Heaven for your Side Bodies
Welcome to our final week of the travel yoga pose breakdown, inspired by 5 Best Travel Yoga Poses You can do (Practically) Anywhere to Energize. This week, we’re getting deep into the side bodies with a movement we tend to overlook: lateral flexion.
As always: listen to your body—if a shape doesn’t feel good (pain is a different sensation then a releasing stretch), don’t do it. And as always, be sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting any new exercise routine.
If you’re a curious adventurer, looking for your next immersion and opportunity to practice travel yoga, join us in our upcoming retreat to Dominical, Costa Rica! Learn more about the beautiful beach town of Dominical here.
Travel Yoga Pose #5: Gate Pose
How could such a “stretchy” posture possible be energizing? Well, for starters, gate pose targets the muscles and fascia along your side bodies. Chances are, you’ve built up some cobwebs in this area. It’s not a commonly worked body region: we rarely come into side flexion throughout our day-to-day lives.
Through gate pose, you begin chipping away at the build-up of your side-body connective tissue. This promotes blood flow and stimulates oxygenated blood to regions it isn’t used to inhabiting—resulting in a boost of energy, bazing!
From a kneeling position, straighten your right leg to the right. Your extended leg’s toes should either face forward, knee forward, or to the right, knee points to ceiling. Your foot sole should remain fully grounded for either variation: if this isn’t possible, you can raise to your ball mount and work towards a flattened foot.
Reach your left hand up as you inhale, and bend at your right side body while you reach up and over to the right as you exhale. Many people like to drape their right arm on their right leg. Breathe here for 5-10 breaths.
Your bent knee should face forward. Your hip should stack directly above your bent knee. See above to troubleshoot knee alignment for your straight leg. Frequently, it is ideal to have your knee in alignment with your same leg’s second toe, regardless of where your toes are facing.
You know this by now, but no shrugging or slouching! Even in your extended arm’s shoulder.
Mirrors are also helpful in addressing improper leaning in gate pose. Essentially, you want your body flat (besides the shin/foot of your bent leg) along the frontal plane. In other words, if you were to remove your grounded shin/foot, your body would fit effortlessly into a large toaster without grazing the sides of said toaster.
This posture is stretchy, there’s no denying that. However, it does require some effort to maintain the lift of your torso and bend at your waist. If you feel like you’re just hanging out in this stretch, you may not be doing it correctly. Start slowly by easing into this pose. Notice when you reach a depth where your weight shifts from your torso and instead dumps into your extended leg or arm. Hold the shape just before this point.
- Loosens connective tissue build-up
- Supports spinal health
- Stretches intercostal muscles
- Increases lung capacity
- Promotes balance
- Stretches IT band
A seated variation may prove more suitable when practicing travel yoga. Everything for gate pose stays the same, just perform from a seat rather than kneeling.
Revolved Head to Knee pose
The name is a bit misleading—the goal isn’t to connect your head to your knee in the revolved variation of janu shirshasana. This variation of a side body stretch holds the same benefits of gate pose but also stretches your hip adductors, some of your hamstring muscles and allows for a deeper stretch. Read about parivritta janu shirshasana in yoga journal here.
What are your favorite travel yoga poses? We’re always looking to improve and revise content. Comment below or tag us on social media with your favorite travel yoga poses to energize.