When you do Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose), you might get caught up in its expansive twisting action. But if you focus most of your energy on the twist and neglect the base, you'll likely lose your balance and fall out of the pose before you can enjoy it in its full glory. Tempting as it might be to go deep into the twist right away, developing a stable base first will give you a more even, aligned pose.
The key to creating a stable base in Revolved Triangle is to work on opening the outer legs, outer hips, and hamstrings. When these tissues are tight, the inside of the front foot will pull up and away from the floor and the hips will bump out of alignment (that is, if you're twisting to the right, the hips will also move to the right) When you work on stretching these tissues, over time you'll find that you can keep your hips square and lengthen your spine, and then the twist will unfold naturally. The three preparatory poses here are similar in shape to Revolved Triangle, but the props make the poses more stable so that you can identify, access, and stretch your tight spots.
Action Plan: Work on opening up the hamstrings, iliotibial band, tensor fasciae latae, gluteus maximus, and gluteus medius to help create a stable foundation from which you can twist
The End Game: Opening your hips, hamstrings, and outer legs will allow you to root your front foot evenly and keep your hips centered, which will help you balance more easily in Revolved Triangle.
A brief warm-up will make the poses presented here even more effective. Lie on your back and do Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) on both sides. Next, awaken your spine with a Reclined Twist. Then, get the blood moving in the rest of your body with a few rounds of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) and a few standing poses of your choosing. Finally, practice Pigeon Pose to prepare your hips and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) to ready your spine.
Revolved Triangle on the Floor
Propping: The floor is your main prop in this posture. You will also use a block to support your outstretched foot and a strap if you are restricted in your hips or hamstrings.
Why This Works: Using the floor for support means you won't have to struggle to find your balance. You'll have greater leverage to stretch tight spots, and you'll be able to stay in the pose for up to 2 minutes.
How to: Begin in Supta Padangusthasana with a block about a leg's distance to the left of your body. Lie face-up on your mat; have a strap handy. Bend your right knee into your chest, loop the strap around the arch of your right foot, and straighten your leg toward the ceiling. Hold the strap with both hands and settle into a hamstring stretch for 4 to 5 breaths. As you breathe smoothly and unwind your hamstrings, feel the support of the floor.
Take both sides of the strap into your left hand. Roll onto your left side—this step is important because it will give you a deeper stretch once you're in the full posture. Bring your right leg across your body and place your right foot on a block. Even if you're flexible enough to bring the right foot to the floor, use the block; it more accurately re-creates the feeling of Revolved Triangle. From there, engage your bottom leg and twist your upper body to the right. If you're unable to bring the back of your right shoulder to the floor, place a folded blanket under the right side of your upper back.
Now, it's time to deepen the pose: These essential actions will give you more balance and freedom in Revolved Triangle. Take your right thumb into your right hip crease, wrap your fingers around your outer thigh, and roll your outer thigh away from you. Press your right sitting bone away from you while simultaneously pulling your right foot toward your shoulder. Be mindful that even though your leg may not actually move, these actions will increase the stretch in your hamstrings, outer leg, and buttock. Now, gently engage your lower abdominal muscles, arch your lower back gently away from the floor, and rotate your spine to the right more deeply. Reach your right arm to the right and broaden your chest. Breathe for 1 to 2 minutes. Then take the second side.
Revolved Triangle With Foot on Chair
Propping: Foot is supported by a chair and presses into a wall.
Why This Works: The wall provides leverage for rotation. Supporting your top foot provides stability and allows you to lengthen and rotate your spine.
How to: Cover the back of your chair with a folded sticky mat or blanket, and set the back of the chair against the wall. The mat or blanket provides padding for your heel and Achilles tendon
Stand facing the chair, lift your right leg, and place the back of your right ankle on top of the chair back. You may need to slide the chair an inch or two away from the wall to sufficiently support your ankle. Press your foot against the wall and straighten your top leg. Your standing leg should be straight and as close to vertical as possible, so you will need to adjust it accordingly. Turn your bottom foot out slightly with your heel pointed in and the ball of your foot pointed out. Allowing your foot to turn like this will give you more stability and will more accurately re-create the position of your back leg and foot in Revolved Triangle.
Turn your attention to lengthening your spine as you transition into the full posture. Bring your hands together in prayer and rest your thumbs on your breastbone. Lengthen your spine by rooting down strongly into the floor with your standing leg, and lift your chest up into your thumbs. Maximize this spinal elongation by reaching your arms toward the ceiling and gently engaging your lower abdominals. Complete the transition by reaching your arms wide apart as you would in Warrior II, rotating your torso to the right, and bringing your left fingers to the wall for additional stability.
Two actions with your top foot will deepen the posture and give your body a blueprint for a deeper, steadier Revolved Triangle Pose in the future. First, press the back of your right heel down as though you were pressing the chair into the floor. Use this downward pressure of your foot to lengthen your spine even more. Second, press the bottom of your foot into the wall and rotate your torso more deeply into the twist. Continue using the leverage of your top foot to lengthen and rotate your spine for 10 to 15 breaths before releasing the pose and repeating on the left side.
Revolved Triangle at the Wall
Propping: The wall is the main prop in this version of Revolved Triangle Pose. You'll also use a block for your bottom hand.
Why This Works: Using the wall will stabilize your body and provide considerable leverage for rotating your spine. The block under your bottom hand will allow you to continue to lengthen your spine effectively as you stretch your hamstrings, outer leg, and hip.
How to: Revolved Triangle Pose at the wall combines the stability and opening you felt in the reclined version with the spinal length and rotation of the chair-supported version. It approximates the shape of Revolved Triangle and provides you with enough support to move deeply into the pose and access its finer points.
To prepare, place the long side of your mat next to a wall and have your block nearby. Stand at the top of your mat so that your right hip is about 6 inches from the wall. Step your right foot forward and your left foot back so that you have plenty of distance between your feet. Finish the setup by aligning your heels with each other, turning your back foot to a 45-degree angle and placing a block just inside your front foot. You can always make adjustments to the spacing and angle of your feet once you're in the pose.
Transition into Revolved Triangle by rooting down strongly through both feet, drawing up through your legs, and stretching your arms toward the ceiling. Take a slow, deep breath and focus on lengthening your spine. On an exhalation, hinge forward from your hips and take your left hand to your block on the inside of your foot (experimenting with the block height that best suits you). Place your right hand on the wall in line with your shoulder; your right elbow will need to bend. See that your torso and hips are in the same plane as your feet, and make sure you don't feel too close or far from the wall before deepening and fine-tuning your pose and switching sides.
Jason Crandell teaches alignment-based vinyasa yoga workshops and teacher trainings around the world.