The term comes from the Sanskrit trikona, meaning “three corners” or “triangle,” and asana, meaning “posture.” The term is often used synonymously with utthita trikonasana (extended triangle pose).
The number three has popular associations and references in religions, architecture, vedic literature and so on – such as the three gunas (Satva, Rajas, Tamas) and the three doshas (Vata, Pita, Kapha) in Ayurveda, the three key nadis or energy channels (Sushumna, Ida and Pingala) in Yoga, the three audible sounds (A-U-M) forming the sacred symbol OM, and so forth.
As per Mythology, the three sides of the triangle personify the three forces of the Universe – Lord Brahma (Creator), Lord Vishnu (Preserver), and Lord Shiva (Destroyer or Transformer). The balance embodied by this trinity is represented by Trikonasana.
The triangle in Trikonasana has many symbolic meanings too – “Mind, Body, Spirit” and their union while practicing the pose; “Past, Present, Future” with the back leg (representing the past), providing the support needed to shape the present and consequently, our future. The front leg and arm reach out to the future. The hips and their placement symbolize the present. However, one needs to have acceptance of the present and past to move into the future.
Try it out using these cues:
- Stand straight and bring the legs about 3 feet apart. Extend arms at shoulder height.
- Inhale and reach the right arm forward, like you’re reaching for someone’s hand. Exhale and bend the torso at the waist, reach the right hand towards the right foot.
- Try to hold the right ankle, use a block next to the foot if you cannot reach the ankle yet. Reach your left hand upward, keep it in line with the shoulder.
- Keeping the shoulders aligned, turn the head up and look towards the right hand. Hold for at least 5 breaths. Return to the standing position and repeat on the other side.
This pose strengthens all of the leg muscles and stretches the groin, hamstrings, and hips, and opens the chest and shoulders. It also challenges— and improves—balance and stability. Some of the other physical benefits of this pose are:
- Stretches and lengthens the spine. This pose can reduce stiffness in the spine and back, resulting in increased flexibility.
- Stimulates your organs. Trikonasana activates your core and upper body, which can stimulate your digestive organs, potentially improving your metabolism.
- Reduces stress. Trikonasana can target the lower back, which is where some people carry their stress. This pose can help release that tension, resulting in reduced anxiety and a more stable emotional state.
Variations include Baddha Trikonasana (bound triangle pose) and Parivrtta Trikonasana (revolved triangle pose).
Try them out using these cues:
- In Baddha Trikonasana you’ll follow the above cues and find a sense of stability.
- Rotate open the shoulder of the upper arm, bend at the elbow and place the back of the hand on the back or near the lower hip.
- Reach the bottom arm back and try to clasp fingertips, or work to grasp at the wrist of the upper arm.
- Keep the hips aligned and rotate the chest open to the ceiling.
- Hold for at least 5 breaths. Return to the standing position and repeat on the other side.
- In Parivrtta Trikonasana you’ll start with legs about 3 feet apart. Extend arms at shoulder height.
- Rotate the upper body towards the right foot. You can bring the left foot in a bit closer and point the toes more forward (like Warrior 1).
- Lean the top body forward half way. Rotate the arms, reaching the left hand towards the right foot and reaching the right arm up. Bring a block outside of the foot until you can comfortably reach.
- Keeping the hips squared you can look down, forward, or up at the right hand. Work on staying balanced and hold for at least 5 breaths. Return to the standing position and repeat on the other side.
In addition to a range of physical benefits, trikonasana is believed to unblock energy pathways in the body. It brings a sense of stability and balance to the body and mind. Practicing trikonasana daily will bring mental steadiness and create space for emotional release.
Trikonasana is thought to stimulate the svadhisthana chakra (sacral plexus). This chakra is the center of creativity, pleasure and enjoyment. By bringing awareness to this space in the body, just below the navel center, you can generate powerful energy in this chakra.
The contraindications for this pose are:
- Low or high blood pressure
- Neck injury
- Back injury
- Recent hamstring injury – for recovered injuries you may microbend the front leg while practicing
- Weak digestion, move slowly and come out of the pose if any dizziness or migraine is experienced. If these problems are present first work on simple breathing and strengthening the digestive system before trying again
With a wide range of benefits, few contraindications and multiple variations, trikonasana is a posture which can be added to your practice each day. You can watch as it improves over time and challenge yourself with new variations and transitions as you progress.