Listen to your body in … Extended Lateral Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)

Trikonasana
Trikonasana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How you get on with particular yoga postures can tell you a lot about yourself. Your yoga practice can tell you how your body, mind and emotions are today – if you’re willing to listen!

It’s particularly interesting to listen when you come across a posture you find more challenging than others.

One posture I used to find more challenging is Extended Lateral Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana).

I remember my first yoga teacher saying to me that you know you truly love yoga when you learn to love triangle postures (Trikonasana). And I remember thinking at the time I certainly did not love them and couldn’t imagine a time when I would!

In fact, I found Extended Lateral Triangle a real challenge and I struggled against it.

I found it difficult to bend to the side i.e. laterally, and on more than one occasion pulled the quadratus lumbroum muscle on my right hand side in my efforts to force myself to bend more.

Forcing yourself beyond what your body is capable of is never a good thing in yoga, or elsewhere! 

So, why the struggle?

We rarely bend our torsos laterally in our everyday life – we bend forwards or we twist or stretch our arms out a bit to reach things, but how often do we mindfully bend our bodies, and thus extend our spine, over to the side?

And to bend the whole of our upper bodies and spine like this requires flexibility in the pelvic girdle and the hip adductors, openness in the sides of the body and in the pectoral muscles across the front of our chest.

Often, those new to the posture twist their hips and bend their torso forwards as they try to reach their extended arm and hand further down their leg to their foot.

But it’s much more beneficial and powerful to keep your body in one plane – as if you’re held between two sheets of glass. You may not bend as far but you will experience a much more powerful opening in the sides of the body and release of tension there.

On a more subtle level, this posture releases stuck energy from the sides of our torso and can help to relieve depressives states. This can be scary and we try to resist, and so our bodies tighten up to hold on to the emotions which we don’t want to look at or process.

There’s been many a time that this posture has made me cry! But, if that happens, you don’t have to start analysing why if you don’t want to. Just let the emotion out and physically you will also feel freer.

This posture activates energies from the base chakras and raises them up – if we can let this energy rise to our hearts, we can bring a sense of compassion to the thoughts and feelings which arise. We can let them be without judgement and find self-acceptance and a sense of peace.

Tips to help in this posture

As you move your feet into the Triangle base, check the heel of the foot pointing outwards is in line with the medial arch of the other foot, this will give you a well-aligned, solid base.

Then, send the weight of your body down through the outer edges of your feet – this helps you to feel grounded and strong before you move into the lateral bend.

Now raise your arms to the side and relax your shoulders – feel your legs are strong and solid while your chest is light and open.

As you bend, extend the body to the side from the base of the spine upwards. Then keep in one plane – focus on keeping your hips facing forward and bending to the side rather than reaching over and down. It’s not about touching your toes but about moving the spine and opening the chest. 

…Breathe and enjoy!

How my experience has changed

Once I learned to quieten the competitive voice in my mind telling me to bend further, I found that focusing on the lateral bend and keeping my body in one plane, opens my chest, shoulders and upper back.

I enjoy the grounded feeling as my energy moves down through my legs to the ground while the upward flow of energy opens my heart centre and strengthens my solar plexus energy centre.

This posture helps me to feel more alert and in the here and now – it’s really refreshing. It also helps to quieten my mind and bring me into the present.

… and yes, slowly and surely over the years, I’ve come to love Triangle postures!

What’s your experience?

Other posts in my ‘Listen to your body in…’ series


Stella Tomlinson teaches Dru yoga in Southampton, UK. Dru yoga is a flowing and therapeutic style of yoga, characterised by graceful movements, directed breathing, relaxation techniques and working with affirmations and visualisations. Connect with Stella via Facebook and Twitter.

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