Utthita and Parivritta Trikonasana
Ready for Everything: Foundational Awareness in Utthita and Parivritta Trikonasana
Senior Ashtanga yoga teacher Richard Freeman’s summation of the importance of Trikonasana is no understatement. It is with good reason that Utthita Trikonasana and its counterpose, Parivritta Trikonasana, appear so early in the Ashtanga yoga sequence. These foundational postures offer an opportunity for the practitioner to begin their practice by cultivating patterns that will support them through the rest of their time on the mat, no matter how many postures or which sequence they may be practicing.
Trikonasana – Inhale Step to The Right
The Trikonasanas are the second set of postures in the standing sequence, directly following Padangusthasana and Padahastasana. Stepping to the right, the practitioner establishes the foundation of this posture in the legs, pointing the right foot to the back of the mat and turning the left foot slightly in. The first posture, Utthita Trikonasana, or Extended Triangle Pose, is practiced open, with the right hand reaching down to take hold of the right big toe and the left hand extending straight out of the shoulder towards the sky. To do the other side, the practitioner need simply pivot the feet and switch direction. After Utthita Trikonasana, the sequence offers the balancing influence of Parivritta Trikonasana, Revolved Triangle Pose. Pivoting again to point the right toes towards the back of the mat, this time squaring the hips, the practitioner brings the left hand to the outside of the right foot. The right arm raises out of the shoulder towards the sky, as the practitioner twists through the center to open the chest to the right. In both postures, the gaze is upward, towards the fingers of the extended hand.
The Psoas Major and The Illiacus Muscles
As counterposes of each other, the Trikonasanas offer a unique opportunity to become aware of the myriad ways the body can move, in particular in regards to the hips. These postures, when executed properly, actually work to systematically target the incredibly important illiopsoas muscle. Comprised of two parts, the illiacus and the psoas major, this muscle moves in tandem the bones of the lower back, pelvis and hip. We are constantly use this muscle unconsciously, in particular when standing and walking. Becoming consciously aware of the way it moves can greatly enliven our yoga practice. Practicing Utthita Trikonasana contracts the psoas major, while Parivritta Trikonasana contracts the iliacus, awakening both parts of this deep muscle. The subtle awareness these postures offer of these important connections provides vital knowledge for successfully deepening many postures to come.
The More You Breath The Stronger You Get
One of the biggest gifts these postures offer is an opportunity to establish a connection between body and breath. Turning focus towards opening the chest in Utthita Trikonasana while simultaneously building a deepening support system through the core, one begins to explore the patterns through which breath and strength support one another. It is not enough to simply collapse into this posture, grabbing the toe and considering the job done. Expansive inhales open the rib cage like a balloon, while exhales move through the core to pull the body strongly into the midline, increasingly creating a sensation that the pose is held between two evenly spaced pieces of glass.
Strength From The Core in Parivritta Trikonasana
Parivritta Trikonasana offers a similar opportunity. Moving into a twist, it would be easy to simply let the hips come into an angle and the chest collapse towards the floor. To keep the hips square while opening the chest, the practitioner needs to establish a sense of the belly, powered by the exhale, spinning the rib cage open from the center. The inhale then expands the chest, preventing collapse.
Of course, in both postures, this attention to strength and breath reveals the concentration required to execute these postures properly. Moving into these postures mindfully and with integrity helps establish a habit of intentional practice, perhaps the most important habit developed in these foundational asanas.
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