August 20, 2014

Visual Yoga Blog: Releasing Back & Shoulder Tension.



When I first got into yoga, Iyengar’s book Light on Yoga introduced me to a lot of poses, many of which I couldn’t do.

For the record, I still can’t do many of them today, and it’s not because they require an extreme range of flexibility. Some are still uncomfortable, like parighasana, the gate pose.

So, here’s the Gate, Rebooted: the side stretch is nowhere as intense, but it adds a nice twist through the spine that’s ever so helpful in releasing back, shoulder and lumbar spine tension.

In four easy steps:


1. Kneel and extend out your left leg.


2. Reach underneath your right arm to grab onto your left shin. It may have to be your left thigh, if you can’t quite reach the shin: no problem, as you can always adjust in the next level of the pose.


3. Drop your right shoulder (and the right side of the head) to your mat. At this point the pose should feel restful and fairly comfortable. If you’re able to slide your right hand down a little further without forcing, then go for it. Stay for four very slow breaths, letting your spine absorb the stretch.


4. Raise your left arm up in the air as illustrated, to deepen the twist and stretch. Stay for another four very slow breaths, and then come down and repeat on the second side.

Benefits: Fantastic back twist, inner thigh stretch, chest opener, and slight inversion, all packaged into a pose that can feel restful.

Avoid if: Your knee or your ankle hurts. The tripod-like support on the floor (knee, foot and shoulder) should divide the weight so as to make it easy on the shoulder, but if your shoulder doesn’t like the pose, or the back feels too challenged by it, you could cushion your shoulder with a pillow (rather than a block), or double up on your mat.

Final thoughts: The original pose never looked like much of a gate to me, and neither does this one. In fact, I’d like to officially rename this The Meteorologist Pose, because you look like you’re putting out your hand to feel the wind, and which way it’s going. The only problem is, poses are traditionally named after things (as in, the gate, or triangle), after flora (as in, tree, or lotus) or after animals (as in, frog or camel). If I start naming poses after professions, this might get weird.

But, now that I’ve crossed that bridge with the Meteorologist, coming up next will be the proctologist’s pose. No, just kidding.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Illustrations: provided by author


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