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Tri = three
Kona = angle
Three angled asana/posture
Trikonasana cannot be traced back further than the mid 1930's. It appears to have been formulated by Krisnamacharya's work at Mysore Palace around 1935, where he experimented with wide legged standing postures, using gymnasts.

It is interesting to note that at the time most gymnasts had a ballet training background and they were influenced by the turned out leg, especially in the splits and standing. It took the introduction of modern dance to correct the leg position in the 1960's, as it was felt that the turned out leg put strain on the body.

It is possible that these gymnasts may have been influenced by their ballet training and worked with a turned out leg, which they took into the formative yoga standing postures. It could be argued that the yoga wide legged standing postures originated from a dance orientated western approach.

A second explanation for the wide legged trikonasana may be that it started out as a simple step forward and spinal rotation, but this proved too difficult. It was much easier to turn out the back heel so that the rotation started lower down in the hip.

There is no mention of the asana in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in fact the HYP mentions only 15 postures, of which none are standing. Three hundred years later the Gheranda Samhita adds another 17 asanas, only three of which are standing and all are balance postures.

Trikonasana is performed in various ways depending on the school/type of yoga. Some early schools taught it as a rotation with the legs wide and feet pointing forward, with trunk forward bending and rotating. Others such as Iyengar and Sivananda have taught it as a side stretch, with the feet wide and turned and the body facing front. Scaravelli inspired yoga has moved back to a pure rotation of the spine, with one foot stepped forward.

Scaravelli: Preparation long term: Work on feet for grounding, hamstrings for free forward hip movement, upper back and rib cage to allow sufficient rotation.

Preparation short term (limbering): Parsvottanasana, Namaste, Adho Mukha Svanasana, lying twists, Bhujangasana.

Teaching points: Rotation comes from the spine and the hips should be flat and parallel to the ground. The dorsal spine is then much more capable of safe natural movement.

The back foot (toes pointing forward) holds the hip in place and from this foot the hip releases and the spine rotates. It is important to release the weight of the body into the ground so that the rebound effect is maximized. If the legs are too wide apart the back heel needs to be pushed down because it is not under the centre of gravity and the lumbar spine becomes compressed.

Things that go wrong:

  • turning in and allowing the front hip to move forward, means the spine moves over and does not rotate. Too much weight is then on the front leg and knee. The hips should stay level.
  • bending forward too much and imposing on the dorsal spine, which becomes fixed and cannot rotate.
  • trying to pull the shoulder back with the arm, instead of the arm floating on top.
  • hold shin or put the hand on a block or chair to prevent folding forward too far and affecting spinal rotation.
  • for balance problems, put heel into a wall or work alongside a wall.
  • opens out rib cage and encourages dorsal spine to rotate.
  • allows greater freedom of forward movement of hips.
  • releases shoulders.
  • opens out fascia lata of front leg.
Precautions: Wide angled Trikonasana practiced as a lateral extension with the back heel turned in, tends to aggravate the knee, sacro iliac joint and hip joint causing strain. When the back foot is turned out, the pelvis also has to turn out, which twists and compresses the lumbar spine. This will affect the sacro iliac ligaments on the opposite side and ligaments of the hip.

The job of the medial collateral ligament (inside) and lateral collateral ligament (outside) of knee is to resist sideways strain of the knee joint and these can become strained, especially the medial ligament.

Sideways strain is also experienced by the medial semilunar and lateral semilunar cartilage of the knee, which separates the femur and tibia; these become compressed with rotation of the knee joint.