Plow Pose, Halasana, (hah-LAH-suh-nuh)
hala (plow) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Plough Pose
This full body stretch can provide deep relief down your spine and offer a place of calm introspection
Plow Pose Fundamentals
Stretch and release your entire body with this gentle yoga inversion. Plow Pose lengthens your spine, allowing you to relieve stiffness and back pain. That makes it particularly helpful to practice after prolonged sitting and to prepare you for meditation and sleep.
Halasana may also reduce phlegm in the sinuses and the entire respiratory system, which in turn improves and deepens your breath.
Plow Pose may look complex, but it requires strength only in the first stages. Once you reach it, it becomes a restful and relaxing position.
The full version of the pose, with toes touching the floor, is usually accessible to students who have been practicing for more than a year. If you’re only beginning to practice yoga, it may be quite challenging. Still, there are easier variations you can try to prepare your body and still enjoy Halasana.
It’s often said inverting your body can also invert your thinking and help you to shift your perspective, or find a new way of viewing things. Although we can not prove this idea, you can use it as your intention when you practice Plow Pose. That may be especially helpful in periods when you feel confused or uncertain about a decision you need to make.
By inverting our entire bodies, Plow Pose shares the same symbolism, literally giving us a fresh perspective, and encouraging us to consider new, and better ways to tackle anything that brings us distress.
Plow Pose & Classical Texts
The pose first appears in the 19th-century text Sritattvanidhi, and it is also one of the core asanas in the sequences of Iyengar, Hatha, and Sivananda yoga schools.
When we look at the symbolism of the plow in India, it may be viewed through Indian classical texts. They all share a similar idea, and one of the most renowned stories appears in the Indian epic called Ramayana.
In the story, a king called Janaka wasn’t able to have a child with his wife. That made him depressed, and his kingdom suffered as a result.
Finally, a drought dried up all the crops in the kingdom. Feeling responsible for the deterioration of his kingdom, the king decided to plow the fields himself.When he was plowing, he found a baby in the land and adopted it with his wife.
This story shows how even the most basic tool like a plow may help the user find hidden treasures – or solutions to seemingly unresolvable problems. It also teaches us how shifting our perspective and focusing on others may help resolve our problems.
The plow is often a symbol of difficult situations. It’s up to us to decide how we want to tackle them, and whether we want to grow through them, or use them as an excuse for destruction.
Plow Pose & The Chakra System
Energetically, Plow pose works mainly on the Solar Plexus and Throat Chakras. In this manner, it may help bring a sense of self-esteem and internal power, improve our communication, and increase willpower.
Plow Pose Benefits
- Opens up and develops flexibility in the wrists, thighs, pelvis, spine, and shoulders.
- Strengthens the leg, back, abdominal muscles, and neck.
- Strengthens the colon and stimulates the organs of the digestive system, which may help combat constipation, indigestion, and other issues related to the digestive system.
- Relieves back pain by both stretching and strengthening the back and the spinal cord.
- Helps relieve stress and anxiety, and promotes tranquility. That’s especially true when the pose is paired with proper breathing.
- Helps manage blood sugar levels.
- Stimulates and improves the function of the thyroid gland.
- May be used as a remedy for leg cramps.
- By improving blood circulation to the head, the pose may strengthen hair roots and improve overall hair health (when done regularly).
How To Do Plow Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Begin lying on the floor in Corpse Pose, but keep your body active. Take this moment to relax and bring back awareness to your body.
2. With an Inhale, lift your feet to a 90-degree angle. Then, hold onto the toes and raise your head, bringing it closer to the knees. This pose prepares your body for Halasana, and it is always good to practice it before the full expression of the pose.
3. Now, release the head back to the floor, and use your hands to support the lower back. Simultaneously, begin lifting your hips and back off the floor.
4. Lift your entire lower body as much as you need to bring the toes to the floor behind the top of your head.
5. If you are not able to reach the toes to the floor, keep your hands on your lower back for support. If your toes are touching the ground, you can release your hands to the floor, and extend your arms towards the back of your mat.
6. Hold the pose for around 5 breaths. When you’re ready to release, use your hands to support your lower body, and lower it to the ground one vertebra at a time. Once your hips are on the ground, make sure to move your legs slowly, instead of just dropping them to the floor.
7. Spend some time in Corpse pose to relax your body before you go on with your next pose.
Tips And Tricks:
- Always leave some room between your neck and the floor to avoid unnecessary strain.
- When you’re entering the pose, squeeze the shoulder blades to ensure you are able to manage your weight on the top of your shoulders. Once you have reached the position, you can broaden the shoulder blades and release your entire upper back section to the ground.
- Keep your legs extended, don’t bend your knees to try and touch the floor with your toes. Instead, if your toes aren’t reaching the ground, keep your hands on your lower back.
- If you are feeling too much tension in your hamstrings, you can widen your feet slightly to the sides.
- Your movement should be slow and controlled, both when you’re entering and exiting the pose.
- Maintain some space between your chest and your chin, and try to stack your hips over your shoulders.
Plow Pose Variation:
Plow Pose Variation: Half Plow Pose
This variation is perfect if you want to enjoy the benefits of an inversion, but don’t feel comfortable in the full Plow pose. It is also a more appropriate variation for women during their period.
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Lift your hips and place a block or a similar, firm prop underneath (like a book, for example). Then raise your legs straight up, keeping them extended, and your feet flexed.
Plow Pose Variation: Supported Shoulders
This is a common Plow Pose variation, which aims to take some stress off your neck and shoulders. It is a great way to start practicing the full expression of the pose without any risk.
For this pose, you will need a folded blanket, towel, or a pillow, but note that you will likely need to stack more than one prop to reach the ideal height. Place the blankets or other prop of choice beneath your shoulders to elevate them. Your head should still rest on the floor, and your shoulders should hang slightly off the edge to put your neck in a neutral position, away from the ground.
Plow Pose Variation: Supported Legs
If you want to attempt the full Plow Pose, but your toes don’t yet reach the floor, you can try this variation. Begin by placing a chair behind you, ideally against a wall, so it’s stable. Then use it to support your feet when you shift your legs overhead.
Once this becomes comfortable and when you want to go deeper, you can lower the support by using a bolster or a block. Eventually, you will be able to come all the way down to the floor.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Turning the head. Turning your head while in this pose may be harmful to your neck. Keep your gaze towards the sky, to reduce the strain on your neck.
Releasing the hands to the ground before you’re ready. You should only remove the hands from your back if your feet are touching the floor, and you’re feeling stable in the pose.
Injuries and Conditions
If you have a neck or shoulder injury or severe back issues, avoid this pose completely, as it places a lot of tension on the spine. Also refrain from practicing the pose if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, or any issues in the stomach and the digestive system, as the position may further aggravate those issues. Finally, avoid it if you have glaucoma and migraines.
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