parigha = an iron bar or beam used for locking or shutting a gate
The pose described immediately below is a simplified variation of the full pose. Then we describe the full pose afterward.
Gate Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
Kneel on the floor. Stretch your right leg out to the right and press the foot to the floor, or use a block for extra support if you can’t reach. Keep your left knee directly below your left hip (so the thigh is perpendicular to the floor), and align your right heel with the left knee. Turn your pelvis slightly to the right (so the left hip point comes forward of the right), but turn your upper torso back to the left. Point the kneecap toward the ceiling, which will require you to turn your right leg out.
As you inhale, bring your arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor, palms down. Bend to the right over the plane of the right leg and lay your right hand down on the shin, ankle, or the floor outside the right leg. Contract the right side of the torso and stretch the left. Place your left hand on the outer left hip and push the pelvis down toward the floor. Then slip the hand up to the lower left ribs and lift them toward the shoulder, creating space in the left waist.
With an inhalation, sweep the left arm over the back of the left ear. 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.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. Come up as you inhale, reaching through the top arm to draw the torso upright. Bring the right knee back beside the left, and repeat with the legs reversed.
Full Parighasana is a deep side bend. From the starting position described in Step 2 above, lean to the side over the straight leg. Lower the underside of the torso as close as possible to the top of the straight leg. Press the back of the lower hand on the top of the foot, then sweep the top arm over the back of the ear and join the palms. Finish as described in Step 4 above.
Contraindications and Cautions
With any serious knee injury, kneeling might be difficult or impossible. In this case, perform the pose sitting on a chair. Arrange your legs either in front of your torso, with knees at right angles, or stretch one leg out to the side, mimicking the full pose.
Beginners might not be able to press the foot of the straight leg flat onto the floor. There are two options: either raise the ball of the foot on a sandbag or thickly folded blanket, or work against a wall, with the ball of the foot pressed against the wall.
- Stretches the sides of the torso and spine
- Stretches the hamstrings
- Opens the shoulders
- Stimulates abdominal organs and lungs
Have your partner stand facing your straight-leg side; in this example, we’ll use the right leg. Inhale your right arm out to the side, parallel to the floor. Have your partner grasp your wrist and, at the same time, press the toes of his foot into your right groin. As you tip to the side, have your partner pull on the wrist and push on the groin. Lengthen out to the side, stretching the underside ribs and reaching the arm away from the deepening groin. When you reach your maximum stretch, have your partner let go. Then round yourself over to the side into the full pose.