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Revolved Triangle melds two different dynamic energies: rooting down into the earth with the legs, and sending energy, or prana, up through the extended arm. The pose is a classic representation of what Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutra, describes as the union of sthira and sukha—effort and ease, hard and soft, expanding and contracting, ascending and descending, and solar and lunar.
Joining opposing forces is a handy skill to cultivate and practice: Life frequently demands finding balance between two conflicting desires—for instance, finding love and maintaining independence, or building a career while being a devoted parent—and engaging both, to ever-changing degrees, simultaneously.
You might think Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) is all about twisting, but as soon as you reach for the floor, you realize it is also a delicate balancing posture that will feel completely steady and comfortable—if you know how to use your legs and core muscles for support. When alignment is correct, the posture can create strength and flexibility in the hamstrings and establish balance both physically and energetically. It can generate a steadiness of mind and a sense of complete freedom. As you take one hand to the earth (or a block), and reach the other to the sky, you find stability and are able to stand your ground while surrendering to both the present moment and the mystery of tomorrow.
In Revolved Triangle, the spine runs parallel to the floor and the descending arm runs perpendicular. With the front leg, these three lines of the body form a right-angle triangle—a stable, structurally sound shape. This means there is no lateral flexion, or side bending, in this pose. If you are tight in the hamstrings and therefore the hips, and if you’re feeling pressured by your own ego (or even a teacher), you can easily lose your balance and critical extension in your spine as you try to place your bottom hand on the floor and twist open into the full expression of the pose. You’ll end up folding forward from the back instead of the hips, losing core stability and grounding in the legs, and even squeezing the front edges of the vertebral discs that are meant to divide the vertebrae. Repetitive compressed folding and twisting, without a lifted chest and an extended spine, can result in back injuries over time that take months, if not years, to recover from.
To practice the pose safely, you need to be aware of your hamstrings’ flexibility and adjust with props and a modified stance so that too-tight (or too-loose) muscles don’t stop your spine from staying parallel to the floor. Tight hamstrings are common, from running, biking, and sitting at a desk all day, but you could also have the opposite problem: Students with long legs and flexible hamstrings consistently take a stance that is too short for their height, so when they dive down into the pose, their heads hang way below their hips, eliminating all right angles and core stability from Revolved Triangle.
Parivrtta Trikonasana must unfold in stages. Two preliminary postures, Janu Sirsasana (Head-of the-Knee Pose) and Marichyasana III (Marichi’s Pose), will help you familiarize yourself with your hamstring flexibility, isolate forward bending and twisting, and prepare you for a healthy, secure Revolved Triangle.
Step 1: Janu Sirsasana
1. Sit up tall in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with both legs straight in front of you. If your pelvis tips back and you aren’t at a right angle because of tight hamstrings, put a folded blanket under your hips.
2. Bend your left knee and bring the bottom of your left foot against your inner right thigh.
3. Keep your right leg straight, with the toes and kneecap pointing up and the quads contracted. This protects you from overstretching, and tells the hamstrings (the opposing muscles) that it is OK to relax and stretch. If your joints are hypermobile, do not hyperextend your knee.
4. Exhale and reach your left hand toward your right foot, moving into a slight twist to the right. If you have dropped your chest to reach your foot, you have lost extension in the spine, so hold the leg around the calf or thigh instead, or use a strap around the extended foot.
5. Bring your right hand next to the left, and center your chest over your right thigh. Both shoulders and both sides of your torso should be equidistant from the floor.
1. Inhale and lift from the waist to the shoulders.
2. Exhale and bend your elbows in order to pull on your foot or leg, engaging the biceps. Press the rib cage forward and move the back ribs toward the front of the body to bring more length to the spine and lower back.
1. Feel your hamstrings lengthen and your middle back twist.
2. Hold for several breaths and then switch sides.
Step 2: Marichyasana IIISet Up
1. Sit tall in Dandasana.
2. Bring your right knee to your chest and bring your heel to the floor in front of your right buttock. Keep your shin perpendicular to the floor.
3. Keep your foot parallel to, and a palm’s width from, the left thigh.
4. Hug your right shin with both hands to lift the torso more. If your hamstrings are tight and you’re leaning back, use a blanket.
1. Inhale and slide your left leg forward a few inches. This helps you initiate twisting from the pelvis and lower back, instead of only the midback and shoulders.
2. Exhale, turn slightly to the right, and prop yourself up from behind you with your right hand.
3. Inhale, pull your belly in, lift the chest, wrap your left elbow around the shin, and then exhale and pull deeper into the twist, looking over your right shoulder. Keep your spine erect.
4. Push your knee into your arm, so it can’t collapse into the center.
1. Relax the shoulders and take several breaths.
2. Unwind, and do the other side. Lengthen your spine as you twist from the lower and middle back.
Step 3: Parivrtta Trikonasana
1. From Tadasana, take your feet 3-4 feet apart. Keep them parallel.
2. Turn the right foot out 90 degrees and the left foot in 30 degrees.
3. Inhale and bring the arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor.
4. Exhale and twist your upper body to your right until your hips are facing your right foot. If your hips are tight, you may need to angle the back foot in more.
5. On your next exhale, bend forward and place a hand on each side of your right foot. If you can’t reach the floor with straight legs and a long spine, use blocks.
6. Move the left hip slightly forward and down and the right hip slightly back and up. Distribute your weight equally on both feet, pressing them into the floor, and begin to shift more weight into your left hand.
7. Inhale and reach your right arm up to the ceiling, rolling the chest and torso open.
1. Keep the chest lifted, spine parallel to the floor, shoulders stacked, and legs strong, quads contracted.
2. If you are flexible, take your left hand to the outside of the right foot.
3. Press into the floor with your left hand to reach higher with the right.
4. Look up at the right hand, holding your head in line with the spine and keeping length in your torso.
Take several breaths, then slowly push up to standing and repeat on the other side.