My regular yoga practice is just that: regular. I will happily do the same exact practice every morning for months, changing things only ever so slightly over time. This enables me to see the subtle shifts in my practice and myself that occur as a result. But as much as I thrive on routine, even I occasionally crave novelty. So I try to find time to play on the mat.
That sometimes means tackling a challenging yoga pose. More often, though, I find myself exploring an old favorite, a pose I’ve done so many times over the years that it’s deeply ingrained in my mind and body. Lately, it’s been Trikonasana or Triangle Pose.
One way I try to experience a pose from a new perspective is to literally change how I come into it, whether I’m practicing at home or sequencing it in class for students. Changing my approach to Triangle Pose is often enough to recreate the pose as if we were experiencing it the first time. Each transition into Triangle emphasizes different aspects of it—whether the leg positioning or the shoulders or the side body.
Moving into the same pose in a new way can help you break free of your physical and psychological patterns—that tricky discernment between routine and rut—which in turn encourages us to be more aware while we are in the pose. Even a pose we might think we know quite intimately.
Warrior II to Triangle Pose
Why the transition works: Coming into Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) from Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose) is a pretty standard transition in vinyasa classes. But it’s still worth exploring. Often when we do something out of habit, we fall into sloppy behavior and overlook the details of how we’re holding ourselves in each moment.
First, your base. In Virabhadrasana II, your feet are approximately the same distance apart as in Trikonasana, which makes it a simple transition. But feel free to play with the position of your feet to fit what’s going on in your knees and hips. If you experience discomfort in your back knee or hip, change the angle of your back foot. Turning it in more minimizes strain on that knee and hip. You can also shorten the distance between your feet to create a steadier foundation (read: less risk of toppling over).
Next, getting into Trikonasana. This transition is often taught with a “hip bump,” in which you jut your back hip further away from you and slide your front hand and arm forward. For some people, though, this creates too much stress on the sacroiliac (SI) joint. An alternative way to come into Trikonasana is the “side hinge”—simply hinge at your front hip to let your front hand land wherever it wants, whether on your foot, shin, or a block.
How to: From Virabhadrasana II, inhale and straighten your front leg. Adjust your back foot now to be a little closer to the front leg, if needed. Exhale, and side-hinge at your front hip and let your front hand fall to your foot, shin, or a block placed directly beneath your shoulder. Reach your top arm away from you to stack your shoulders. Turn your face toward your top hand.
Reverse Warrior Pose to Triangle Pose
Why the transition works: Transitioning to Trikonasana from Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior Pose) is similar to making the transition from Warrior II. But the “windmilling” of the arms makes this transition more fluid, as you would experience during vinyasa, and brings more of an element of ease and grace than you experience in many transitions.
The key to doing this transition is timing. Your arms start moving first, although you want to start to straighten your front leg—without locking or hyperextending the knee—as you get to the hip hinge and before you move fully into Trikonasana. Think of it as a dance between your upper and lower body.
How to: From Viparita Virabhadrasana, straighten your front leg as you start to windmill your top hand to your foot, shin, or a block placed directly beneath your shoulder. Extend your other hand to the sky and turn your chest toward the long side of the mat and your face toward your top hand.
Half Moon Pose to Triangle Pose
Why the transition works: Sometimes vinyasa teachers challenge students to transition from Trikonasana to Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose). The opposite transition can be just as challenging—and doable.
Focus first on bringing your back leg to the mat as softly as possible; you will probably need to bend your front knee slightly to make this happen. Once you can land with relative ease and quiet (rather than stomping your back foot down), work on touching down in a shape as close to Trikonasa as possible, slowly straightening your front leg, extending forward over your front leg, and bringing your hand to your foot, shin, or a block.
How to: From Half Moon Pose, gaze down at the foot of your standing leg. As you exhale, bend this knee slightly and start to lower your back foot toward the mat. Once your back foot has touched down, adjust its position to be angled slightly out and straighten your front leg. Bring your front hand to your foot, shin, or a block placed directly beneath your shoulder. Adjust the position of your top hand, chest, and top hip—which are already close to where they need to be. If you experience wobbliness, you can bring your top hand to your back hip as you begin to transition and then, after your feet are in place, reach your top arm toward the ceiling.
Warrior I to Triangle Pose
Why the transition works: Starting from a Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) allows you to focus on the spine movement and chest opening that is typical of Trikonasana. This aspect is often overlooked in Triangle since there is a tendency to slouch in the chest area to get the bottom hand close to the mat—a mistake since the point of the pose is to find expansion and length throughout the body. It’s about how the pose feels, not how it looks.
Warrior I begins with the back heel down and the foot angled forward. You’ll need to transition through a version of Warrior I in which there is a forward bend at your hips with your stomach resting on your thigh. Then you’ll bring your hands to either side of your front foot before twisting
How to: From Virabhadrasana I, exhale as you fold forward at your hips and bring your stomach to your front thigh and your hands to either side of your front foot. Place the same-side hand on the top of your front foot. Position your back foot for Trikonasana; this might mean angling it more toward the side of the mat. Inhale as you reach your top hand and arm toward the ceiling and open your chest toward the long side of the mat, keeping your front knee bent. Exhale here. Inhale and straighten your front leg as you lengthen through your bottom ribs. You might need to slide your hand up your shin to come fully into Trikonasana.
Extended Side Angle to Triangle
Why the transition works: Moving into Trikonasana from Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) is a straightforward transition that helps you focus on extending and lengthening your side body because it occurs in both poses. This transition can be done whether you have your hand on the floor in Side Angle, a block, or your forearm on your thigh. Keep your core engaged throughout to help support your torso as you straighten your leg.
How to: If you have your hand or fingertips on the floor in Extended Side Angle, keep your hand in place as you start to straighten your front leg and turn your back toes slightly out. You might need to adjust the position of your back foot to be closer to your front foot. Once your front leg is straight, reach your top arm toward the sky and look up.
If you have your forearm on your thigh in Extended Side Angle, move your hand to where you usually place it in Trikonasana, whether a block or your shin, before fully straightening your front leg. You might need to adjust the position of your back foot to be closer to your front foot. Once your front leg is straight, reach your top arm toward the sky and look up.
Pyramid Pose to Triangle Pose
Why the transition works: Starting from Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose or Intense Side Stretch Pose) allows you to build Trikonasana from the ground up. As with Trikonasana, your front leg in Parsvottanasana is straight. However, your back foot is probably angled more forward in Pyramid than in Trikonasa because this is a front-facing forward fold,. So adjust the position of your back foot to face out more, toward the long side of the mat. You can also adjust the length of your stance, if needed, before fully opening up into Trikonasa.
How to: From Pyramid Pose, bring your hand on the same side as your front leg to your foot, shin, or a block placed directly beneath your shoulder; rest the other hand next to it. Shift your weight to the front foot and slide or step your back foot into a good position for Trikonasana. Lengthen your spine and flatten your upper back, which might require sliding your hand further up your leg.
About our contributor
Shawn Radcliffe is a yoga teacher and writer who explores the world through words and movement. His personal practice and teaching are influenced by the Viniyoga style of T.K.V. Desikachar, and he continues to study with teachers in this lineage. He also draws on the power yoga and vinyasa flow of his early yoga years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Portland, Oregon., as well as Buddhist-based meditation practices. At university, he studied both science and writing, which eventually led him to his current job as a science journalist. Shawn lives near the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada, where he teaches online and in-person yoga classes.