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When you’re undertaking the somewhat challenging (yet deeply beneficial!) Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana), it helps to remember that the pose is actually a representation of its title: In it, your limbs form various-sized triangles. Think: your back foot and your hands, your two legs, as well as your arm and torso in front.
Utthita Trikonasana provides a healthy mix of grounding stability and heart-opening expansion of the chest. It stretches the hamstrings and back muscles while activating the abdominal muscles. This pose requires concentration and steady breath, which can help to focus a wandering mind and bring you fully to the present moment.
Avoid splaying out your hips, locking out your knees, or tightening your shoulders up to your ears in this pose. “When I first attempted Triangle, I thought that if I could reach my hand to the floor, voila! I was done,” says senior Iyengar instructor Marla Apt. “I was not yet aware that in reaching to the floor, I had sacrificed the alignment of other body parts. I had yet to learn to use my muscles to support me so that I had a strong foundation from which to extend.”
Extended Triangle Basics
Sanskrit: Utthita Trikonasana (oo-TEE-tah trik-cone-AHS-anna)
Pose Type: Standing
Target Area: Hips
Why We Love It: “When I realized I was actually creating a series of small triangles with my body when I engaged in this pose, I became much more deeply attuned to it,” says Yoga Journal contributing editor Gina Tomaine. “I found this concept charming and appealing—those tiny triangles were something pleasant and simple for my mind to focus on—which made the physical challenge feel easier.”
Extended Triangle is good for lengthening the spine and strengthening and stretching the thighs, knees, ankles and torso. This pose also stretches he hips, groin, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine.
This posture improves digestion by stimulating the abdominal organs and also helps relieve stress.
Extended Triangle Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
- From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), step or lightly jump your feet 3 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.
- Turn your left foot in slightly and your right foot out to 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so the center of the right kneecap is in line with the center of the right ankle.
- Exhale and extend your torso to the right, directly over the plane of the right leg, bending from the hip joint, not the waist. Anchor this movement by strengthening the left leg and pressing the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rotate the torso to the left, keeping the left and right sides of the torso equally long. Let the left hip come slightly forward and lengthen the tailbone toward the back heel.
- Rest your right hand on your shin or ankle or the floor outside your right foot—whatever is possible without distorting the sides of the torso. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes gazing softly at the left thumb.
- Stay in this pose for 30 to 60 seconds. Inhale to come up, strongly pressing the back heel into the floor and reaching the top arm toward the ceiling. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time on the other side.
Teaching Extended Triangle
These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- Remind your students to open their chests as they gaze upwards, creating space and a heart-opening posture in the pose while rolling shoulders back towards the spine.
- Advise students to send energy to their obliques in order to remain balanced and stable as they turn their torsos upward.
- Tell your students to activate their tricep muscles in order to lengthen their arms to create the shape of a triangle.
If your legs are too close together, you won’t feel the full benefit of the pose. The length is unique to you and your legs, and you shouldn’t feel strained, but rather a pleasant stretch. Be sure to rotate your front thigh outwards to keep your knee aligned with your foot.
Variation: Extended Triangle with a block
If you can’t reach the floor without twisting or rounding your back, place a block in front of your ankle.
- Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior)
- Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)