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When you’re undertaking the somewhat challenging, yet deeply beneficial, Extended Triangle Pose, it helps to remember that the pose is actually a representation of its title: In it, your body forms various-sized triangles. Think of the angles made by your legs and the floor; the small triangle between your arm, front leg, and torso; and the large angle made by your side body with the front arm and the mat.
Utthita Trikonasana can give you a healthy mix of grounded 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 focus a wandering mind and bring you fully to the present moment.
It’s not a difficult pose to get into, but it is easy to practice it in a way that is misaligned. “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 tree-cone-AHS-ah-nah)
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 the thighs and torso. This pose also stretches the hips, groin, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest, and spine.
This posture improves digestion by stimulating the abdominal organs.
Extended Triangle Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), 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 your right heel with your left heel. Firm your thighs and rotate your right thigh outward, so the center of your right kneecap is in line with the center of the right ankle.
- Exhale and extend your torso to the right, bending from your hip joint, not the waist. Reach out directly over the plane of the right leg. Counter the reach by anchoring your left hip to the left. (Imagine someone is trying to pull your hips to the left.) Ground this movement by strengthening the left leg and pressing the outer heel firmly to the floor.
- When you have reached as far as you are able, hinge at the hip and bring the torso to the right, moving toward your upper body being parallel to the floor. Reach your right hand down toward the floor and stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, in line with the tops of your shoulders. Your hands, arms and shoulders will form a straight line, perpendicular to your mat.
- Open your 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, ankle, or the floor outside your right foot—whatever is possible without distorting the sides of the torso. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes gazing softly at the left thumb or down at the floor.
- 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. Recenter, then reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time on the other side.
Teaching Utthita Trikonasana
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 upward, creating space and a heart-opening energetic movement in the pose while rolling shoulders back toward the spine.
- Advise students to activate 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.
- Advise them to reach with the head and lengthen the neck and spine to keep both sides of the body long.
- If your legs are too close together, you won’t feel the full benefit of the pose. The distance you need between your feed is unique to you and the length of your legs, but make the stance as wide as possible while still maintaining stability. You shouldn’t feel strained, but rather a pleasant stretch.
- Be sure to rotate your front thigh outward to keep your knee aligned with your foot.
- Avoid splaying out your hips, locking out your knees, or tightening your shoulders up to your ears in this pose.
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.