triangle pose: utthita trikonasana


One of the most classic standing postures in many yoga lineages, Triangle pose, or Utthita Trikonasana (oo-TEE-tah trik-cone-AHS-anna), strengthens and stretches the entire body while also offering soothing benefits to the mind. Although a feel-good pose for many individuals, Triangle pose offers a variety of challenges. Approaching the pose with knowledge of intelligent modifications will help you enjoy the posture and all it has to offer.

Philosophy + Origin

The union that happens almost immediately between mind and body in Triangle pose is perhaps why it has been one of the most practiced postures throughout yoga history. In hatha yoga, where the intent is to unite opposing forces – sun with moon, masculine with feminine, light with dark – this pose offers an opportunity to embody this philosophy. While it’s possible to feel frustrated or even vulnerable in this big pose, when you focus on finding stability while you expand you learn how to enjoy the evenness that comes with bringing two opposing actions together. When you look at the physical shape of the posture, you also see the triangles being formed. And, when you look a little closer, you find several triangles hidden in the shape of the body – the two legs with the floor, floating under the side body, and between the front foot and the front hand.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS

  • Use a block next to your front leg to provide extra support while keeping length in the spine
  • Don’t over emphasize squaring the hips as it can put unnecessary stress on the joints of the lower back
  • Microbend your front knee to prevent locking it out
  • Look to the side or down rather than looking up to prevent strain in your neck
  • Practice the posture with your entire back body supported at a wall

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS

  • Neck pain or injury
  • Low back pain or injury
  • Sacroiliac pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart conditions

TIPS

While it’s tempting to focus on the physical shape of the pose, the most important aspect is muscle engagement and, specifically, how the pose feels in your body. It can be helpful to lift the heel of the front leg off the ground to engage the calf muscle before placing the heel back down on the ground – this will help prevent locking out your knee joint. Lifting the muscles of the pelvic floor while engaging the muscles in your lower belly is also a helpful way to protect your low back and to avoid any discomfort. The pose should feel spacious and expansive, so remember to use the aid of a block or wall to help yourself enjoy it.

STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Begin in Mountain pose. Step your feet about four feet apart. (You can adjust them closer or further apart as needed as you continue in the posture.) Lift your arms out to the sides so that they are level with the ground, palms down. Activate your arms by hugging the triceps into the upper arm and broadening across the shoulder blades.
  2. Turn the heel of your left foot slightly so that the toes are pointing more towards the top of your mat. Turn the heel of your right foot so that the sides of your foot are parallel to the long edges of your mat. Line up the heel of your right foot with the arches of your left foot. Rotate your outer right thigh back to help align your right knee cap with your right ankle.
  3. Hinging from your right hip, use an exhale to extend your torso out over your right leg. Do not fold at your waist. Extend through your waist and hinge at the hip as you press firmly through the heel of your left foot. Gently roll your left ribs back as you encourage your right ribs forward. Both sides of your torso should feel equal in length. Draw the tailbone down towards your left heel, allowing the left hip to move slightly forward as needed.
  4. Bring your right hand down to either your shin, ankle, or just outside of your right foot on the ground. Do not lose the length in your torso in order to reach the hand further. Align your left arm with the right so that they make one long line as you extend your left arm towards the sky. If it’s comfortable for your neck, bring your gaze up to the thumb of your left hand.
  5. Hold the pose on this side for up to 60 seconds. Use an inhalation to bring yourself back up, rooting through the back heel using it as an anchor. Change the position of the feet and repeat on the opposite side.

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PREPARATORY POSES

  • Prasarita Padottanasana
  • Tadasana
  • Virabhadrasana II
  • Vrksasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES

  • Janu Sirsasana
  • Marichyasana C
  • Parivrtta Utthita Trikonasana
  • Paschimottanasana

SANSKRIT

  • Utthita = extended
  • Trikona = triangle
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

  • Expands chest and shoulders
  • Improves hip joint mobility
  • Increases neck mobility
  • Improves digestion
  • Stretches and strengthens thighs, knees, ankles
  • Stretches hips, groins, hamstrings, calves
  • Stimulates the organs in the abdomen
  • Relieves backache, especially for women who are pregnant
  • Improves flat feet

ENERGETIC BENEFITS

  • Relieves stress
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Opens up channels to aid fertility

MANTRA

“Har Har Waheguru Mantra”

Used to restore the balance in our bodies, minds, and the environment around us, reciting “Har Har Waheguru” will ground you while simultaneously offering you the opportunity to expand. When practiced regularly, this mantra will help you realign with your true self. Translated, this mantra means: The Creator is bliss, Great is the Guru.

MUDRA: Balancing Energy

Touch the tip of your index finger with the tip of your thumb and hold for sixty seconds. Repeat holding for sixty seconds, but alternate the finger that touches your thumb (index, middle, ring, pinky). You can practice this rotating mudra for as long as you like. You can also tap the fingers faster (not holding), reciting the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma (saying each syllable as you move your fingers).

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