Parivrtta trikonasana, revolved or twisting triangle, is a staple in many asana classes. There are two common misalignments, however, that may be keeping you from experiencing the full “twistiness” of this twist.
Let’s explore ways of addressing these misalignments, which will allow you to realign your understanding of twisting triangle and your experience of the pose.
Setting Up the Pose
Begin by standing at the top of your mat in tadasana (mountain pose). Step your left foot back about one leg’s length (roughly 2 1/2 to 3 feet), with your back foot at about a 45-degree angle (as if for warrior I). Place a yoga block on the inside of your front foot at the height appropriate for your body proportions and flexibility. Bring your hands to your hips.
Press the outer edge of your back foot down, and internally rotate your back thigh (without moving your back foot). This will help you to “wrap” your back hip forward to face the front edge of your mat.
Keeping your right hand on your hip, on an inhale, reach your left arm up alongside your ear. Your aim is to get your spine really tall and lifted, without arching back. On an exhale, hinge forward, keeping your spine long (think “flat back”), and place your left hand on the block. On your next inhale, re-establish the length in your spine, and on an exhale, begin twisting to the right.
This is your basic setup. From here, things can get a little tricky.
Misalignment #1: Dropping the Back Hip
When it comes to twisting, a general rule of thumb is to stabilize the pelvis before beginning to twist, and then guide the twist into the upper spine. This is where we often create our first misalignment.
Because this is such a challenging twist, we tend to let the frontal hip bone of the back leg sink down toward the floor. Because it makes the chest feel more open, this imbalance in our hips can create the illusion of twisting—but the “twist” here is happening in your hips, rather than in your spine as intended. You want to keep the hips level and stable, creating more rotation in your upper spine instead.
How to address: Draw your back hip (the one that tends to drop in the pose) up so that the back of your pelvis is level. You may also find that you need to lift up your right hip as well if it starts to drop when you make your initial adjustment. Once your pelvis is level, maintain that stability while you start to “climb” the twist up your spine through your middle and upper back, rather than letting the hips shift out of alignment.
With every inhale, find a little more length; and with every exhale, rotate your ribs a little more. If your right shoulder is stacked directly over your left shoulder, you can extend your right arm up. If not, keep your right hand on your hip for now, and work to roll your right shoulder back (without letting your back hip drop!)
While practicing the pose in this way does make it a bit more challenging, it also makes it more stable—and more effective as a twist.
Misalignment #2: Letting the Spine Sway Off the Midline Toward the Back-Leg Side
Even if the pelvis remains level, we often tend to allow the upper body to sway away from the midline. If the right leg is forward, we tend to sway to the left—and if the left leg is forward, to the right. This misalignment also makes us feel as if we have more opening in the chest and are twisting more deeply, when we’ve actually disrupted the axis of our twist and are not twisting as much as we think.
How to address: Pay attention to where your torso is. If you find that you’re leaning off to either side, shift your body back to center so that your head is in line with your tailbone, allowing you to twist around a central axis.
It’s also possible to lean over to the opposite direction (the front-leg side). In that case too, simply shift back to center, bringing your head back in line with your tailbone.
By keeping your pelvis stable so that your hips are aligned and your torso is centered on the midline, you will find a genuine twist in your middle and upper back in this pose.
It is true that applying these tips can make the pose feel a whole lot harder at first (you’re no longer swaying or shifting in order to find more chest opening without actually twisting). But addressing these misalignments will help you bring more rotation into your middle and upper back, allowing you to feel why this deceptively challenging asana is called “twisting triangle!”
(As with any asymmetrical pose, be sure to practice both sides.)