Thursday, October 16, 2008

Focus Pose - Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

It’s Focus Pose time again! It’s been a while, I know, but I’ll make an effort to come back to poses more frequently. For those of you tuning in this week, I have been breaking down the standing sequence of the Primary Series (Ashtanga) pose by pose, breath by breath.

Currently, I have reviewed (if you click on the “focus pose” link under “Labels” it will take you to these):
Tadasana
Suyra Namaskara A
Suyra Namaskara B
Adho Mukha Svansana
Urdva Mukha Svanasana
Plank Pose
Padangusthasana
Padahastana

This brings us up to Utthita Trikonasana - Three Angle or Triangle - pose.

There is SO much happening in this asana. We are stretching our calves, shins, thighs, hamstrings, hips, groin, and the chest as we twist gently through the spine. We are strengthening our obliques and ribcage.

Because there is so much going on and so much that can be talked about, I am going to focus on moving into this one mindfully. A great place to work on breaking down the pose bit by bit is a regular hatha or Ieyengar session - which I strongly recommend taking. These classes truly compliment a regular Ashtanga or Vinyasa practice.

From Tadasana, on an Inhale, we step or jump to the right about 3feet. This stance will depend upon your flexibility. For those with more flexibility through the hips, legs and torso, a wider stance is appropriate. Not so flexible, keep the stance shorter. The right foot points straight back, left foot is coming in at an angle.

Inhale the arms wide, opening through the chest, shoulders, back and hips.

Exhale, stretch long toward the horizon. The tendency here is to reach for the knee/shin/ankle/floor first. THEN let the lower arm gently drop down to wherever it rests without trying to force your way down farther. Avoid leaning or resting on your leg - keep the lower palm open and along side the knee or calf to work the obliques and prevent injury to your knee. This helps keep the whole pose active and energized.

By stretching long first, you find where your body’s strength and flexibility lie and you can work safely into the pose.

By stretching long first, we avoid collapsing into the waist, ribcage, and shoulders.

Inhale, gently open into a twist, left arm moving toward the ceiling, fingers together. IF it is not comfortable to raise the left arm, bring the hand to your waist, elbow moving upward.

Gaze is up toward your raised thumb, straight ahead or, if necessary, down at the floor.



(Picture from here.)

While we are holding the pose, let’s bring our awareness to the front/extended leg. Gently rotate the knee so the kneecap is moving in the direction of the pinkie toe. This gentle outward rotation protects the knee over the long term. Press down equally through the ball of the foot and the heel. Let the toes be soft.

Bring your awareness to your rear leg. Press down actively through the whole of the foot, feel the mat from the heel to your pinkie toe and under the ball of the big toe. Again, toes are soft.

Please note: in the picture the model is actually practicing a very wide stance of this pose. In the Ashtanga practice, I prefer to see the fingers of the front hand in line with the toes or grasping the front toes.

Inhale, lift STRAIGHT up, reverse the foot position, and repeat on the opposite side for 5 breaths.



Even though the poses are held for 5 breaths, use each breath to bring awareness to an aspect of the posture. For example, on an inhale, expand through the shoulders and chest to deepen the twist (note, I did not say move farther down the leg!). On an exhale, check in with the legs and feet. Explore where you are physically and spatially with each breath. Next inhale, lengthen out through the crown of the head as if you are trying to touch the wall ahead of you.

Again, there are numerous ways to approach this posture. Please take a moment and check out Brenda's comments on Grounding Through the Sit Bones.

1 comment:

Brenda P. said...

What a nice thorough discussion. I am going to link it to the Asana Project, because it will be a great complement to the modifications.

Thanks for the mention!