Perspective from Triangle Pose

Triangle pose is one of my go-to poses. It helps me feel energized, opening my chest cavity and heart. It helps me cultivate steady, grounded awareness, while I press firmly into my feet and engage my legs. The pose helps lengthen my hamstrings, stretch my obliques, upper back, and intercostal muscles. But more than physical, it also helps me to contemplate the triad that in yoga is referred to as Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. Shiva is the quality of destruction, Brahma is that of birth or redemption, and Vishnu embodies the sustaining quality of balance between the other two.

These words sometimes get referred to as different gods; however, in my work they are more aptly considered as three qualities that we all embody at one time or another, sometimes simultaneously. Perhaps we’re beginning something new, and so in the  “Brahma” state in which we must cultivate the energy necessary to open ourselves up to what must be created. Or maybe we’re trying to sustain our life in some way, and so need to nourish the aspects of ourselves that give us stamina for possible longevity. If we’re in a “Shiva” or ending time, we might have to walk through the arduous task of letting something in us or around us be undone. In looking at not just triangle pose, but much of the work I do on the mat through these lenses, I get to examine asana again from the world of story and in doing so, get to know myself and my practice a little better.

In teaching this, I might encourage students to slow down and notice the way that they begin a pose. A familiar pose like triangle, that is meant to align us to the three aspects of our nature, is a good one for this because most students know it so well that perhaps they rush through the getting in. Instead, if we pause in the beginning and watch our entrance, we can become aware of the way that we tend to create something. Are we eager or rushed as we begin? Do we hesitate and pull back from endeavoring into the pose, not allowing our body to open into it out of fear of our limitations?

As we hold the pose, do we sustain and nourish our body and mind, or do we fight and flee from the pose? Is it possible to use our breath and personal stamina to remain calm, at ease, and centered, even when we might be sustaining things for longer than our preference might be? And, as we end the pose again, do we rush to get away or are we drawn toward lingering there?

That ending period becomes poignant for me, particularly in savasana, the final resting pose of practice. What I’ve learned is endings take quite a long time. In becoming respectful of the endings, I must give space to all that is required to unwind out of the practice, to embodying “letting go”, so that I can assimilate what I’ve learned before I try to move into the next beginning. I watch students struggling with stillness during this time, or hear from them that they often have a hard time settling their mind, and I think about how quick I am to feel discouraged if I don’t know how to let go right away. Growing up, my friends could count on me, shocked and pained, uttering the words, “You’re leaving?!” at every get together when they’d announce their departure. When something is wonderful, it’s hard to watch it end, and when something is difficult, I’m quick to want it gone. Either way, it typically takes my body and mind a long time to really let go. I may replay mentally or still feel the sensations physically.

I like to really watch myself leaving poses that I know well, like triangle, and I get some practice at feeling physically and mentally the ways that I separate myself from something. If I can be present with the letting go, I think it makes me more present while I’m sustaining the pose, allowing it to feel richer, and then I feel delighted at beginning the next. That is the place where we learn to appreciate and discover the ways in which we are always in one of these states: beginning, sustaining, ending. It’s in that discovery that we may realize that one is not better than the other. Rather, each state is a necessary way of being, and in staying aware of each, we get to relish life more deeply.