Three is a mysterious and potent number. It appears frequently in classical mythology, fairy stories, religion, literature, architecture—and yoga, whose province is the vital trinity of body, mind, and spirit. The most sacred eastern symbol of OM, which represents all creation and is often chanted at the beginning and end of a yoga practice, is made up of three audible sounds (A-U-M).
Three, in the form of the triangle, is a basic component of the physical practice in yoga, found in active poses as well as in seated meditation (the three points of the triangle being the top of the head, the right and the left knee). After meditation we visualize an upside-down triangle in front of the sacrum bone (which is itself triangular) in order to ground volatile energy and retain it in the pelvis, the seat of power and procreation.
The yantra (a diagram to aid focus in meditation) for the heart centre (Anahata chakra) is made up of two overlapping triangles, one pointing up and one pointing down. The one pointing up represents our ability to move towards higher consciousness; the one pointing down represents our ability to draw higher consciousness into us and manifest it in life.
The image of two overlapping triangles has an ancient provenance, appearing widely in the great eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam) as well as Christianity, and lesser offshoots such as alchemy and occultism. The meaning of the overlapping triangles appears to be consistent, wherever the symbol is found, and can be summed up as: “That which is below is also that which is above.” And we could talk about exactly what that means until all the candles have burned out! Suffice to say that man has always sought both complete immersion in the world and complete detachment from it, which may explain the timeless potency of the symbol.
In trikonasana (Triangle Pose), we are looking to establish two triangles: one bordered by the two legs and the floor, the other constructed from the front leg, the underside of the torso, and the bottom arm (resting on shin, foot, or block). When we have secured for our feet a solid, stable foundation that grounds and connects us with the earth, we unfurl ourselves and settle into the pose, eventually gazing up at the top hand and merging with the point of focus. Perhaps we should call it, in honour of the Renaissance, the vanishing point—the centre of the infinite. The vanishing point is also constructed around a triangle.
When we practise trikonasana we are supremely conscious of looking upwards to the heavens while remaining firmly rooted to the earth. It is both an active and a meditative pose, and, like the triangle itself, is suggestive of much more than can be seen from our own limited perspective: depth, adaptability, impregnability, mystery, and longevity.
That which is above is also that which is below, which is also that which is beyond our understanding.
If you would like to reacquaint yourself with the steps to a perfect Trikonasana, visit http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/494