Pelvis Vs Knee: Trikonasana
I am often asked whether the pelvis should be opened fully to the side in trikonasana (triangle pose).
Now, if you asked five different yoga teachers they would probably give you five different answers about how to do trikonasana, but they would all no doubt tell you that to answer the question you need to look at the relationship between the pelvis and the knee.
In trikonasana there is a little tug of war going on between the movement on your front thigh and the opposite side of the pelvis. The front thigh is trying to roll out while the opposite side of your pelvis is trying to move back and roll up towards the sky.
A key action at the front hip joint is external rotation (it is also flexing and abducting—check out last week’s blog about defining movements of the hip joint). As your front thigh rolls out, your front knee comes into alignment over the centre of your front foot.
You can then try to roll that (front) side of your bottom underneath and press it forward at the same time so that it is not sticking out to the yogi behind you. To do all of this you will find you need to maintain strong actions in the front leg of lifting the thigh up, rolling it out and under while pressing the big toe down so as not to roll on to the outside edge of your foot. As you move into the posture more deeply by tipping the pelvis, you will feel the stretch on the inner front thigh and back of the front thigh as a result of these actions.
But trikonasana is not all about the front leg. You need to balance the work in the front leg with the work in the back leg. And this means while you are doing all of that work in front, you are also trying to broaden the front of your pelvis and prevent the top of the pelvis (back leg side) from rolling forward and toppling over towards the floor. To do this you need to strongly engage your back leg, pressing down through the outer edge of the foot, trying to roll the thigh out and trying to draw the whole inner thigh from the knee up and in towards your pelvis.
But there is a reason the top of the pelvis wants to roll forward towards the floor. And, for many of us, it will be because allowing this action of the pelvis releases some of the stretch on the front leg and also lets us get closer to the floor with our arm if that is where we think our arm should be.
However, one of the (muscular) functions of trikonasana is to help open up the inner thighs and hamstrings so practicing in this way might not help you too much towards that end.
What this all means is that you need to keep trying to roll the top (back leg side) of your pelvis up and back but, and here’s the point, there is no need to take it so that it is right on top of the bottom (front leg side) of your pelvis. You do not need to square your pelvis to the side. For most of us this is probably not even possible, and, if you persist in doing so you may find that your front leg starts to roll in and your front knee will lose its careful alignment (see my video link). Over time this will transfer strain onto your inner knee joint, which is not something you want.
So, should you be trying to get your pelvis open to the side? The short answer is, start with the correct alignment of your front knee and then open the pelvis to the extent that is possible. In the tug-of-war between knee and pelvis, the integrity of your knee needs to win.
Trikonasana is a great pose and nearly every yoga class will include it whether or not it is for beginners or advanced students. Thereis a whole lot more to it than I have mentioned here (did not even mention the upper body!), but more on that later. For now, happy and safe practicing!