If you are like most people in the U.S., your daily activities require you to spend long hours facing forward, such as when you sit at the computer, drive or walk the dog. These all inhibit movement in other directions. The joints that take the brunt of this forward movement are the hips.
Hips play a big role in motion and the balance of body posture. They are centrally located and are connected to the lowest part of the spine. With such a close connection between hips and spine, it’s no wonder that many people have back pain. A correctly done triangle pose, or trikonasana, will reintroduce you to your hip joints and get them mobile again. Click here to learn how to do it properly.
Triangle pose is a complicated pose to get into, so please don't practice it until you have recieved instruction from a qualified yoga teacher, in person.
Hips Joints and Back Pain
Long-term lack of regular hip motion can cause back pain. Without complete and full movement of the hips, the muscles tend to stiffen and weaken, further inhibiting your ability to move. And, support for your body's posture is decreased. While the muscles around the hip are not technically considered part of the spine, they exert a tremendous influence on it. Poses like triangle challenge the hip muscles to work in ways that counter their usual routine. This, in turn, changes the condition of the low back, aligning it, and providing more support.
Bend From the Right Place
When it comes to moving the trunk, most people are unaware of the difference between bending at the waist and folding at the hip joint. The lowest part of the spine (sacrum and coccyx bones) inserts between the two pelvic bones. Together, the pelvis, hips and low spine offer maneuverability that is capable of initiating and supporting movement for the whole body.
It is much safer for your back if you bend at the hips (and knees) rather than the waist. Done with attention to proper alignment, the triangle pose can help you develop an awareness of the action of your hips. And, it will strengthen and stretch the muscles that work these important joints.
Understand Your Structure
To understand what triangle pose can do for your back it is important to understand the structure of the pelvis and hips. The pelvis is a boney bowl-shaped structure into which the legs attach (on either side). The hip joints are the areas where the legs connect into pelvis. There are muscles around the hip joint that power movement of the leg and pelvis.
The design of the hip joint enables the leg to move in all directions. The very top of each leg has a rounded cap, called the head. The head fits a hole in the pelvis (one on each side, slightly offset from the center). The rotary movement provided by the hip joint (called a ball and socket type joint) is what allows you to make leg circles, to turn your leg in and out, and to move your them forward, back, to the side and to places in between.
Locate Your Pelvis
It is easy to locate your pelvis for yourself. Just sit on a hard surface. The two points on the bottom of your seat that feel hard or even painful are the bottom bones of the pelvis, called sit bones. The top of your pelvis can be felt if you place your hands on your hips. And the best way to find the hips joints themselves is to correctly do the triangle pose.
Reverse the Kinetic Chain for the Hip Joint
Triangle is a standing pose, with the kinetic chain at work. In most of our actions of the lower body, we move our legs while the pelvis stays relatively stationary. A good example is walking. In triangle, the legs are anchored to the floor, and it is the pelvis that moves. The pressure of the floor coming into the legs provides an opportunity to reverse which bone stays put (leg, or femur), and which bone moves (pelvis) when you bend at the hip to take your trunk parallel to the floor. This challenges the muscles acting on the hip in new ways, and is excellent development for postural support.
Use Breathing to Develop Your Posture
Doing yoga poses involves the practice of breathing techniques. Triangle pose is no exception. Inhaling will expand the rib cage, causing it to move slightly in the process. Exhaling will also cause movement of the rib cage. As the weight of the rib cage shifts during breathing, it will further challenge you as you maintain the pose. In this way, triangle benefits whole body posture by challenging balance and coordination.
Lengthen Your Spine
Breathing techniques practiced during triangle also help to lengthen the spine and create space between the vertebrae. This may help with symptoms associated with degenerating disks.
Coulter, H.D., "Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: a Manual for Students, Teachers and Practitioners". Body and Breath. 2001. Honesdale, Pa.
Kisner, C., & Colby, L.A. (2002). Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques.Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company.