Namaste everyone. Let’s take a closer look at the first pose of the month for the fall. I chose the standing pose Utthita Trikonasana—Extended Triangle Pose. This standing pose allows for opportunities to explore many ranges of motions in our body: after you align your pose, you can look at working on more extension of your trunk, you can work the pose as a twist, a hip opener and even as a back bending opportunity for the upper back. Join me to align and refine our practice for Utthita Trikonasana.
Instructions for Utthita Trikonasana:
- Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) in the middle of your mat facing the long edge. On an inhale step or jump your feet about 4 ft apart and extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. .
- Now turn your whole right leg and foot out 90° and turn your back foot and leg in slightly. Make sure that your front heel aligns with the center of your back arch.
- Let your chest face the long edge the mat. Then on an exhale extend and fold your torso over the right leg. Place your right hand on the floor or on a block directly under the right shoulder.
(You can also place your hand lightly onto your shin as I did in the second picture above)
- Your left arm and hand reaches up to the ceiling and the palm faces forward. Have the wrist in line with its shoulder. (There is a tendency to throw the top arm back behind its shoulder. Try to avoid this)
- Slightly tuck your chin and turn your head to gaze up at your top thumb. If your gaze hardens and you feel uncomfortable in your neck, don’t turn your head and instead keep gazing straight ahead.
- Stay in the pose for about half a minute. Then inhale to come upright and practice the pose on the other side for the same amount of time.
- Then come upright again, turn your feet back to parallel and step/jump your feet back together and stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
Work in the pose for alignment:
- Keep both legs straight by lifting the kneecaps.
- Make sure that your front foot is rooting down evenly- the inner edge tends to be light and a lot of weight is on the pinkie toe side of the foot. For me it is very helpful to ground down through the big toe mound and from there roll the front thigh from the inside out. This way I also encourage the front knee to point in the same direction as its toes. (good for knee safety)
- Keep weight on the back foot as well, so weightwise don’t collapse all your body weight onto the front. I like to isometrically push my feet apart on the mat to have an anchoring in my back foot.
- In order to have the bottom side of the torso align over the front thigh (and not have the torso in front of the front leg) align the pelvis by pressing the center of the front buttocks forward and couple this by pressing the front of the back thigh back.
- Reach the top buttocks flesh out of the lumbar so that you are not overarching the lower back.
- You want to lengthen the sides of your torso, so watch out that you don’t have a c-curve on the bottom side of the torso—keep extending those bottom side ribs towards the same side armpit
- Roll both upper arms out to keep a lift in your chest
- Reach both arms away from each other, keeping both wrists in line with each other and the sternum.
- Turn your torso starting from the lower belly away from the front thigh.
Refine your pose:
Tip: to help with working the alignment point 4 from above: Stand with your back against a wall and practice Trikonasana, having the back heel about an inch or so away from the wall and having the front foot aligned appropriately. Keep moving the front buttocks center away from the wall and press the front of the back thigh towards the wall. (good hip opening)
In picture 1 I have an inverted chair at the wall. My front foot stands on the reversed chair seat. This will help with bringing weight into the back foot, also preventing a collapse onto the front hip joint. I can use the top or bottom chair leg to hold for support.
In picture 2 , I have my toes up a block—this will help with keeping my kneecap lifted—and I’m reaching the left arm up the wall—this will work the lengthening of the bottom/here: left side of the torso.
Picture 3: Keeping that left sidebody long, I’m extending and folding over the front leg. The top hand reaches up and over the top ear, reaching for the wall. This way I can also work on lengthening through the top sidebody. Walking the top hand back behind you will encourage the trunk to twist more.
Pictures 4 and 5 show how to use the chair to help turn the torso more. Having the top hand in this position helps keep the top shoulder back.
In picture 6 I’m using a dowel across my shoulder blades. Working this way allows for good support, to keep the chest lifted and to help turn the navel towards the ceiling more
Helpful and inspiring sources:
1. Iyengar Yoga – The integrated and Holistic Path to Health by Tommijean and Benjamin Thomas,
published by XLibris, USA, 2008
2. yogaartandscience.com — a website created by Witold Fitz-Simon
3. Using the chair in certain ways was inspired by the Iyengar classes I attended in the past
Katja Huiras is a certified Yoga teacher who teaches Align+Refine Yoga classes at the Yoga Loft in Bethlehem. She received her 200 hr certification at the Yoga Loft and the 500 hr certification through the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA. In 2009 she was introduced to Iyengar Yoga and was intensely inspired by its method. Since then she regularly studies and practices with certified Iyengar Yoga teachers.
Missed last month’s column? Read it Now: