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Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana), like Mountain Pose or Downward-Facing Dog, is one of those asanas that you might practice so much, or are so familiar with, that you become a little stuck in your habits and lose a certain degree of awareness or fresh attention. This can happen with any endeavor that we engage in on a regular basis, on or off the mat. (Just think about how you walk. Do you always take your first step with the same foot?) But don’t beat yourself up; it’s easy to become complacent, stagnant, or mechanical in our practices.
Experiment with changing things up on your mat and see how they translate to other areas of your life. These three fun variations of Utthita Trikonasana are only a sample of the seemingly infinite number of ways to practice and play with this pose. This is true of any pose. There is no end to seeing. And there is no end to playing and to learning.
In these variations, you will be changing your base or foundation in some way. When you change your base, you change everything! As you practice, remember: This pose is not just a pose—it is an experience!
Angular Utthita Trikonasana
Change the base in this variation by staggering the legs and using a wall.
First line up the short edge of your mat against a wall. Then step your feet apart, with the back edge of your back foot flush with the back right corner of your mat and the wall and the inside edge of your front foot a few feet forward and flush with the right edge of your mat. The foot at the wall provides a little more stability, as this variation can challenge your sense of balance. Use a block under your bottom arm, straighten your top arm, and gaze up. This variation makes Utthita Trikonasana more of a backbend. Observe how your back leg is abducted, or moving away from your centerline, and extended at the hip joint a bit more than it would be in the classic form of the pose. Also observe how much easier it is to turn the neck and head and look upward in this variation. If your neck hurts when doing so, turn your head and look down toward your front foot. Stay in the pose, old here for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Utthita Trikonasana With Your Foot on a Brick at a Wall
In this variation, the foot of the front leg is placed on a brick next to a wall.
With your mat in the same position, set up a block on its flattest side, with the short end against the wall. This time your front foot will be at the wall, with your heel on the block and the ball of your foot on the wall. The combination of foot elevation and dorsi-flexion helps reduce the load experienced by the front hip joint, since there is now more weight on the heel of the back leg. This variation also helps position your front femur or thighbone optimally into its hip socket. Use a block again for your bottom arm, to maintain more length in your spine. Your top arm can be taken upward, along with your gaze, as shown, or placed on the wall to assist with spinal rotation and provide an extra point of stability. Hold here for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Utthita Trikonasana With Your Foot in the Bucket of a Chair
This variation elevates the foot on the bottom of an upside-down chair to enhance the actions and benefits of the last variation of the pose.
Instead of a block, position a chair as pictured against the wall and move into Triangle Pose. The higher your front foot is raised on a support, the more you will feel the weight or grounding of your back heel. Your front hip will feel lighter and it will be easier to revolve your chest and head up toward the ceiling. You can place your hand on the cross bar or the chair, or further down on the leg of the chair. Hold here for about 30 seconds before switching sides. This variation challenges your balance, and that (even in small ways) can be a fun way of re-awakening your awareness, not only in the all-important base of the pose, but in your whole body!
About Our Expert
Carrie Owerko is a Senior Intermediate Iyengar teacher based in New York City. She continues her studies with the Iyengar family by traveling to India on a regular basis, as well as by continuous in-depth studies with her yoga teacher, Patricia Walden. Before studying yoga, Carrie earned a BFA in dance and theater and became a Certified Movement Analyst. Curiosity, openness, and affection are of utmost importance in her approach to Iyengar Yoga, as is the integration of science, yoga philosophy, and poetic imagination. Most importantly, she loves to explore the relationship of discipline and playfulness and is a firm believer in the power of controlled folly. Learn more at carrieowerko.com