It’s rare that I find myself in a yoga class where a teacher instructs me to take Uttihita Trikonasana, or Extended Triangle Pose.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve come into this asana countless time in class. But, more often than not, it’s referred to as “Trikonasana” or “Triangle Pose”, with no mention of the word “Uttihita” or “Extended”. And yet, the element of extension in Uttihita Trikonasana is key to mastery of the pose.
Iyengar’s instructions in Light on Yoga do not stress how best to cultivate extension in Uttihita Trikonasana (3* on Iyengar’s scale of difficulty). When explaining how to bring the right hand to the right ankle, shin or floor in this asana, Iyengar says, “Exhale, bend the trunk sideways to the right, bringing the right palm near the right ankle.” Once the right hand is in place, he instructs the practitioner to “Stretch the left arm up… bringing it in line with the right shoulder and extend the trunk… Gaze at the the thumb of the outstretched left hand.” This is the one portion of his instruction that emphasizes the lengthening of the torso. Iyengar pares his directions down to the absolute essentials, requiring the practitioner to read carefully and attentively to gain a clear understanding of the asana.
In order to experience the greatest amount of extension within the pose, I find it helpful to first reach my right fingertips as far right as possible before bending my torso sideways and placing my hand on my right ankle. This helps me lengthen my right side body so it remains parallel to the ground, rather than collapsing toward my right thigh. I then draw my back left hip point forward to avoid sticking out my butt. This simple adjustment deepens the stretch in my left side body, especially near my left lumbar spine. To me, this is the most delicious moment within the pose.
There’s one type of extension in Uttihita Trikonasa that should be strictly avoided: hyperextension of the knees. Draw your right knee cap up to avoid putting undue pressure on your hamstrings.
Then, extend the corners of your mouth apart and smile.