Iyengar's difficulty rating: 5* out of 60*
Parivrtta Trikonasana is one of my favorite standing poses. It’s deceptively complex and packed with challenges, benefits, and lessons because it’s what I call a Long Haul Pose: even beginners can assume its rough shape, but they usually have to learn many lessons over a long period of time before the pose actually starts to make sense or feel good. I have taken quite a few tumbles and wrestled with my hips and spine on the journey towards enjoying this one!
I think postures like this are important because they help maintain an awkward, unglamorous aspect to asana practice. Moments of awkwardness are crucial in yoga. They can help practitioners develop long-term commitment skills. They emphasize self-awareness and self-compassion. They point towards becoming comfortable with discomfort, rather than beating discomfort away with a stick.
If my practice were to emphasize only success and never struggle - or only expansion and never contraction - how would I learn to access my best self in tough moments?
The trick to improving Parivrtta Trikonasana (and many other poses) involves breaking down and consciously working with each of its main challenges. For me these are:
- Balancing on a single plane
- Folding forward at the hips while maintaining an extended spine
- Stabilizing the pelvis and evenly rotating the rest of the spine
Right now, my favorite cues to assist with these three challenges are as follows.
Setup: Stand with your feet 2.5 to 4 feet apart and your feet parallel to one another. Turn your R foot out ninety degrees and L foot in forty-five degrees or more. Square and level your hips to face the same direction as your R foot.
Fold with an open chest and stable hips: Strive to maintain your hip orientation and bend your R knee. Bending your knee can slacken some of the tight muscles around your hip, allowing you to keep your hips square as you enter the pose. Don't worry; you'll re-extend it later. Fold forward from your hip creases a little. Activate the long muscles along your back by lifting your chest and the back of your pelvis up. Keep this feeling of activation in your back body and openness in your front body, and fold forward further until your torso is parallel to the floor. Place your L hand on the floor outside your R foot.
Extend and balance: Press into your R big toe mound. Simultaneously externally rotate your R hip and re-extend your R knee. Now press the outside edges of your L hand and R foot into one another to create stability and balance.
Complete the shape: As you twist your chest open to the R, your L hip will attempt to dive down and forward. This diminishes the effect of the twist upon the spine, and can throw off your balance and muscular engagement. So as you twist, focus on lifting your L hip up and back. I like to tell students to twist one direction with their chests and the opposite direction with their hips, as if their spines were towels being wrung out. Attractive, eh?
Remember: this is a Long Haul Pose.
I rarely give this much verbal detail to any individual posture in my public classes because I usually see it overload students or tax their attention. I try to utilize smart sequencing, demonstration, cues based on observation, and progressive learning over the course of many sessions to convey information gradually. This method helps my regular practitioners access subtle movements and sensations at a pace that stays fun and is perhaps easier to integrate. This pose usually feels tough and contractive; so as I teach it, I usually choose to regulate by bringing in some light and expansion.
How does Parivrtta Trikonasana make you feel? Do you tend to shy away from it, dive right in, or do something else altogether?
How to improve your Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose):
- Stretch your hips and hamstrings with postures like Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid Pose) and Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold Pose)
- Maintain spinal extension with postures like Salabhasana (Locust Pose) and Makarasana (Monster or Crocodile Pose)
- Practice external rotation of your front leg with postures like Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3 Pose)
- Rotate your spine with stable hips in postures like Parivrtta Paschimottanasana (Revolved Seated Forward Fold or Revolved Intense West Stretch)
- Rotate your spine and manually stabilize your hips with postures like Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane or Side Crow Pose) and Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)
Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) prepares you for:
- All other twisting postures, especially those that target the thoracic spine like Bharadvajasana I and Bharadvajasana II (Sage Bharadvaja Pose) and arm balances like Eka Pada Koundinyasana I (Scissors Pose or Sage Koundinya Pose) and Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose or Sage Astavakra Pose)
- Postures requiring refined hip rotation and stabilization like Padmasana (Lotus Pose), Eka Pada Sirsasana (Leg Behind Head Pose), Visvamitrasana (Friend of the World Pose) and many more