Strategies: A Skillful Transition into Trikonasana
Oct 18, 2019
While there are many ways to practice trikonasana, the usual way of transitioning into it is with the front leg already straight. There's nothing inherently wrong with this approach, if a) your students have relatively flexible hamstrings and b) they have the body awareness and physical ability to laterally tilt their pelvis. However, what often seems to happen is that many students have difficulty laterally tilting their pelvis for one of the above reasons and as a result end up laterally flexing their waist in order to get their hand down to their shin bone or a block. So they end up looking more like the student in Figure A than the student in Figure B.
Instead of transitioning into trikonasana with the leg straight, try coming into it from the ground up... first by coming into a lunge, then into a modified parsvakonasana (side-angle), and then into trikonasana, working on alignment within each step before proceeding to the next. This is also a great way to teach trikonasana because it’s easier to get folks into the pocket right from the start, so that you don’t have to spend as much time running around aligning people after they’re already in the pose (which is way more challenging). While the steps outlined below might seem numerous, it doesn’t take long to run through them… and if you sense any impatience in your students just remind them that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Think of it more like a triangle “process” than like a triangle “pose.” What are you going to do in triangle once you get there anyway?
- From Downward Facing Dog, step the right foot forward coming into a lunge
- Turn the back heel down, and angle the foot inward about 30 degrees from the back edge of your mat. Line your heels up with each other, and ground the outer edge of the back foot to lift the arch and entire inseam of the back leg (which keeps the back knee safe). Note: lining the heels up (as opposed to a heel-to-arch alignment) and turning the foot inward this much is going to make it easier to keep the pelvis laterally tilted at the front hip joint.
- Place your left hand on your left hip, and your right forearm on your thigh, similar to a modified parsvakonasana. Make sure that your front knee is over your ankle, and ground the tripod of the right foot (the center of the heel, and heads of the 1st and 5th metatarsals). Keep your chest and pelvis turned toward the floor a bit, as opposed to the side of the room, and keep looking down.
- Press your right forearm into your thigh and lift your chest and broaden your right collar bone. Then engage your left side waist muscles to make your forearm light on your thigh.
- Keeping your forearm light but in contact with your thigh, stabilize your pelvis by keeping your left side waist muscles engaged as you slowly begin to extend your front leg until you feel a moderate stretch in your hamstrings. Note: With your left hand on your left hip, you should be able to feel if the hip starts to move away from your left bottom ribs. Try not to let it.
- Place your right hand on your shin bone, or on the floor or a block placed on the inside or outside of your foot.
- Now, slowly begin to turn your torso to the left using your core abdominal muscles. Don’t pull the top hip back on purpose, as doing so is somewhat compressive to the SI joint, but do let the pelvis follow the lumbar spine a bit as you turn the torso. Try to retain some depth in the left groin, which will help you maintain the lateral tilt of your pelvis over the front thigh.
- Turn your gaze toward the side wall… the same wall your chest is facing. Lengthen the left side of your neck, so that it’s the same length as the right side.
- Retract your left scapula to draw the top shoulder back, aiming the shoulder socket straight up toward the ceiling.
- Finally, reach your left arm up toward the ceiling.
As you hold the posture...
- Roll your outer right thigh back (outer spiral at the hip), while grounding the inner edge of your foot (inner spiral at the ankle)
- Maintain some buoyancy in your right shin bone so that you don't hyperextend your front knee, by grounding the ball of your foot and even micro-bending your knee if necessary
- Continue to work the lateral tilt of the pelvis over the front thigh, which will help keep the top side waist short.