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When a yoga teacher cues Gate Pose, it rarely elicits any groans or stink eyes. Actually, it does quite the contrary. It allows you to gently challenge your balance with your grounded knee and foot while your upper body and rib cage get blessed with more space. The posture targets perhaps the least-stretched muscles in the body, the intercostals, which become weak from poor posture. Although this pose is named after a gate, it actually helps you experience freedom.
Gate Pose Basics
Sanskrit: Parighasana (par-ee-GAHS-ah-nah)
Pose type: Side bend
Target area: Lower body
Why we love it: “I was at least a decade into practicing yoga before I experienced Parighasana for the first time,” says Yoga Journal senior editor Renee Marie Schettler. “And I was immediately dumbfounded. Where had this pose been my entire life?! No other pose creates such an extended yet supported stretch along my entire side body (and, when I shift my hips slightly forward, my aching IT bands). There’s also an ease and a grace about it that I feel I take away with me into life each time I practice it. I often joke with students that I could stay in this pose for the rest of class. Heck, I could stay here the rest of my life.”
Gate Pose improves posture and counteracts the effects of sitting for extended periods of time.
Gate Pose also strengthens your side body, including the obliques as well as the intercostal muscles. It also stretches large back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, and the muscles alongside your spine, including the erector spinae. It also strengthens the ankles and feet.
Gate Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Begin kneeling with your knees and feet hip distance apart. Bring your hands to your hips.
- Press down with all 10 toenails. Keep your pelvis in neutral position, neither tilting forward nor back, as you take your left leg straight out to the side in line with your right knee. Externally rotate from deep in your left hip socket and press the outer edge of your left foot and your left big toe mound into the floor. Keep your right hip directly over your knee.
- Inhale and take your right arm out to the side, externally rotating so that your palm faces the ceiling.
- Exhale and lean toward your straight leg, letting your left hand slide down your left leg as much as is comfortable. Do not force the stretch.
- Turn your head to gaze under your lifted right arm.
- Gently rotate your chest toward the ceiling. Be sure to keep your top shoulder blade back to avoid rounding the spine forward.
- Use your inhalations to lengthen your spine and deepen into the side body stretch.
- To release the pose, slowly stack your shoulders on top of your hips, come back to both knees, and rest on your heels. Repeat on the other side.
Variation: Gate Pose with a blanket
Gate pose can be practiced by either reaching toward your straight leg or away from it to create a long line from your fingertips to your foot. Be sure to keep your top shoulder blade back, avoiding rounding the spine forward. Place a blanket under your supporting bent knee for padding.
Variation: Gate Pose with a chair
Position a chair on a mat or against a wall so that it won’t slide. Stand in Tadasana beside the seat of the chair. Lift your left knee and rest your knee and shin on the seat of the chair, and grasp the back of the chair for support. Raise your right arm up overhead and arch slightly to the left.
Variation: Gate Pose sitting on a chair
Sit on a chair and shift your body to the left side of the seat. Keep your right knee facing forward with your knee aligned over your ankle and your foot firmly rooted to the floor. Straighten your left leg and extend it out to the side with your foot on the floor. Bend your torso to the left and place your hand on your left shin or thigh. Reach up toward the ceiling with your right hand.