Updated: Nov 26, 2020
The number three has always been a powerful number in storytelling. Most fairy tales were part of the oral tradition and then written down by collectors such as the brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. Remember how Rumpelstiltskin gave the Queen three chances to guess his name, Aladdin makes three wishes and traditionally Cinderella goes to the ball three times? There are also three little pigs, three bears and three Billy Goats Gruff. The number three seems to be a powerful persuasive archetype commonly used in rhetoric from the times of the ancient Greeks to this day.
The 3 Gunas
In the same way, the number three seems to occur frequently in many religions. We might know of the Holy Trinity in Christianity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna about the three qualities or gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas. These are quite reminiscent of the three bears in the Goldilocks story. Rajas signifies not enough energy, a state of lethargy or dullness. Tamas is the opposite; anxiety, violence or destruction. Only sattva is ‘just right’. That said, to lead a happy, productive life, we need a balance of all three. The specific amount of each needed at any given time is based on where you are and what you are faced with. A good example of this is how much tamasic energy people who perform heavy physical labour need to do their jobs.
The mythology of Trikonasana
In Hindu mythology, there was once an evil demon called Mahishasura, wreaking havoc, distressing the gods. Time to bring in a powerful group of three gods to the rescue! Shiva aligned with Rajas, Brahma with Tamas and Vishnu with Sattva. Between them they had the power to summon up a powerful and fierce goddess warrior called Mahamaya, who rode on a lion. Their names are no coincidence, as ‘maya’ means all the chaos and destruction in the world. Mahamaya rode boldly into battle with Mahishasura, and the lion rushed at him, biting his chest brutally. Seizing the moment, as you would, Mahamaya shot a flaming arrow and promptly beheaded him with a scimitar. An example of original Girl Power! In this way Mahamaya helps us fight against illusion in the world, the power of deception and the way that sometimes we can’t see beyond the masks that people wear, beautiful façades or what seems to be on the outside, to see what is really within. Mahishasura represents the way the mind constantly seeks to distract us, creating illusions which will lead us away from the truth. Yes, you’ve heard that saying, ‘my mind is playing tricks on me.’ In this way you can see how the goddess Mahamaya works to keep us in touch with our true nature and the demon Mahishasura keeps leading us away. In this story we have our power of three but also our oppositions: good and evil, God and the Devil, the fairy god mother versus the evil witch. It seems that wherever you go and however far back in times our minds recognise the same archetypes.
So, what about Trikonasana (Triangle pose) ? The connection between this story and the pose is highlighted in “Myths of the Asanas” by Alanna Kaivalya, Arjuna van der Kooij, a very interesting read. Check it out here I also love that there are now some cards to go with this book. What a great idea! Have a look at them here.
The full name, Utthita Trikonasana, is composed of four Sanskrit words:
How to find steadiness and ease in Trikonasana
The triangle is known fo