Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Asana Analysis: Gate Pose/Parighasana
This is one of the few true side-bending poses in yoga. Unlike Triangle or Side Angle poses, Gate pose requires that we laterally flex the spine, simultaneously shortening one side and lengthening the other. This pose improves strength and flexibility of the torso and may be beneficial for the lungs, kidneys and digestive organs.
Muscles Stretched: Adductors of the the extended leg. Obliques, intercostals, latissimus dorsi, quadratus lumborum (QL) and erector spinae (ES) on the kneeling side.
Muscles Strengthened: Obliques, transversus abdominis, erector spinae. Quadriceps, hip external rotators and gastrocsoleus of the extended leg.
Points of Body Awareness:
*Be sure that the thigh of the kneeling leg is vertical.
*Be sure that the pelvis is level, not hiking up on the extended side.
*The toes of the extended leg are traditionally pointed down, pressing into the floor. But they may also be flexed up.
*Keep the knee cap of the extended leg (and the toes if flexed) pointing strait up, toward the ceiling.
*Allow the spine to side-bend toward the extended leg, but keep the shoulders in line with the hips and extended leg.
*Breath into the side ribs. Feel the intercostal muscles between the ribs, stretch with your inhalation and release/relax with your exhalation.
*Hold for 5 to 10 TATD Breaths. Come back up to center with an inhalation.
Those with very tight adductors may not be able to kneel in this posture without tilting the pelvis up on the extended side. This will likely cause too much compression in the lumbar spine and possibly stress the SI joints. You can correct this by kneeling on a block or stack of books to effectively lengthen the femur bone.
This is a simple posture that I have recently used with many patients. This posture can stretch tight errector spinae and QL muscles more safely and effectively than most any other stretch. I have had patients with HNPs, lumbar nerve root impingement and healed pelvic fractures do this pose with good success. In fact many patients light up when they try this pose because it feels so good.
You can modify this pose with slight trunk flexion and/or forward rotation to get more stretch in the QL. Use caution with this modification for those with HNPs.
This pose is contraindicated for anyone with acute knee/patella-femoral pain or swelling. It may also be contraindicated for those with large HNPs, or bilateral lumbar stenosis. This pose can be done unilaterally for those with unilateral nerve root impingement and for those with functional or structural scoliosis.
Image from Yoga Journal.