“Look at a posture with no real connection to the core and you will see a version with no commitment or passion, it will look flaccid and lifeless. Bringing an awareness to the core is essential”
Number two in my sequence of articles on Asana and correct alignment is Trikonasana. Stepping or jumping back from Samasthiti with right foot, keeping a space between the feet at about roughly three feet. Now I say roughly because the key is to be able to support all the postures, so the space between the feet in all the standing postures should be dictated by the ability to support the asana. This may mean a shorter stance than we might expect. I very often find people’s expectations are outweighed by their ability. That’s not an elitist standpoint, most yoga students are misled by poor teaching.
So the space between the feet should mean we are getting something from the stretch, but too much and the body begins to collapse and we make too many compromises and nothing happens. So begin with looking at the feet in Trikonasana, are the feet collapsing away from the ankles when the feet are wide in the preparation stage of the posture, before we have turned in the back foot and turned out the leading foot. If so then I suggest the feet are too wide and as soon as you turn the feet at an angle and attempt to take the big toe, either the training foot will lose its connection with the floor on its outside edges, or the knee of the leading leg will need to bend to compensate. This is your cue to bring the feet in closer. No take the arms out wide from the shoulders and look to the right thumb, as you exhale the gaze follows the hand down to where the grip is then around the big toe. Don’t forget to make a circuit with your first two fingers and the thumb, this is very important and quite often gets forgotten or is not even known about.
Once the connection is established with the big toe we then need to lift the trunk up away from the floor until it is parallel to the floor. The trunk need to be equally parallel both sides, what usually occurs is the lower side collapses causing a shortening of the trunk, or it curves. The remedy is to lift the trunk and at the same time stretch the trunk away from the hips. Now is important at the same time the top hip lifts up and away in the opposite direction, otherwise it to will collapse down. We want to attempt to stack the hips and open the pelvis. This action will also leave room for the lower hip to drop down and under, helping the hips stack.
Lifting and stretching the trunk will help the shoulders to stack as well as opening up the heart centre. A common cause of misalignment is the inability to lift the trunk high enough, leavening the chest looking down to the floor, and for the shoulders to be able to stack. The raised arm is then taken back behind the shoulder joint, causing a hyper extended joint. The net result is the stretch becomes impotent with no benefit to the practitioner. The remedy is to lift only from the heart centre and keep the raised arm in line with the shoulder joint.
It’s time to look at the feet, especially the leading foot, keeping it firmly grounded is essential for the posture to work effectively. If we fail to observe the basic rules of alignment above the hips do not stack, and the lower hip gets pulled up and behind. You can tell if this is happening when the big toe of the leading foot losses its connection with floor, and the arch becomes over active. The whole of the inside of the leading leg becomes inactive and we give ourselves the illusion of Trikonasana. The way to correct it is to push evenly into the floor with the leading foot, especially the pads and heel, just as in Samasthiti and Padangustasana. Once an even pressure has been established then we need to pull up through the shin, knee and thigh, while still pushing into the front foot. This action will bring energy into the stretch and you will find the trunk suddenly finds more room to lift and extend. Now this can then put pressure on the trailing foot so make sure there is an even contact there as well.
Coming back to the front leg, if the big toe of the of the leading leg lifts and the inside of the leg collapses there is a danger this puts pressure on the knee, which can then hyper-extend and once again the inability to control the posture results in a poor execution. There is another consideration to be made here which affects the knees and it is the position of the feet. Correctly aligned the back foot should be 45 degrees and the front foot 90 degrees, if the back foot is not at this angle it will also put pressure on the knee joint. Knees are designed to flex and extend the leg below the knee, if the back foot is in the wrong position then the knee either collapses or gets pushed back. The shin will want to go one way and the thigh the other, with the knee forced to make rotations, which will overtime weaken the supporting ligaments. This will cause instability in the knee joint and the meniscus pads become torn, leaving bone on bone.
I would like to come back to a good connection with our core also. One of the main reasons Trikonasana will go wrong is because the lower back will collapse. To practice Trikonasana with correct alignment laid out above and the core needs to be a major player. Look at a posture with no real connection to the core and you will see a version with no commitment or passion, it will look flaccid and lifeless. Bringing an awareness to the core is easy, all we have to do is tilt the pelvis up at the front, this action will engage the rectus abdominals and free up the lower back. Watch the posture practised with no connection to the core and you will always see a collapsing low back, and the trunk will curve.
To put all the adjustments above into a single posture in a sequence where you are meant to stay with for five breaths tales a lot of practice, so my advice is spend longer with the standing postures for a period of time. Try doubling to ten breaths, and see how much more you have to concentrate and how much more you will sweat.