EXTENDED TRIANGLE POSE

I feel like I am starting to repeat myself a little bit, but here is another great yoga all rounder :)

I used to get a little frustrated with the triangle because my front knee always felt uncomfortable in the full pose, and I imagined (correctly I guess) things being pulled and stretched that shouldn't be... Until I learned how to do the pose safely. Read on to find out how!

When done correctly, the triangle pose has great many benefits for the whole body: it stretches the groins, hamstrings and calves (fantastic post-run stretch!), increases mobility of the hips, stimulates the abdominal organs (which is great for digestion), opens chest and shoulders... To name just a few.

The yoga journal lists a whole bunch of conditions that the triangle pose is beneficial for: flat feet, infertility, osteoporosis, sciatica... I have already touched on a few of those and how yoga can do some medicinal magic here, and I'll attempt to address osteoporosis at the end of this post. Of course, bearing in mind that I am not a medical doctor but merely someone who likes to understand how things work...

Here are basic triangle pose instructions:

♥ Stand with your feet parallel and about a leg's length apart

♥ Raise arms out to the side and parallel with the floor, palms down

♥ Turn right foot out by 90 degrees, turn left foot slightly in

♥ Align right heel with left foot arch (or a slightly easier version: align heel to heel)

♥ On exhalation, extend torso out over the right leg

♥ Keep equal length in the side body

♥ Right thigh bone moves back into the hip socket

♥ Lower right hand down to the floor or rest on a block / shin

♥ Extend left arm up towards the ceiling, look up towards your left hand (avoid if suffering from high or low blood pressure)

♥ Keep neck long and shoulders wide

As usual, some alignment tips for the pose: as in all standing poses, FEET (= foundation) must be strong and fully engaged. Pressing through all four corners of the feet and engaging muscles on all sides of the ankle, just like in tadasana, will ensure strength and balance for the rest of the body. In fact, I have come across a great mantra the other day: tadasana in every asana. Poses come in all different shapes but the principles remain the same!

Getting the foundation right is also essential for keeping the KNEES safe. As I mentioned earlier, that one took me a while to figure out. The nature of the pose means that the inner side of the front leg is stretching more than the outer side which can result in the inner tendons overstretching (and worse). To keep the knee safe (this applies to other joints too), it is important to compensate for the extra stretch by engaging the muscles slightly more on the inside of the leg: this will keep the joint stabilised and protected. You can also check the knee position visually: it should be in line with the front of the ankle, not turning inwards. 

Another common misalignment in the triangle pose happens in the HIP area: a lot of times, tightness in the hips causes the hip of the rear leg to kind of fall down and forward, which causes the pelvis to jam. To avoid this, create space before stretching out the front hip: first of all, feel the top of the front thigh bone move back deep into the hip socket; next, turn the inner thighs back and out (widening movement); only then move the outer hip back and tailbone down slightly.

Stay in the pose for 30 - 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Photo: Caroline Sodergren

Photo: Caroline Sodergren

I promised to have a look at how yoga may help prevent osteoporosis, so here we go:

OSTEOPOROSIS is a condition in which 'the density and quality of bone are reduced' and is more common amongst women although men too suffer from it. Yoga can help ward off osteoporosis in a couple of ways:

1/ Weight bearing involved in many yoga poses strengthens bones. How you may ask? What happens is that cells within bones are constantly being consumed by the body. When pressure is applied to the bone, a charge is created and where the charge is felt, cells are not consumed. Instead the cells build up in layers resulting in stronger and denser bones.

2/ Yoga helps to lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that in excess 'decreases bone formation and increases its breakdown'*.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the below are my own personal observations based on my yoga studies and my own personal practice and experience. To be quite honest, it frustrates me when I find information like a list of benefits of a pose but no explanation because I want to understand the why, and so it makes me go and try to do just that through both research and practice. However, I am not a medical doctor and any scientific input and/or corrections are most welcome!

* Source: Yoga as medicine by Timothy McCall M.D. - make sure to check out this fantastic book for more information on the medicinal properties of yoga!