lower on your block.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of this pose, but not a bad start for beginners. Prashant Iyengar, the son of BKS Iyengar, wrote The Alpha and Omega of Utthita Trikonasana a book that gives systematic instructions on how to work your physical and esoteric anatomy in this pose. As always, I would recommend you find a certified Iyengar teacher near you as this pose has many many variations. In case you are wondering how the lady was taught this pose who couldn’t walk, she was taught lying on her back working her legs and arms in the “actions” of the pose.