November Focus of the Month


Parighasana, the Gate Pose + Four Gates of the Mandala

Parighasana is a deep side bend. It is useful for toning the abdominals, improving circulation, for working on right-left imbalances, expanding breathing capacity and increasing spinal flexibility.

The name is derived from the Sanskrit parigha, referring to the iron bar that closes a gate. It is said to be a good entry point into pranayama and meditation. Parighasana opens the muladhara, (root), manipura, (solar plexus), and anahata (heart) chakras.

We’ll practice this pose this month and let it take us into related poses; it’s a great way to prepare for several standing poses, like Parsvakonasana (side angle pose) and Visvamitrasana (Visvamitra’s pose), as well as seated poses, like Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (revolved head to knee pose).

Gates are associated with mandalas, which are geometric designs meant to symbolize the universe. The word mandala itself is derived from the root manda, which means essence, to which the suffix la, meaning container, has been added. Thus, one obvious connotation of mandala is that it is a container of essence. In its creation, a line materializes out of a dot. Other lines are drawn until they intersect, creating triangular geometric patterns. The outlying square symbolizes the physical world bound in four directions, represented by the four gates; and the midmost or central area is visualized as the essence and the circumference as grasping, thus in its complete picture a mandala means grasping the essence.

One mandala practice is realized in the form of a circular surya namaskar – it’s a really fun way to move around your mat. Another practice is to download a mandala and color it – a deeply meditative practice in itself and a wonderful winter activity to do alone or with friends or kids.

Each time we begin a class, we open a gateway into ourselves and then we close the gate at the end of class. Let us turn in the four directions of our universe for inspiration, support and guidance on our journey to grasp the essence.