Want to learn more about Trikonasana, aka Triangle Pose? In this post, I share the benefits of Trikonasana, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, modifications and more.
In Hindu mythology, triangles are important symbols used to represent the universe, Shiva and Shakti, and the human body. When several triangles are brought together in the Shri Yantra, a symbol used in meditation, they are ascribed a seemingly endless list of qualities.
Yoga asana practice and the study of yoga philosophy is the opportunity to study yourself. And practicing Trikonasana can help you remember that you are every character in the story in Hindu mythology; all of the concepts attributed to the triangle are really aspects of your own life.
And just like life is ever-evolving, so is your Trikonasana, because there is no final form of any yoga pose. There is just today’s form. The pose really isn’t the point. Learning more about yourself and working to embody the lessons the pose can teach you — that is the point.
Often, instead of placing their hand on the ground, I instruct this pose asking students to touch the outside of their front leg, and push from the outside towards the middle of their mat.
- I want to encourage students to take their time in the pose, and to not be in a rush to get to to some pre-determined “final form”.
- Pushing the hand from outside in helps students find more stability in the pose and freedom to lean back and open up their chest.
- It can encourage more length in the spine, and more twist in the torso.
- It helps prevent one of the most common misalignments of Trikonasana — sticking the bottom hip out, and leaning the top shoulder forward and down. Both of these tend to occur because of an eagerness to touch the ground.
Read on to learn more about your options for Triangle pose.
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Trikonasana Quick Facts
|Sanskrit||Trikonasana / Uttitha Trikonasana|
|English||Triangle Pose / Extended Triangle Pose|
|Meaning||Tri means three.|
Kona means angle.
Trikonasana means three angled pose, or Triangle Pose.
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Trikonasana here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Trikonasana include:
- Hip opening.
- Strengthens quads.
- Stretches hamstrings.
- Strengthens ankles, and calf muscles.
- Increases lateral flexibility of the spine.
- Opens chest.
- Strengthens triceps.
A scientific experiment studying Trikonasana showed that the “obliques, rectus abdominis, and psoas major of the front leg and gluteus maximus and gluteus medius of the back leg undergo major activation during isometric contraction.”
If you want more, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people!
- Sciatica can be exacerbated because of the imbalance in the hips.
- If you have a neck injury, look down or out to the side and work to keep your neck long.
- If you have a hamstring or adductor tear it is probably best to avoid this pose until you are completely healed.
- If you are pregnant it is recommended to use a block or chair under your bottom hand. See Modifications below.
- Students with slipped or herniated discs in their spine may wish to avoid Triangle Pose.
- If you have high blood pressure you may want to place your top hand on your hip rather than lifting it up.
- Those with issues related to the hyper-mobile knee joints should take care not to press down into their thigh with their bottom arm, as well as learn to engage their hamstrings on their front leg in this pose. See Modifications below.
Trikonasana Pose Breakdown
How to do Trikonasana or Triangle Pose
- Turn to face the long edge of your mat.
- Step your feet wide and stretch your arms out, parallel to the ground.
- Make your feet parallel to each other and bring your ankles as wide as your wrists.
- Turn your left foot forward 45º, then turn your left heel in 45º so that your left foot points towards the top of your mat. I call this the “two-stage turn”. It helps keep your hips open and aligns your front heel with the centre of your back foot, which is the optimal alignment for Triangle Pose.
- Turn your thumbs up so that your palms face the long edge of your mat (externally rotate your arms).
- Push down through your feet and isometrically draw them towards each other (without moving your feet squeeze them towards each other).
- Reach forward slightly and side-bend to the left.
- Bring your left hand to the ground outside your left shin and have your left forearm touch the outside of your left leg. If you can place you hand flat without sticking your left hip out, do. Otherwise, stay on your fingertips or hold your left shin, or use a prop under your hand. See Modifications below.
- Stretch up through your right arm and have your right wrist over your left wrist.
- Push with your left arm into your left leg to create stability, lift through your right hip and ribs, and then lean your torso back.
- Stretch your spine long out of your hips.
- Look out to the side or turn your gaze up to your right hand. Don’t drop your head, instead strengthen your neck and hold your neck inline with the rest of your spine.
- Twist your torso up towards the ceiling.
- This is Triangle Pose, or Trikonasana.
- To come out, bend your front knee slightly, push down through your feet and stand up. Turn your left foot in using the same two-stage turn you used to turn it out. Then turn your right foot out in the two-stage turn and practice Trikonasana to the right.
- After practicing both sides, Downward Dog Pose is a good pose to balance the work out.
Note: Some teachers instruct a turn in the back foot in Trikonasana. I teach back foot parallel to the short edge of your mat, feet perpendicular to each other.
The advantages of this are that it:
- helps to open your hips.
- helps the pressure on your sacrum be more balanced, creating less imbalance at your sacroiliac joint (although I have read the opposite).
- helps counter the common misalignment of the top shoulder dropping forward and down as you reach for the ground.
Of course, it’s your practice, and I recommend you find the version of the pose that works best for you, and keep in mind that this can change from day to day, and year to year.
Modifications & Variations
If you hyperextend your knees:
- Be sure to not press down into your thigh with your bottom arm, as this can exacerbate the hyperextension.
- Place yoga blocks under your hand, or place your hand on the seat of a chair and pull back with your front foot (without moving it) to engage your hamstrings on your front leg.
If you cannot touch the ground or have lower back pain:
- Use props for support. You can place yoga blocks under your hand, or place your hand on the seat of yoga chair.
- I regularly encourage students to not attempt to touch the ground, as this can lead to several common misalignments in Triangle Pose.
- Instead I encourage students to touch the outside of the front leg. This helps students find more length in their spine, more twist in their torso, and helps prevent the common misalignment of sticking their bottom hip out.
If you have tight hips or your torso turns down:
- Instead of practicing Trikonasana with your feet aligned front heel to back arch take your feet wider apart — such as heel to heel, or even wider. This can help you find more room to lift your top hip and turn your torso up.
Preparatory Poses for Trikonasana
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Prasarita Padottanasana / Wide Leg Forward Fold
- Virasana / Hero’s Pose
- Parsva Balasana / Side Child’s Pose or Thread the Needle Pose
- Virabhadrasana 2 / Warrior 2
- Garudasana / Eagle Pose
- Vrksasana / Tree Pose
- Ardha Hanumanasana / Half Hanuman Pose or Runner’s Lunge
- Virabhadrasana 2 / Warrior 2
- Uttitha Parsvakonasana / Extended Side Angle Pose
- Ardha Chandrasana / Standing Half Moon Pose
- Uttanasana / Intense Pose or Forward Fold
- Tadasana / Mountain Pose
Poses to Take Your Practice Further
- Parsvottansana / Intense Side Stretch Pose or Pyramid Pose
- Parivrtta Trikonasana / Revolved Triangle Pose
- Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana / Extended Hand to Foot Pose
- Vasisthasana / Sage Vasistha’s Pose
- Baddha Trikonasana / Bound Triangle Pose
- Baddha Parivrtta Trikonasana / Bound Revolved Triangle Pose
- Svarga Dwijasana / Bird of Paradise Pose
Related Posts & Videos
Gear and Resources for this Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Stephen’s Favourite Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Yoga Chair
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A Final Note About Triangle Pose
I hope that, while reading this article, you’ll have realized that there are different ways to practice Triangle Pose. What is right and what is wrong?
When it comes to practicing Trikonasana — or any yoga pose — what is right for you is what is right for you. Only you know what is best for your body. So, use this article as a guide, practice the modifications and options, try things out, experience different teachers, and find your Trikonasana.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with Triangle Pose. It’s my goal to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply while enabling you to cultivate the strength and clarity needed to live your life adventure to the fullest!