Gate Pose, Parighasana, (puh-ri-ghaa-suh-nuh)
parigha (gate / an iron bar for locking a gate) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Parighasana
Pose Type: Balancing, Stretching
Treat your side body to a loving stretch in Gate Pose
Gate Pose Fundamentals
Gate Pose, or Parighasana, is a beautiful, well-rounded posture for the entire body. This pose is popular with yoga teachers and students, because it elicits pleasure and satisfaction from the practitioner.
It’s a great stretch to help you wake up in the morning, or to mobilize your body after a long day of work.
From the physical point of view, Gate Pose is a powerhouse of various benefits. It affects the legs, hips, core, back, rib cage, shoulders, arms, and neck. Ultimately, it builds strength and flexibility in the entire body, leading you to a wider range of motion and a lower risk of physical injury.
Gate Pose can be adapted to practitioners of different shape, age, and experience level, as well as students with mobility issues and chronic conditions. It is a must-have of every yoga practice.
Mentally, Gate Pose can be helpful with managing anxiety thanks to its ability to accommodate full, deep breaths. It can also serve as a tool to find your groove and your confidence. As the pose name suggests, this asana is your gate to freedom, emotional and physical.
Gate Pose Benefits
- Improves posture. Thanks to the lengthening action of the spine, Gate Pose can strengthen the muscles of the core and back, which inadvertently leads to a better, more confident posture.
- Stretches the hips flexors and strengthens the glutes. If you tend to sit for a large portion of your day, that means your hips spend a long time in a flexed position by default. Consequently, the glute muscles are stretched. Unfortunately, it weakens both sets of muscles, but Gate Pose is a great way to bring them back into shape. Gate Pose promotes glute activation and hip flexor extension.
- Improves lung function. Thanks to the opening of the rib cage, the practitioner can breathe more freely and mindfully, leading to healthier lungs with better capacity.
- Sharpens your perception and improves coordination. This asana has many elements, and bringing everything together takes hard work. On the bright side, practicing this pose results in better coordination, balance, and spatial awareness.
How to Do Gate Pose: Step-By-Step
1. Start in a high kneeling position with your knees hip-width apart. Rest your hands on your hips.
2. Keep your core steady as you extend your right leg out to the side. Align your right foot with the left knee and make sure the hips stay in their original position. Ground through your right foot, creating firm contact through the entire sole of the foot.
3. Inhale as you raise your left arm and rest your right hand on your right thigh. On the exhale, start sliding your right hand lower, reaching the left arm overhead. Focus on creating a long curved line from your left knee all the way to the fingertips of your left hand.
4. Keep your chest facing forward as you turn your gaze to look up from under your left arm. Keep your left shoulder rotating out of the way, broadening the space across your chest and collarbones.
5. With each inhale, try to lengthen your spine and open the space in your rib cage. Hold the position for 5 full breath cycles, maintaining full focus.
6. To exit the pose, use the top arm to create momentum and bring you back to the upright kneeling position. Switch sides and repeat with your left leg extended.
Tips and Tricks
- To make sure you perform this pose with correct form, it’s a good idea to film yourself and review the footage to see what can be improved. With your gaze directed upwards, a mirror isn’t a good option.
- Avoid pressing your weight into the extended leg. The bottom hand should be gently resting on the leg, allowing you to reach sideways as opposed to press downwards.
- This pose can put a lot of pressure on the knees, so you may opt for using a folded blanket under the kneeling leg to protect your joint.
- You can bend as deeply as you see fit. Don’t force yourself into a compromising position. There should be no pain or strong discomfort. You should be able to ease off or exit the pose at any time.
Gate Pose Variations
Gate Pose With a Blanket
This option is designed for anyone who suffers from joint issues. No one is insured from injury, swelling, or chronic conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia, regardless of age. Thankfully, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on the benefits of Gate Pose.
This variation is also good for beginners who are not used to putting a lot of pressure through their knees.
To practice this variation of Gate Pose, add a folded blanket under the kneeling leg to cushion the joint. Depending on the level of comfort you are looking for, you may fold it quite thick. Alternatively, you could fold the edge of your yoga mat, mimicking the effect of the blanket.
Gate Pose With a Block
As previously mentioned, you should avoid pressing on the extended leg. Partly because the intention of the pose is to float in the side bend position, and partly due to the risk of hurting your hip or knee.
If you find it difficult to keep your body suspended without weighting the bottom hand, place a block in front of your extended leg.
The block can be moved anywhere between your thigh and ankle, depending on the depth of your side bend. Over time, you can strengthen the muscles in your torso to lessen the need for the block.
Gate Pose Against the Wall
One of the common mistakes made by yoga practitioners in Gate Pose is forgetting the purpose of this asana. This pose is designed as a side bend, which means the torso should stay in line with the legs to achieve the best effect. If the yogi bends at the hip or turns their chest to face the extended leg, they may reach further, but miss out on the amazing benefits of the side stretch.
To check your alignment, and to help you stay in the correct form, you can practice Gate Pose facing the wall. Start by kneeling as close as you can to the wall. If possible, your thighs, hips, belly, and chest should all be in contact with the wall.
As you begin to lean sidewards, try to maintain that contact, keeping the hip flexors extended and the chest facing forward. As well as helping you achieve the purest side bend, this variation can improve your shoulder mobility, as you will have to keep your top arm directly above the body, as opposed to in front of it.
Precautions and Contraindications
- New to yoga. If performed by a beginner yogi, Gate Pose should be closely monitored by a teacher and by the practitioner themselves. Although it may not look like it, it is quite a complex asana. If there is any sign of strain, discomfort, or pain, the practitioner should exit the pose. If you struggle in Gate Pose, consider using one of the variations.
- Recent or chronic injury. If you have an injury that could affect your practice, namely a knee, shoulder, neck, or rib injury, it’s important to take every precaution and skip the pose if necessary. The level of injury can vary dramatically, so you don’t necessarily have to give up on Gate Pose. However, if you feel that your injury is exacerbated by performing Parighasana, you should stop immediately.
- Joint issues. If you suffer from an acute or chronic condition that affects your joints, you may need to modify this pose or skip it altogether. It’s a good idea to consult your physician as well as your yoga teacher if you are cleared for practice.
- Balance and coordination. While the physical aspects of the pose are important, it’s also vital that you maintain your balance. With the gaze directed upwards, it can be disorienting, especially if you suffer from a condition that affects your balance, such as vertigo, dizzy spells, or an inner ear infection. If necessary, you can keep your gaze directed forward, affixed on a visual anchor point.
- Pregnancy. In the late stages of pregnancy, Gate Pose can put too much pressure on the spine. It may be a good idea to opt for a side stretch with lower risk of injury.
Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)
Reclined Side Bend a.k.a. Banana Back (Supta Ardha Chandrasana)
Half Circle Pose (Ardha Mandalasana)
Knees-to-Chest Pose (Apanasana)
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
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