Picture this: your alarm goes off in the morning and you reluctantly roll out of bed after several alarm snoozes. You rub your eyes and stretch your arms overhead while leaning left and right. Suddenly, you’re a little less grumpy and a lot more supple in the body.
In yoga, that average morning stretch is known as a side bend - such as Parighasana, gate pose, the subject of this week’s Yoga in a GIF-y.
Although side bends can be deeply satisfying they also come with some precautions. Tight hamstrings and lower back muscles and limited mobility in the pelvis restrict the movement in the side body and, if pushed too far, can result in injury.
A simple way to avoid that is by practicing poses such as Parivrtta Sukhasana first to warm up the spine. Parivrtta Sukhasana takes the hamstring stretch out of the equation and gives your back an opportunity to bend with ease.
When your body is ready, move on to Parighasana. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Stand on your shins with your toes untucked.
Extend the right leg out to the right with your toes pointing towards the right side of your mat.
Point your right foot until your entire foot steps on the floor. If doing this creates discomfort in the top of the foot, feel free to add a yoga block or book under your toes.
Inhale and reach your arms out to the side parallel to the floor.
On your exhale bend to right side keeping your body in the same plane as your right leg.
As you inhale, sweep your left arm next to your ear to point in the same direction as the right foot.
Stay here for 5 to 10 cycles of breath.
On your inhale pull yourself back up and draw the right knee in to stand on your shins again.
Repeat steps 2-8 on the left.