SIJ Injury & Yoga: Triangle

[SI joint injury frequently intersects with other causes of low back pain, such as bulging discs, arthritis, and muscular strains; these guidelines are also appropriate for injuries to low back, pelvis, & hips.]
Previously: SI Joint Dysfunction IntroSI Joint Injury & Yoga practice, SI Joint & Yoga: Key Points

Continuing in this series, I’ll offer suggestions to manage individual postures with injury.
Previously: SI Joint & Yoga: Half Moon

My initial focus will be on postures in the Bikram series, because I teach this series & developed these guidelines to help my Bikram Yoga students.

I also use these same guidelines in my own personal practice – in managing my own SIJ injury!

If you are a student of other practices, not to worry – you may find help here as well. The general guidelines in earlier blogs apply nearly universally. Healthy movement is about more than just yoga styles.

 An asterisk (*) next to a posture indicates a strong recommendation to skip the posture, especially if the injury is in the acute stage and very painful.

In the Bikram Yoga beginning series, the 9th posture is Trikonasana, Triangle Pose.

The Bikram Yoga Triangle Pose is different than Triangle in other styles of yoga – the set-up is similar to Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose) II, and when the arms move into position (up and down, like 12:00 and 6:00 on a clock face), it is a posture of strength and balance.

*TRIANGLE: This is an asymmetrical, separate leg posture, plus a slight spine twist.

TAKE IT EASY. Less is more.

Focus on proper alignment – always stability, never flexibility.

Do it gently, step by step, well-aligned – or not at all. Doing this posture sloppily, collapsing into it, overstretching the hips … can all contribute to SI Joint instability.

Student should follow each step of the setup to tolerance – stop before pain.

If posture causes pain or insecurity, back off or skip it.

2014 0907 triangle back3

triangle, credit:

Basic instruction:

Face the mirror. Bring arms over head. Take a large step to right, at least four feet. Bring arms to parallel. Turn right foot out until inside of foot is parallel to mirror. Keep left foot straight, toes pointing at mirror. Inhale, bend the right knee and sit down until leg is an “L” & right thigh is parallel to floor. Don’t lean forward, don’t push out bum behind you. Weight should be evenly distributed and balanced. Spine should be straight up and down, arms parallel to floor. Inhale and move both arms (windmill the arms) to bring the right elbow to the bent knee and the other arm reaching up to ceiling. Do not bend at the waist to bring the right arm down – tilt the whole upper body as you slide the elbow down to the knee. The left side of the body should be close to one straight line. Turn the head to look towards the ceiling, chin at the shoulder. Continue reaching up and reaching down to stretch the arms. Check alignment of hips & knees, correct by bringing top hip forward and bringing bent knee back, if necessary. Slightly turn or twist the upper body back. Come out of right side posture by coming back to set-up: bring arms back to parallel, spine straight, right legs straight. Reverse the movements to do the left side. Come back up to center again, arms back over the head, bring right foot back to left foot, arms down to the side.

For the injured student, there is a lot to work on here:

  • Keep heels in line.
  • Only sit down as far as can be maintained pain-free – if you can sit all the way down to “L” without pain, great! If you can only sit down halfway without pain, that’s fine. If you can only bend the knee to sit down two inches, that’s fine – stay there & work on getting stronger.
  • Do not sit down BELOW “L”!! That can overstretch the ligaments in pelvis & hips. UNDERSIDE of thigh is parallel, not the TOP of the thigh.
  • Keep straight leg LOCKED, whole foot flat on floor.
  • Use this posture to focus on STRONG THIGH MUSCLES and STRONG ABDOMINAL MUSCLES. Remember: NO COLLAPSING.
  • If student sits down, and automatically the bum pushes back towards the back wall (a very common problem), that needs to be corrected. “Hips forward” or one hip forward, one knee back should bring the pelvis toward center, but do not overdo it by trying to “square” the hips to the mirror or aggressively pushing the knee back behind the hips.
  • Focus on pelvic stability: NO SQUARING HIPS TO MIRROR (Teachers: do not tell students to try to square hips to mirror to open pelvis). You do not want to “open” the pelvis any more than it already is! Some body types will naturally have hips more squared to the mirror than others, but do not encourage anyone to force their body into that position.
  • KNEES IN LINE. The correction to bring one hip forward and push the other knee back should be used to line up the two knees from the side.
  • Bent knee should be over the foot, not behind the knee (that can overstretch the hip on the straight leg side – also not good for knees!).
  • Go step by step. Start by sitting down, stay there if necessary. Student’s focus is on pelvic stability, and core & leg strength. Injured students should feel free to only move the arms when they feel strong enough to hold the posture without collapsing. Slide the elbow down to the knee – stop whenever the posture begins to lose integrity – if student can only bring wrist down to knee, that’s fine.
  • “Don’t lean the elbow on the knee” – if student cannot maintain the position, come out of it rather than collapsing and leaning weight on the knee. Also, weight on the knee with the elbow pushes the knee BACK, overstretching the hip (see above).
  • Don’t try to hold yourself up by putting your hand on the floor. If you do not have the core strength to stay in the posture, just back off. If you lean on the floor, I can guarantee you will be twisting your low back.

Go step by step. Focus on core strength and alignment. As always, SKIP IT IF IT CAUSES PAIN.

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