Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reversing the Triangle

Parvritta Trikonasana - reverse triangle pose.  Are you one of many who shudder at the thought of this asana?  Reverse triangle is the second standing pose (after the sun salutations) in the Ashtanga primary series, so many ashtangis would consider it one of the basic postures.  Yet students and teachers alike shy away from it - and no wonder.  Parvritta trikonasana stretches the hamstrings, opens the hips and twists out the middle of your back.  The result is an intense - but intensely satisfying - stretch.

PT really came together for me when I worked it with an Iyengar-style instructor.  Getting the alignment spot on and breaking down the pose into parts made this previously precarious posture suddenly much more accessible to me - and maybe it could do the same for you! So if you're game, grab a yoga mat, a block (a thick book will do), warm up with a few rounds of sun salutations, and get your om on!

Parvritta Trikonasana 

Start with the foundation: your feet!  From standing, take a step back with one leg (start with the left leg, usually, but we'll have the right leg back in this case so it matches the photos!).  Place your back heel on the mat and turn the toes in so they angle forwards as much as possible.

Now, check your alignment.  While some people say that the heel of the front foot should line up with the arch of your back foot, I prefer to have the heels in line at a minimum.  Now try to square your hips towards the front.  If you can't comfortably do this, walk the forward foot outwards a bit to give yourself a bit more room.

Done? Bring your left hand to your waist and stretch the right arm up.  Take 3 breaths here, extending the spine from the waistline up.

Now take a forward bend, grounding through the back heel and lengthening the spine to slowly bring the right hand to the floor inside or outside the right foot.  If you can't reach, use a block as shown a few pictures below.  Stay here for 3 breaths.  Make sure to keep a slight bend in the left knee so as not to overextend the hamstring.

After 3 breaths, bring your left palm to your lower back.  Begin to rotate the torso, lifting the left elbow up to the sky and eventually looking up over your left shoulder.  Now breathe, and maintain the length in your spine by drawing your chin away from your chest while strongly extending through the back heel.

Et voila! For all purposes of alignment, you're already in the pose!  Breathe here, lengthening and twisting.  Push the floor or the block away with your right hand and if you want to add a bit of flourish, extend the left arm straight up towards the cieling, finding the full expression of parvritta trikonasana.

What are your experiences with this pose?  Teachers, how do you include parvritta trikonasana in your sequencing?


  1. Ahh, parivritta trikonasana... it taunts me. It has taken me years to even begin to feel comfortable and 'at home' in this pose. It is getting better, but it's still a struggle to keep that back heel on the floor sometimes. When I teach this pose, I generally lead into it from parsvottanasana after warming up with some gentler twists, usually revolved side angle variations, to stretch the hip and hamstring before bringing the twist into it.

  2. it is such a difficult asana!!!
    i will write how yoga did help me when i will be less busy with the dance company, may be end of november
    thanks for your comments, reading about others home practise yogis does help me for keep on going alone with it

  3. I have a completely different way of doing this - but then I have completely different ways of doing everything....

    I shall make a video... :)

  4. @Misanthropic - I know the feeling, it took me years to finally feel at home in this one. The intensive Iyengar work really did it for me, working the twist for minutes on end. Exhausting but awesome.

    @Lila - Thanks! It will be wonderful to hear your story. A home practice is the hardest but I think also the most rewarding.

    @Rachel - Yay! I can't wait to see it. I love learning your methods of doing things.

  5. Hm, is Parivritta Trikonasana really the second standing posture in yoga chikitsa? Do you not count Padangushthasana and Pada Hastasana? Are they maybe not part of it and I am mistaken? I take the little I know from this site.

    I am still learning and am still stuck with my head up in the Suryas... (literally, most days I actually feel like a mountain).