YOGA FAILS, FIXED: Why You're Probably Doing Triangle Pose Wrong

Forget about touching the floor with your hand in Triangle pose. What really matters is the position of your torso.

The "Yoga Fails, Fixed" series is for any person who's ever felt lost, confused, or just plain awkward when trying yoga. The first three articles in the series offered simple fixes for Downward Facing Dog, Warrior 2 and Seated Twist. In this installment, we focus on the Triangle pose, which has a moderate level of difficulty but can hurt your alignment if performed incorrectly. 

Triangle pose strengthens the core and back. It also increases flexibility in the hips and groin, two areas vulnerable to injury in athletes who have to run, stop and change direction quickly (i.e., most athletes). The move also strengthens the ankles and stretches the hamstrings, shoulders and chest.

Unfortunately, it's easy to get carried away when performing Triangle pose, and in so doing throw yourself out of alignment.

The issue is simple: Many people think the closer to the ground they can put their hand, the deeper into the pose they are going and the more beneficial it will be. Wrong, wrong and wrong. That assumption (which, again, just to be clear, is wrong) leads to the two most common failures in executing Triangle pose.

Triangle Pose Fail #1: Torso way in front of lead knee

Triangle Pose - Wrong Position

When your torso winds up inside your lead leg, you're trying too hard to reach the floor with your hand.

For Triangle to work its yoga magic (or at least hit the muscles and tendons it's designed to hit), your torso needs to line up with the center of your front knee. But when people think that reaching the ground with their hand indicates success (wrong, as you recall), they often collapse the whole posture down in front of the knee. This reduces the effectiveness of the hamstring stretch you want to get on your lead leg.

THE SIMPLE FIX: Imagine that you have to flatten both shoulder blades against a wall behind you. This requires that you push your entire torso, from the waist to the base of the neck, back several inches. You can take this adjustment a step further by doing it against an actual wall.

Triangle Pose - Correct Position

The correct version of Triangle pose, with the torso over the lead leg.

Once you make leaning your torso back a habit, you'll open up the posture and feel a greater stretch through both hips and less tightness in the shoulders and neck.

Triangle Pose Fail #2: Over-stretched top ribs and short bottom ribs

Triangle Pose - Wrong Position

Triangle pose performed incorrectly. Note the "C" shape of the torso with scrunched lower ribs and elongated upper ribs.

Does your torso look like a "C" instead of an "I"? If so, again, the problem is probably caused by trying too hard to reach the ground. When the sides of your torso are not equally straight, it means you're reaching down further than your body is capable, thus damaging the integrity of the pose.

THE SIMPLE FIX: Stop worrying about putting your hand on the floor! A block can help, but sometimes even a block does not offer enough height for you to keep the sides of your torso equally straight. Experiment with placing your lower hand on your shin or even your thigh—whatever allows your ribs to get as close as they can to the floor without scrunching together.

Triangle Pose - Correct Position

With a block placed under your lower hand, you can equally straighten the sides of your torso.

Other posts from the "Yoga Fails, Fixed" Series: 

How Not to Mess Up Downward Facing Dog

Warrior 2 Can Be Downright Dangerous Without These 2 Corrections

How to Avoid Cranking Your Back in Seated Twists

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock