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Pose adaptations

Utthita Trikonasana is a lateral bend, according to viniyoga tradition. Lateral (side) bend is a legitimate movement of the spine that we don’t do much of in a daily life, so our yoga practice is an excellent place to work with it. It alternately contracts and stretches the sides of the torso, targeting lateral structures – obliques, quadratus lumborum (QL), illiacus, tensor fasciae latae (TFL), iliotibial band (IT band), etc. Since the whole point is to bend sideways, we do NOT ask students to “keep both sides of the torso equally long” , or to “drive the hip of the front leg deep into the socket”, as it is often taught. I wrote an entire blog post about the intricacies of Utthita Trikonasana and how manipulating the position of one’s hips and pelvis in the pose can lead to shear stress on your sacroiliac joints. The article was called “There is no such thing as “gold standard” when it comes to alignment in yoga poses” and you can look it up on my blog, if you are interested.

How to

We do NOT ask students to “keep both sides of the torso equally long” , or to “drive the hip of the front leg deep into the socket”, as it is often taught.

Feet parallel

Utthita Trikonasana: Feet parallel shifts the focus to the upper body and emphasizes the stretching and strengthening of the areas between the pelvis and the shoulder. You can look up or down depending on how your neck feels.

Side bends

Utthita Trikonasana: Side bends is very useful for targeting Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscles and dealing with any kind of torso asymmetries. It is used mostly for strengthening of the lateral structures of the torso.

Double side bends

Utthita Trikonasana: Double side bends intensifies the effect of strengthening of the sides of the torso and can also give you a deeper stretch in Quadratis Lumborum and Psoas muscles.

Side pumps

Utthita Trikonasana: Side pumps stretches and strengthens the side of the torso, including the areas that move and support the shoulder. By contracting and stretching the same areas in one movement, you can relieve tension and get more satisfying stretch through the entire side of the torso, shoulder and hip.

Heel lift

Utthita Trikonasana: Heel lifts is a wonderful pose for specifically targeting the area right above the pelvis on each side. It’s a very accessible pose but it gives a great stretch through the entire side of the body and ensures that students pay close attention to what they are doing

Arm sweep

Utthita Trikonasana: Arm sweep is one of the most effective poses for relieving neck tension. By moving the arm up and down you are increasing circulation To the area between your neck and shoulder. To amplify the effect, it is useful to keep the arm up for few breaths while looking up, and then fold it behind the back and keep it there for few breaths while looking down. You will also get a deep stretch along the entire side of the body that you can modulate by placing your hand lower or higher up along your front leg.

Palm up

Utthita Trikonasana: Palm up is very effective for stretching the side of the neck and the front of the shoulder. Since we spend most of our days with our shoulders internally rotated (which can lead to tension and imbalance), this pose gives us a chance to externally rotate the shoulder (and realign the relationship between the chest and shoulder girdle).

With block

Utthita Trikonasana: With block can provide additional stability in the pose. We have to be mindful while using the block though and make sure that the student doesn’t curl the body forward in her effort to reach it.


With chair

With chair