What Is Happening In The Back Leg In Triangle Pose?

June 7, 2022

Transcript of: What is happening in the back leg in triangle pose?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. If you’ve got a question that you want me to answer on video just like this, all you need to do is go to yogantomy.com/myquestion and I’ll answer it on video for you. Make it a good question, okay! This month’s question comes from Robina and it’s about the back leg in triangle pose.

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The Question:

What happens in the back leg in trikonasana [triangle pose]? I’ve been instructed to both internally and externally rotate that back leg, while externally rotating the front. For me, internally rotating feels best due to mild hip dysplasia, CAM morphology, and labral tear. With that said I do not want to project my unique anatomy onto my students and want to make sure that I’m keeping them healthy and aligned.

The Answer:

Those are all good reasons. Not projecting your own experience onto other people, that’s good teaching. Thank you so much. The whole getting it right versus getting it wrong — you know, you want to be a triangle. You don’t want to do a triangle in some way that somebody else does it. You seem to be clued into that already. So, the first thing that I want to point out about the back leg in triangle pose is — let’s bring this all the way back to the beginning of anatomy and anatomical position. That’s a person standing, facing forward, with their palms facing forward and all that. It’s where all the basic movements then arise out of.

Moving from anatomical position

What is flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, external rotation versus internal rotation? This is important because there’s a distinction between the body position. Okay, so we’re talking about the back leg of trikonasana. So that back leg, I would say from an anatomical position point of view, is not rotated at all. Let’s say your foot is square to your pelvis. Right? Your pelvis is sideways even though you’re tilted over and all that. If your foot is straight, or you could say perpendicular to the edge of your mat, then there’s no rotation going on from an anatomical position point of view.

Action versus position

What is happening is adduction. And I don’t mean that as an action. It’s in an adducted position. Right? Because if you take the body in your mind and you bring it back into anatomical position, what’s changed? The leg is this way relative to a pelvis. Right? So let’s say if this hand is my pelvis, and this is the leg, this is adduction, which is what we’re doing in triangle. The pelvis is tilted this way. The back leg in triangle pose goes down this way. If the foot is straight, there’s no rotation. Having said that, from an anatomical position point of view, there’s no rotation. But you could engage your internal rotators or your external rotators. That would create an action of internal or external rotation. Okay? Do you get the difference there?

If your foot is turned in, then it is anatomically, slightly internally rotated at the hip joint. From that internally rotated position, you could engage external hip rotators and create an action like external rotation from an internally rotated place. I’m going to say that one more time. You can create an external rotation action using muscles while your leg is technically internally rotated at the hip joint.

Layers of anatomy

Yeah, that’s what happens when you peel off a layer of anatomy. Right? Because what we tend to do is go internal rotation means internal rotators are engaged. That’s not necessarily true. It depends on the situation. Okay? There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we could unpack as yoga teachers about talking about muscle engagement: when it’s necessary, which muscles, what direction, and what action. I think it’s all over the map at this point. I hear stuff all the time that as an anatomist, because I take it so literally, it just drives me nuts. So I’m going to get off the soapbox now. I think I covered everything I wanted to.

Find your expression of the pose

So, your last bit is basically asking, what is it supposed to be? Well, you know in your body internal rotation happens. Why don’t you do this — I’m going to get you to do this because honestly, I don’t over-focus on how it’s supposed to be. I see what people are doing. I look at where they’re going, what their overall practice is like. And that’s where I teach from, not whether the back leg in triangle pose is internally rotated or externally rotated, action or position. Ask your students what they feel! Because I am not willing to be the authority on the right way to do trikonasana. Because I don’t need that position. Leave that for somebody else. Sorry about that part! But, you get my point.

Alright, I hope that helped Robina. Everyone else — Robina you can always submit another question as well by the way — but anybody who wants to submit a question, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and I’ll answer it on video.

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