Do you still practice and teach revolved triangle? I was reading through a thread in one of the Facebook forums that I belong to, and a lot of yoga teachers were saying that they no longer practice or teach this pose for a variety of reasons. Some people stated that they just didn't understand it enough to teach it. Others felt like it caused a bit of stress to their SI joints, or they just felt awkward and uncomfortable in the pose and so were concerned about teaching it to their students. One teacher expressed frustration that students in her classes would often choose not to place their hand on a block, even though she could see that the trunk flexion caused by placing the hand on the floor was clearly inhibiting their ability to rotate their trunk.
When I was a relatively new yoga student I remember expressing my strong dislike of revolved triangle to one of my teachers, and she said to me: "Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find a way to fall in love with this pose. You can use whatever props you like." I took her up on the challenge, and ended up finding a way to do it with my forearm propped up on the kitchen table that actually felt somewhat enjoyable. And today it's one of my favorite postures.
If you dislike revolved triangle, or find it somewhat difficult to teach, check out the above video that Frances and I created to show a step-by-step progression into the pose that might help you and your students experience a little more ease and joy. One of the key teaching points is to facilitate more spinal rotation by preserving the lift of the chest and extension of the spine throughout the pose by:
In this video, we explore the alignment of the pelvis, spine and knees in parivrtta utkatasana, revolved chair pose. We revisit some of the themes presented in other recent videos that we've posted about rotated postures (e.g., the benefits of maintaining a neutral spine and allowing the pelvis to follow the lumbar spine during twists), but with specific cues that pertain to revolved chair pose. We also discuss the common cue to "keep the knees level" in this pose and present an alternative viewpoint as we feel that the outside knee should move forward a bit to accommodate the rotation of the pelvis.
In order for the thoracolumbar spine to rotate to its full potential (about 35-45 degrees), it is important to maintain spinal extension. If the hamstrings, glutes or other hip extensors are relatively tight they will limit the anterior tilt of the pelvis in seated spinal twists and revolved triangle, which will in turn cause the spine to flex (round). It is also common for students to posteriorly tilt the pelvis and flex the spine during supine twists.
In the following video we explore the importance of preserving spinal extension during rotated postures in order to allow greater range of motion, foster the free flow of the breath, and prevent stress in the shoulders, necks, intervertebral and sacroiliac joints.
In this video we explore the twist potential in the thoracolumbar spine and extol the benefits of encouraging all of the lumbar and thoracic intervertebral joints to do their fair share in all rotated postures.
A cue that we often hear when twisting is to try to twist from the navel up. The navel is located at approximately the level of L3, or perhaps L4 on some people. Most people can rotate approximately 2-3 degrees at each of the thoracic intervertebral joints and about 1-2 degrees at each of the lumbar intervertebral joints, for a combined rotation of somewhere between 29-46 degrees. If we try to isolate our twists "from the navel up" we'll lose the potential 1-2 degrees of rotation between L3-L4, L4-L5 and L5-S1... which adds up to somewhere between 3-6 degrees of rotation. In addition, we'll lose some of the benefits of twisting in the lumbar spine, which include nourishing the intervertebral discs and creating a squeeze and soak effect on the abdominal organs... which are located in the, wait for it, abdomen! During the twist the abdominal organs get a bit of a squeeze when helps to propel the venous blood in these organs back toward the heart (veins have one-way valves that only allow blood to flow toward the heart), and then when we come out of the twist the organs are decompressed which allows fresh arterial blood to flow through the capillaries.