If I had to pick a single favorite submission, it would have to be the triangle. It can be caught from many different positions, I feel very secure using some of the largest muscles in my body against my partner’s neck, and if someone doesn’t want to tap from a triangle – no problem, they’ll just take a little nap 🙂
Although this is my favorite submission, the triangle can also be pretty tricky to apply correctly. The angle of your legs to your partner’s neck can mean the difference between getting the tap or getting your guard passed.
Throwing a triangle requires a lot of hip flexibility and throwing it wrong can cause knee or ankle pain. It requires a complex combination of strength and flexibility. The need for hip flexibility and core strength are pretty apparent, but you also need low back flexibility and both strength and flexibility in the hamstrings.
Here is a restorative yoga sequence for improving your triangles. You will need a blanket or towel and two yoga blocks. If you have a yoga bolster, that would be ideal but its not necessary.
- Supported Cobbler’s Pose, 5 minutes
- How it helps: This pose stretches the inner thigh and groin, which will help with getting to the leg position of the triangle. It is also a really nice back bend. Back bending will help you recover from bending forward in the guard (and maybe at your desk too!). By stretching in the opposite direction, you can even out the effects of practicing so many triangles.
- Sanskrit name: supta badha konasana
- Modifications: Put a block under each knee to support your inner thighs.
- Alternative poses: Frog pose (mandukasana); butterfly (badha konasana); wide legged seated pose (upavistha konasana)
- Child’s Pose, 3 minutes
- How it helps: Child’s pose stretches your lower back without putting stress on the hamstrings, particularly if you keep your knees together. It can also be a nice upper back stretch if you bring your arms by your sides, or a shoulder stretch if you reach in front of you.
- Sanskrit name: balasana
- Modifications: Sit on a block or two to relieve strain in your thighs, lay on a pillow, blocks, or a bolster to support your low back.
- Alternative poses: wet spider; standing forward fold with knees bent (uttanasana); happy baby (ananda balasana)
- Child’s Pose with side stretch modification, 3 minutes per side
- How it helps: When we throw a triangle we have to reach to control the posture, reach to adjust our leg position, and reach to get our partners’ arm in the right spot. This pose provides a deep stretch in the low back and side body, which helps facilitate the curling and reaching involved in triangles.
- Alternative poses: bananasana; revolved head to knee pose (parivritta janu shirsasana); standing side bends (urdhva hastasana with a bend)
- Head to knee pose, 4 minutes per side
- How it helps: This pose stretches the lower back muscles and acts as a slight side bend, emulating the reaching motion necessary in triangles. Triangles rely on hamstring flexibility to achieve the correct leg position but also hamstring strength to finish the submission. This pose stretches the hamstrings on one side and mirrors the bent leg position of the other leg.
- Sanskrit name: janu shirsasana
- Modifications: Place a pillow or blanket underneath your outstretched knee to support your hamstrings, lay on a pillow, bolster, or blocks to support your low back.
- Alternative poses: seated forward folds; wide legged forward fold (upavistha konasana; bound angle pose/butterfly (baddha konasana)
- Thread the needle/supine pigeon, 4 minutes per side
- How it helps: This is a deep stretch for the outer hips, or in yoga parlance: a deep hip opener. Hip flexibility will help with closing the triangle and getting into the correct position with your bent leg. Be very careful to always keep the foot of the top leg flexed (your foot perpendicular to your leg) both when stretching and when throwing the triangle. This ankle flexion will help protect your knee by ensuring the outward rotation comes from the hip rather than the knee.
- Sanskrit name: supta kapotasana
- Modifications: There are many modifications to this pose depending on your flexibility and how deep of a stretch
you are looking for.
- Press the top thigh (my right in this picture) with a block or your hands to deepen the stretch
- Put your low foot (my left) on block instead of on the ground
- Thread your arm through your legs (where your partner’s head would be if you were throwing a triangle) and hold your shin or thigh.
- Alternative poses: pigeon; fire logs/full pigeon (Agnistambhasana); cow face/shoelaces (gomukasana)
- Supine twist, 4 minutes per side
- How it helps: The twist helps you recover from throwing triangles and holding guard by releasing your upper and lower back. Depending on how your legs are positioned it can be a stretch for the muscles attaching to your IT band (eagle legs) or a deep internal hip rotation balancing out the external hip rotation needed for triangles.
- Modifications: You can basically have your legs however you want for this – both knees bent and legs stacked on top of each other, both legs straight with your
top leg perpendicular to your body, or the top leg crossed over your bottom leg like you’re sitting in a chair. Just scoot a little to the side away from the direction your knees are going to prevent lower back pain.
- Alternative poses: marichi’s pose; half lord of the fishes pose
- Supported Cobbler’s pose, 5 minutes
- Take notice of how your body has changed since first doing supported cobbler’s pose.
- Corpse pose, 10 minutes
- Lay down on your back comfortably with your hands by your side palms up. Your arms and legs can be spread out as wide or as narrow as is comfortable. The goal is to be completely relaxed and comfortable so just do whatever feels best for your body.
- Sanskrit name: savasana
- Modifications: put a small blanket under your head for a pillow, put blocks or a rolled up blanket under your knees to make your lower back more comfortable.
- Alternative poses: supported cobbler’s pose; alligator pose
If you’re looking for strength training exercises to improve your triangle as well, I would recommend these:
- One legged Romanian Deadlifts – increases hamstring strength, which helps in finishing the triangle.
- Bicycles – increases strength in abs and obliques, which helps in breaking your partner’s posture and adjusting your feet in the triangle.
- Clamshells – increases strength in outer hips, which helps you rotate to be perpendicular to your partner and to finish the submission.
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions or requests for future sequences!