Why adjust triangle pose and revolved triangle?
In this article we’ll take a closer look at using hands-on adjustments for adjusting triangle and revolved triangle pose. As I already discussed in the article on triangle and revolved triangle pose, these two postures are getting us started on some important work to free up both the pelvis and the spine. Hands-on adjustments in these postures can give students some good visceral information about how and where to work in later postures that have related intentions.
Remember that a good adjustment has a process and it always starts with an observation. What do we see? How does what we see relate to what we know about both the student who is doing the pose and the ideas we have about the pose itself?
You might remember from our article on triangle and revolved triangle pose that there was quite a lot going on in both of those postures.
Some questions we might ask ourselves as we observe the student in either of these postures include:
- Do they appear to be more bendy or more on the tight side with respect to their hips and hamstrings?
- How have they positioned their feet underneath their body? What do you notice about the distance between their feet from front to back and from side to side?
- Are they wobbling in their pose or do they seem steady and balanced?
- Is there length through the torso between the pelvis and shoulders? What about length between the upper and lower hands?
- What’s happening with their head and neck, and where is their gaze as a result?
- Do they have any injuries or issues that I need to check in with them about?
My first intention when adjusting triangle pose and revolved triangle is usually grounding. Often, if I have sufficiently helped a student feel grounded, they will instinctually create additional length and/or twist on their own. In addition to the intention of grounding, I might also want to add an intention of length. This can give a student an experience of what’s possible and give them a direction to then explore on their own.
In triangle pose, I will often begin an adjustment by creating a feeling of grounding by pressing down through the student’s back hip.
From there, I might want to add a second intention of length. There are many different places that I might want to encourage length in triangle pose, depending on what restrictions a particular student is experiencing. I could suggest length through the chest by gently encouraging the student’s upper shoulder into position above the other shoulder. I could continue that intention by pulling the student’s hip and shoulder away from each other to create more length along their torso. I’m always feeling and sensing of course, for the amount of additional stretch that each student can work with, as well as verbally checking in with them about their experience.
Revolved triangle pose
In revolved triangle pose, I will often begin an adjustment by placing my hand on the student’s outer hip bone and bringing their body in toward me. This creates a feeling of stability. I can then give some intention to bringing their pelvis towards their back foot to create additional feelings of grounding. This is a subtle intention, not a big movement, which is generated from my front foot.
From there I might want to add in my second intention of length. Again, where I send an intention of length depends on where I observe that there is some restriction or shortness. I might want to suggest length through the torso by encouraging the shoulder and hip away from each other. I might want to encourage length across the chest by adding a sense of reach through the student’s upper arm while encouraging them to keep pressing into the floor with the opposite hand.
These postures are two very commonly adjusted postures within the styles of practice that use hands-on adjustments. They are also two very common postures where teachers can easily knock students off balance. You definitely want to avoid knocking the student over when adjusting triangle pose and revolved triangle.
How do you avoid this?
First, make sure you are grounded and balanced in your own body. If you have positioned yourself in a way that you feel wobbly, then that will be translated to the student you are adjusting.
Next, when you reach to contact the student, bring their body in towards you, so they feel supported in space. The most common source of knocking someone off balance is the leg that you put next to their hip. If you push your leg into them too much, they will go off balance. Lastly, when you have finished the adjustment, ground them before you start to step away. Keep your contact until you feel that they are balanced, and only then release your contact. In revolved triangle especially, I will often ask the student to look down which helps orient them back to the floor and gives them their balance back.
Modifications and avoiding injury
Be aware of any height differences between you and the student that you are adjusting. If the student is considerably taller than you, then you will not be able to position your body weight above them. This can change how you want to adjust them. You might choose to use a verbal cue, rather than a physical adjustment, if height differences would make a physical adjustment unstable or just ineffective. It may be that the only appropriate adjustment is to ground the student and make them work from that grounding.
Students with SI joint issues will sometimes feel pressure, or even pain, if their pelvis is held in place and they twist deeply with the spine. For these students, it is often better not to try to keep the hips parallel to the floor and instead to allow the pelvis to tilt more than other students.
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This month David answers the question: Should you contract or relax the glutes in urdhva dhanurasana? He explains why the answer should always be specific to the student.