the triangle : trikonasana

finding the balance between spontaneity & structure in trikonasana

gem salsberg

Sustaining a practice can be challenging. How do we keep it fresh yet stay within the parameters of our particular tradition?

The word “spontaneity” pops to mind this morning. Before teaching a class I sometimes draft a bamboo structure or at least have an idea about which pose we’ll focus on for reflection. But nothing is coming. Even as I enter the classroom, nothing. I decide to start with the Divine Light Invocation, hoping for inspiration. We move into the first warm-up, and I hear myself prompting with words like “structure,” “framework,” “bones.” Then I hear myself directing us into the Triangle and saying this is the pose we will focus on today.

Who is leading this class? Sometimes it is like this in my teaching practice. My planning mind is pushed aside and another part that reads the air comes into play. While “I” am questioning, wanting to know and have the security of a plan, this other swoops in and takes charge. Staying open to what arises can generate a perilous feeling of uncertainty, which wakes me up and takes me to an edge that startles awareness back to life.

Writing this particular ascent article was a similar process. The editor’s instructions were for me to play with the ideas of yoga and sustainability. Yet it turns out that I do not play with ideas, but that Divine Mother plays with me. I write drafts, explore various approaches, get short-circuited, encounter resistance. The deadline slips by.

Now the Triangle presents itself. What does it want to teach me? And how does this pose, which is all about structure, relate to spontaneity? Hidden Language’s promise that each pose can open to reveal what I need is being tested.

In class we start by exploring our foundation. My foundation is a commitment to awakening intelligence in myself and offering tools to others. As I hold the pose, I realize that even if I waver, I can find my way back to centre. This underlying confidence in the process is based on my experience that what needs to come through, will — sometimes with effort, sometimes through grace. I will learn, no matter what the outcome.

Reflecting on “interdependence,” I observe that my brain is stopping my body from extending fully into the Triangle. Once I notice, I move through the limitation toward a sense of integrity, an effortlessness of my arm moving through the air and an ethereal perception of the ground extending to meet my hand. The elements work together with me. Instead of forcing onward as an act of will, we meet in harmony and blend.

As the class progresses, the students share their reflections, which precisely symbolize their circumstances. “Much as I think I’m moving toward a higher goal,” says one, “I notice I’m actually moving sideways.” I am uplifted by their insights. We learn from each other, recognizing our uniqueness and the breadth of our common ground.

The Triangle impresses on me a need to find balance between inner and outer, intuition and discipline, spontaneity and structure. In Hidden Language, I am not attempting to perfect the form, but to use the form to dive into the mystery. The triangle holds sacred space that can open to the depths of creative generation — the feminine, the yoni, the goddess who plays with us. Opening to her spontaneity means being led
by the spirit of adventure into the unknown ground of our
own potential.

how to do trikonasana:
the triangle

the pose

  1. From Mountain (Tadasana) step your legs apart to
    form an equilateral triangle.
  2. Turn one foot out to 90 degrees, the other in to
    45 degrees.
  3. Keep the front knee aligned while bringing your hips forward as much as you can.
  4. Lengthen through your spine as you raise your arms above your head, then extend them out to the sides.
  5. Moving from your hips, slide sideways, extending over the front leg. Keep the front leg firm, the spine aligned, as you stretch to the side, extending one arm up and
    the other down.
  6. Turn your head to look at your upraised hand. Hold
    the pose. Then lift back to an upright position.
  7. Repeat to the other side.


  1. As you work with the Triangle, focus on your foundation. Ask: What is the foundation I’m building on?
    Can it sustain me over time? What does the Triangle
    tell me about supporting myself?
  2. Practise the Triangle every day for a week or a month, reflecting on what it takes to be disciplined in your practice. Ask: How do I create a framework that supports my ideals?
  3. Do the Divine Light Invocation and let spontaneity come into play. In the Triangle, listen for your own intuitive directions. Approach the pose from different perspectives.
  4. Ask: How could spontaneity, which is essentially surprising and impermanent, be a sustaining power in
    my yoga practice?

Gem Salsberg is an intermedia artist based in Vancouver, BC. She completed her BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design. Gem works with film, moving and still imagery, ink, paint and composite writing. 


Swami Lalitananda's latest book,The Inner Life of Asanas,is a collection of her hidden language hatha yoga columns, from timeless books . She is a resident teacher and part of the collective at radha yoga & eatery - a yoga centre, cafe, arts and events venue at 728 Main Street in Vancouver, BC. Contact her at .

   read more of swami lalitananda's past columns

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