One of my most joyful yoga experiences came one early morning while practicing a side-bend sequence that I tore out of my monthly Yoga Journal magazine. As I leaned into Gate Pose, or Parighasana, I felt my body loosening and all of the tension flowing from my limbs, and I just couldn’t help my smile and think how lucky I felt to have wonderful people in my life, a happy and welcoming home, and a peaceful spot to practice yoga. So I really wanted to share Gate Pose with you as the next post in my yoga series in hopes that you might share in some of that joy and, even if just for a minute, let your worries slip away and focus on what you’re most thankful for.
Gate Pose “gives us the chance to invite breath into the often-neglected side areas of our body,” according to Yoga U. It engages the core abdominal muscles, lengthens the hip flexors, and helps improve the flexibility of the spine. The first step is to kneel with your back straight and your buttocks lifted off the ground. Slowly stretch your left leg out to the side, pressing the sole of your foot firmly against the floor. Rest your left hand on your leg and keep your right hand straight at your side, getting used to the stretch. Make sure that your left heel is aligned with your right knee.
If you can’t keep your foot flat on the floor while stretching your leg all the way out to the side, one easier variation involves putting a folded blanket or a yoga block underneath your foot. I often use the block method when I’m wary of stretching too far or am not feeling particularly flexible; it’s still a good stretch, but sometimes feels a little safer. Once you feel comfortable in the stretch, turn the palm of your left hand up to face the ceiling and raise your right arm straight up into the air. Keep your body straight and perpendicular to the floor. Breathe deeply in this position.
Finally, arch your right arm over your head and lean your body to the left. It’s important to keep in mind this Yoga Journal recommendation: “The side bend tends to drop the torso toward the floor. Without pushing the left hip back (continue to roll it slightly forward), turn the upper torso away from the floor.” Similarly, Yoga U cautions: “The most common error people come up against while practicing Parighasana is twisting the torso to bend forward instead of strictly to the side. In our enthusiasm to take the pose farther, it’s easy to make this mistake.”
The key is to not bend too far or let your left hand slide too low along your left leg. As you become more flexible, you will be able to take the stretch both further and deeper. As you hold this pose, imagine a spiral of energy traveling from your right hand, down to your left hand, and then back up again. Let out all of the negativity, and welcome back in only positive and grateful thoughts. I hope this pose will help bring you joy, whenever and wherever you practice it.