Extend some loving attention to the side body that we often forget to stretch through Gate Pose, also known as Parighasana. This posture is especially good for stiff backs and relieving tension in the lower front sides of the abdomen.
(Pronounced as "pah-ree-GAHS-anna")
The Sanskrit word parigha means "a strong bar or beam that shuts a gate." In this pose, your body takes the shape of a traditional lock, closing an imaginary gate.
Kneel down on your yoga mat, facing the long side of the mat. If you have slight discomfort in your knees, then you can place a yoga blanket under the knees to cushion them. Bring your knees and ankles together with the tops of your feet against the mat behind you. Straighten your right leg out to the right side with the sole of your right foot pressing into the floor. Adjust your right ankle to make it in line with your left knee. Rotate the right foot out so the toes point about 45 degrees to the right. Do not bend the right knee. Now try to rotate the right leg out from the hip so that your right kneecap faces the sky. Check your left knee to make sure that it remains directly underneath your left hip. Tuck your tailbone in underneath your pelvis.
Inhale as you raise your arms up and out to the sides. Your palms face down while your hands and arms remain at shoulder level. Keep your arms straight. Take a few breaths. Then exhale as you bend down toward the right side. Maintaining straight arms, let the back of your right hand rest on the middle of your right shin. Your head will naturally come down so that the right ear begins to touch the right shoulder. Raise the left arm up straight over the head, making a 45-degree angle between your left arm and the ground. Elongate the entire left side of your torso.
Turn your head to look straight up at the ceiling. Rotate your torso from the waist slightly upward and away from the floor. Push down through the left thigh to prevent the left hip from sticking out forward or leaning back. Your hips should stay in line with each other.
You can stay in this position and hold it. If you are more flexible and feel ready to push on further, then continue to go deeper into the pose by sliding the back of your right hand all the way down to the top of your right foot. Then continue stretching the left arm further to the right side and all the way down until your can press your palms together with your head sandwiched between your arms. All the while, you do not disturb the positioning of your legs and do not collapse your torso down toward the floor. Continue looking slightly upward.
Hold the final posture for at least 30 seconds or longer when you gain more experience. Inhale as you lift your arms back up and come out of the pose. Repeat the same steps on the other side, holding the posture for the same amount of time on both sides.
If you have a serious knee injury less than 3 months old, or chronic inflammatory knee conditions, then it's best not to kneel on the floor. You can sit on the front edge of a chair instead. You have two options for your leg positioning while on the chair. Either you can keep your knees bent at 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor in front of you, or you can also stretch one of your legs out sideways to simulate the final position of the posture.
After you come into the pose, ask a partner to sit by your side near your extended right leg. They should hold your upper arm and pull it slightly toward them, and you should resist this pull by engaging your left thigh muscle and pushing back toward your left. While they pull you just enough to create some tension, they should also help rotate your torso back and up away from the floor to expand your chest and open your shoulders fully.
The best way to learn yoga is to take lessons from a professional teacher. Want to see the yoga classes near you?