Not gonna lie, I’m partly talking about this asana as a latissimus dorsi stretch because I have plans to talk about revolved triangle in the near future. And also, of course, because it actually does stretch the lats. Going back to the anatomy — I do this from time to time — one position that stretches the lats are when the arms are laterally abducted (i.e., held in a T-shape away from the torso). If I pay a lot of attention to creating a long spine in the pose, I find that trikonasana does this pretty aptly.
Before I talk about the pose itself, though, I want to back up and highlight a triangle misconception I had for a long time, especially because I know a fair number of other yogis who’ve had the same hangup. To speak bluntly, enlightenment is not on the floor. (At least not inherently. If staring at the kitchen linoleum is your spiritual cup of tea, go for it.) Often, we get the impression that the “fullest” (which some yogis imply or interpret as “best”) expression of the pose — and therefore the ultimate purpose of the pose — is to reach the bottom hand to the floor, no matter how it affects the overall alignment. And sometimes, particularly for yogis with tightness in the hamstrings, hips, or spine, getting the hand to the floor can mean limiting hip rotation or rounding the spine. These aren’t inherently bad things. However, if the physical focus of triangle is to open the hips and lengthen the spine (which helps give some digestion and stress reduction benefits), then it makes sense to focus on the hip and low back position and to let the position of the bottom arm flow naturally out of that.
And I think that for the lats to be free to stretch in this pose, the muscle-contracting work of the asana has to come from the thighs, hips, abdominals (front and oblique), and the low back muscles of the core. If I’m using this pose to release my mid and upper back — lats included — they have to be free from a big chunk of the weight-bearing necessity. (Not that the bottom arm and shoulder bears no weight, but — if the arms are very T-shaped and open — it’s not the lats providing the support.) Thinking about trikonasana this way, wherever the bottom hand naturally finds itself when the legs are engaged and the spine is long is the “correct” spot.
This video explains trikonasana while offering a nifty tip for sacral and spinal alignment:
At least for me, when I enter this pose mindful of pelvic and spinal alignment, there is an increased need that I will need a block or other prop (or that I will place my hand on my leg) rather than reaching my bottom hand to the floor. This is 100% okay because enlightenment is not on the floor. Enlightenment is much closer to the place where I can honor my body regardless of what it looks like. On that note, if a prop isn’t working, there’s this version of trikonasana that involves lengthening with the bottom hand on the thigh, as well as utthita hasta padasana that incorporates the same spinal length and arm abduction (and therefore latissimus dorsi stretch) while minimizing hip flexion and rotation as physical goings-on.
This Post’s Teal Dear: I’m not sure there are benefits into modifying my outside into what’s “expected” at the expense of what I’m actually feeling. Enlightenment might actually work better the other way around. Also, triangles are brilliant — so sayeth Guy Smiley and Prairie Dawn.