Last week’s Five-Minute Yoga Challenge could actually be accomplished in 90 seconds.
This week’s challenge adds the remaining three minutes, in the shape of Utthita Trikonasana, (triangle pose).
Triangle pose at the counter is a wonderful variation in several ways:
• It entirely removes the possibility of touching the floor by your front leg with your fingers, which is one of the most popular “false goals” in all of asana practice, rivalled only by the keen desire to bring your heels to the floor in downward facing dog.
We see people with their hands on the floor in triangle pose in pictures, and almost everyone can touch in some way or another. But until the pose and the practitioner are both ripe, we’re always going to reach a false goal by letting go of one that’s real – in this case, the even extension of the spine.
At the kitchen counter, with the measuring stick of “how low can I go?” removed, your mind can turn back to the much more fruitful question of aligning your body and creating the actions in the pose.
• By pressing down on the counter, you take weight out of your pelvis. This allows your hips and thighs to move more freely, a boon for stiffer people.
• With the counter as a guide behind your front leg buttock, you can tell where you are in space. This is especially useful for the more flexible among us. If you have lots of mobility, you can drift around inside triangle pose, out of alignment in any number of directions, without a stiff hip or a tight hamstring to tell you where to put the brakes on.
Here’s how to work it:
First do last Monday’s challenge. It will stretch your side body and wake up your hamstrings.
Then stand with your back to the counter, buttocks just touching it. Step into as wide a stride as you can safely manage without sliding on the floor. Bring your arms up, palms facing each other. Stretch your side body. Lift your ribcage. Press your feet down, lift your kneecaps toward your hip creases, firm your thighs. Keep your ribs lifted as you turn your palms toward the floor and slowly bring your arms to horizontal.
Turn your right foot and thigh 90 degrees toward the right. Turn your left foot slightly toward the right. Press your right big toe mound down. Press strongly into your outer left heel. Pull your right front thigh muscles toward your hip crease and begin to hinge toward the right.
Bring your right hand onto the counter. Push down into your hand, and stretch away, from the right hand into the left hand.
Begin to slide your right hand along the counter. From the right side of your ribcage, turn towards the ceiling. From the left side of your rib cage, turn toward your spine.
Breathe. Relax your face. Pull up on your front thigh. Press down into your back heel.
Now firm your legs, inhale, come up, and turn your feet until they are parallel. Repeat triangle pose to the left.
Step your feet together. Stand in Tadasana. Press your feet down. Lift your front thighs. Lift your front chest toward the ceiling. Spread wide across your collarbones. Roll your shoulder blades down your back. Bring your hands together into Namaste, base of the thumbs to the base of your sternum.
Exhale, and step into your day.
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