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Angle of Repose

You don't have to be Pythagoras to enjoy a great Triangle—and get the health benefits of this valuable standing pose.

By Julie Gudmestad

The Right Triangle

In the Iyengar tradition that I teach, Triangle Pose consists of straight lines and crisp angles. When you come into it to the right, your spine, right arm, and right leg form an isosceles triangle—and the two most important elements are the straight lines in the legs, arms, and spine, and the 90-degree angle between the arm and the spine.

In the full expression, your spine is parallel to the floor and your arms perpendicular to it. To achieve this elegant architecture, tip your pelvis to the right. Think of your pelvis as a bowl. If the bowl stays upright, when you place your right hand on the floor or on your right shin, your spine flexes laterally up toward the ceiling, lengthening your left waist while shortening your right waist. To allow your spine to flow in a nearly horizontal line, you must tip your pelvis almost 90 degrees to the side.

And to get that full tip, you need flexible hamstrings and hip adductors. Both of these muscle groups originate on the ischial tuberosities, or sitting bones, on the bottom of the pelvis. If your right hamstrings and adductors are short or tight, their pull on the right ischial tuberosity will prevent your pelvis from tipping to the right.

You know you have tight hamstrings if you feel an intense pull in your front-leg hamstrings or inner thigh in Trikonasana, or if you can't put your hand down without bending your torso to the side. If that's the case, try stretching your legs in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) before returning to Triangle. Lie with your right side parallel to a wall and a little less than a leg length away from it. Using a strap to hold your right foot, stretch your right leg straight up toward the ceiling and your left leg straight out on the floor. Draw your right leg toward your torso until you feel a moderate hamstring stretch, then breathe and relax into it for about a minute. Next, open your right leg out to the side and pull it gently up toward your head. Adjust your distance from the wall so it supports your foot and you get a moderate stretch on your inner thigh. Again, hold for one to two minutes, and release into the stretch.

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Reader Comments

Bill

My guru says that we connect the index finger and middle finger to the big toe to complete the internal energy circuit. We assume our personal expression of the pose with the body we have and breath ujayi breathing method. After 1000 daily repetitions the posture is perfect!

Arugularose

I had a similar experience in an Iyengar class. Years of yoga and I had never injured myself on my own or in a class, but my third Iyengar I injured myself trying to get the exact right alignment. I wish we had had some instruction about that possibility.

As for the article-- I love how this pose opens up my body and makes it feel so spacious inside!

PS Since starting regular yoga my joints feel more healthy, but they are also a lot more noisy. Is that normal?

cathy geier

I often fear iyengar teachers because my shoulder was cranked into position to complete the perfection of an isoceles triangle.
peoples' bodies are different. perfection is not as important as injury free.

That said, I don't see the 90 degree angle espoused in thi sarticle between the spine and the arm.

I don't usually like to use blocks, bu ton this pose I believe that they are very important touse to help create that angle and to keep from having a smaller than 90 degree agle between spine and hip, thus potentially crunching at lower spine and side.

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