Parighasana, or Gate Pose, is a 4* on Iyengar’s scale of difficulty. Iyengar describes that, in this pose, “the body resembles a cross beam used for locking a gate.”
Ironically, Parighasana is a difficult pose to unlock. The intensity of the stretch in your left side body is countered by the depth of the bend in your right side body. We rarely practice such extreme lateral stretching and bending in our daily lives.
There are a few keys to unlocking greater depth within the pose. Firstly, preparatory poses can help open the side body and legs to prepare for the deeper lateral stretch of Parighasana. I find Utthita Trikonasana to be the most useful preparatory pose. In many ways, Utthita Trikonasana mimics Parighasana. Practicing Utthita Trikonasana, especially with the upper arm extended beside the upper ear, can begin to open up the side body. In Parighasana, the torso has a tendency to swing forward toward the midline, so poses like Utthita Trikonasana can also help establish the importance of keeping the torso in line with the extended leg. Other asanas, including Prasarita Padottanasana I and Virasana, may prepare the body for Parighasana as well.
As with so many of the asanas, proper use of the breath can facilitate a deeper expression of the pose. Iyengar instructs the practitioner to exhale while moving the torso and right arm down toward the right leg. As you exhale, you gradually create more space between your right leg and your torso. This allows you, however subtly, to inch your torso closer to your extended right leg.
Yoga Journal suggests the use of partnering exercises to deepen the pose, too. Facing your extended right leg, your partner can press her toes into your right hip crease, while also gently pulling your right wrist to extend your hand closer to your toes. Personally, I haven’t experienced the benefits of this particular partnering exercise, but perhaps it will serve a purpose for you.
Regardless of how far you’re able to fold over your extended leg, Parighasana offers you an unfamiliar stretch in the side body that creates elasticity and freedom in your spine.