Sitting behind a desk all day is more than just a pain in the neck! It contributes to those painfully tight hamstrings and core, and it also weakens the muscles that support the lumbar spine.
Time spent on your yoga mat can reshape your posture, helping you maintain strength and flexibility even when confined to your computer prison eight hours, or more, per day. Add Extended Triangle Pose or Utthita Trikonasana to your regular routine and kick those bad habits that harm your spine!
Poses the stretch the hamstrings such as Forwards Folds and Downward Dog will warm up the legs and loosen up the lower back, making Extended Triangle a bit cozier and much more beneficial.
Add a few Crescent Lunges and Warrior II variations to beef up the quadriceps and release tension built up around the hip flexor muscles and groin. For good measure, throw in a few vinyasas just to get the blood flowing, because you do NOT want to enter this asana without adequately warming up the body.
1. Improve joint stability in the legs.
Internal rotation of your inner thighs maximizes the flexibility of the groin and ensures that your hips, knees, and ankles work together as a team. Positioning the feet so that the front toes point forward decreases the likelihood of that knee caving in toward the midline.
And don’t forget about eliciting the support of the back foot—keep it at a solid 45-degree angle to seal the deal and keep the joint operating smooth and easy without any painful torque of the knee or twist of the ankle. Resist the urge to go further than needed here. A little stretch goes a long way.
2. Relax your back.
The Quadratus lumborum muscle or QL is a common source of lower back pain which results from sitting too often, too long, and it greatly appreciates the stretching relief offered in Extended Triangle. But how do you find this hidden muscle?
- Grab a block and set your back up against a wall during Extended Triangle Pose.
- Ground your shoulders into the wall and maintain contact as you execute this modified version.
- Place your right hand down on the block next to the inside of the right ankle.
- Gently tuck your tailbone and stretch the left side of your lower back toward the wall. More than likely your left hip will not touch the wall, but moving it in that direction will illuminate the elusive QL area located between the hip bone and lower ribs.
- Hold for 5 breaths and switch sides.
3. Stretch those hammies.
Even in the assisted version using a block or the wall, without a doubt the back of that front leg will get big love in Utthita Trikonasana, but locking out the knees can place excess strain on the joint and actually limit the range of motion in the hamstring muscle group.
Simple fix: Soften the knee by “microbending” it, which also aids in protecting the lower back from overstretching and making matters worse.
4. Enhance the natural curve of the spine.
The extension of the arms in Extended Triangle stretches the chest wide open, ironing out the dreaded hunched over posture that we all fall victim to at some point during the day. As soon as the thoracic vertebrae behave as they should, the rest of your spine happily settles into its natural habitat—the S curve.
You will strengthen the erector spinae, the muscles that run along the spine, and the multifidus, the group responsible for rotating each vertebra, which occurs when you harness the healing power of opening the heart.
Remember to stack your top shoulder over the bottom shoulder because you can easily reach that top arm too far back, doing more harm than good!
5. Relieve neck and shoulder pain.
External rotation of the shoulder joint occurs when the palms face outward, helping to stabilize the scapula, strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, and relax those overworked trapezius muscles which live between the neck and the farthest reaches of the collarbones.
This seemingly simple action sends the message to your neck to “CHILL OUT,” and whether you actively gaze up at the top hand or let your head hang heavy on the shoulder, the cervical spine accepts this opportunity to take a break from the heavy duty workload of carrying the head around all day.
As you can see, Extended Triangle Pose covers a lot of territory, and if you only have a short amount of time to dedicate to your practice, make sure you devote some of that focus on fine-tuning the small details which really make this pose magically transformative.
Always remember to breathe, especially when deepening this asana and as you navigate through the many possible variations. Keep exploring, stay present, and feel free to share some of your own helpful tools for optimizing this asana.