Updated: Apr 13
A very popular pose, done almost in every yoga style Trikonasana is also called the "triangle pose"
But what's wrong with it? Ever since I started practicing yoga, I did this pose with a certain idea in my mind. I imagine the triangle and my body squashed between two walls which would make my hip bones move away from each other. And this is the pose how it is in many people's mind. For me, I finally learned it properly and have now studied and practiced it correctly for about 12 years.
If we only practice from pictures but never got to take a closer look what at is actually happening in the yoga asana, we may damage our body and end up giving up yoga because of it's health hazards. What happens if we do this pose wrongly? The pressure on the SI joint (sacroiliac joint) by pushing the back leg hip backwards leads to either hyper mobility in the SI or a jamming of the lower back, both create pain.
In the photo on the left is an example on how Trikonasana should not look like. Taken from google with permission this lady gives many different instructions while missing the link to a beneficial and most of all safe pose. And that is:
1. how to put the hip in joint (see video)
2. the action of the back hip
How to do it right?
First of all we need to align the front heel with the back arch. Turn the back foot in (15 degrees) and the front leg out (90 degrees). Do you get the difference? Foot vs Leg which matters for the health of the back knee.
Then bend the front leg, just a little, and move the knee towards the right, meaning, creating an external rotation in the thighbone. When the thighbone rotates externally and you straighten your leg during the rotation, the knee will point towards your second toe (and not to the big toe), which matters. (see video below)
Tucking the sitting bone under the body is another cue to get the hip in joint. Without this action of bringing the hip in joint, over time the cartilage of the hip will wear out. (There are already too many yoga teachers who go through hip replacement - don't be one of them)
Now you are ready to come down in the pose, but be aware, if you try to bring your hand to the floor and your hamstrings are not long enough you will further more push the hip out of joint. That's why we recommend props in Purna Yoga to ensure that your spine is straight and not arched. See the difference in the photos, above and below. Photo credit below: www.purnayoga828.com
Ok, now you are in the pose, what's next?
Press all four corners of the feet into the ground and lift your arches
Contract your quadriceps and move the sitting bone under the body
And here it comes: move the back leg hip in a diagonal line away from your right ankle - NEVER push your hip back otherwise you'll damage your back
Lift the bottom of your belly, to increase the protection in the back
Spread your shoulder blades
Look up to your right thumb
Most of all work on keeping the hip in joint in the front leg
In class, after giving my students the first three actions, from the feet up, I go down again to remind them of number 1, 2 and 3 before I take them any further up. Beginners need to be reminded of the main actions, I try to keep their mind focus on what they are doing, so it's a win win, focused mind, safe asana.
The meaning of practice
I've been practicing and teaching this pose for so many years, analysing and perfecting it with my teacher Aadil Palkhivala, and one thing is clear, this is not an easy pose and should not be attempted without a teacher who knows what they are doing.
Aadil himself has studied yoga for over 60 years and still teaches new nuances of the pose. For the advanced practitioner it's how we change the brain, creating more synapsis by keeping the awareness in the details, splitting the mind, conquering the subconscious mind, going deeper into what real yoga is, the overcoming of adversities.
Next time you take a yoga class, ask you teacher, am I safe in this pose? And if you've done it "your way" for many years already, lucky you. Not everyone gets injured from doing this once in a while. But years and years of practicing this pose without any safety points your body one day will give you a sign.
A message to yoga teachers
Not every pose is logical, we must know the anatomy behind the pose and understand the actions to keep our students safe. Only then can we give our students what they deserve, and healthy stress free practice to grow and explore, awakening their potential to aspire for more than asana in yoga.
Let me know in the comments if this makes sense to you.