Halasana | Plow Pose
hala = plow
Type of Pose: Inversion
•Calms the brain
•Stimulates the abdominal organs, and thyroid gland
•Stretches the shoulders and spine
•Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
•Reduces stress and fatigue
• Therapeutic for backache, headache, infertility, insomnia, sinusitis
This pose is considered to be intermediate to advanced with the feet on the floor. It is not advisable to perform the pose with feet on the floor without sufficient prior experience or unless with the supervision of an experienced instructor.
•Asthma or high blood pressure: Practice Halasana with the legs supported on props.
•Pregnancy: If experienced with this pose, one can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. However, don’t take up the practice of Halasana after you become pregnant.
Step by Step
1. From Salamba Sarvangasana, exhale and bend from the hip joints to slowly lower your toes to the floor above and beyond your head. As much as possible, keep your torso perpendicular to the floor and your legs fully extended.
2. With your toes on the floor, lift your top thighs and tailbone toward the ceiling and draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis. Imagine that your torso is hanging from the height of your groins. Continue to draw your chin away from your sternum and soften your throat.
3. You can continue to press your hands against the back torso, pushing the back up toward the ceiling as you press the backs of the upper arms down into the ground. Or you can release your hands away from your back and stretch the arms out behind you on the floor, opposite the legs. (Note: Only release the hands from the back torso if the toes are on the floor. There can be too much pressure on the back of the neck without support from the hands or the toes.) Clasp the hands and press the arms actively down into the ground as you lift the thighs toward the ceiling.
4. Relax the muscles of the face. Do not look up but keep the gaze on the chest. The neck should be soft. Lift the sternum and chest to relax the throat and to ensure effortless breathing. Separate the legs if feeling choked in final posture.
5. Halasana is usually performed after Sarvangasana for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. To exit the pose bring your hands onto your back again, lift back into Sarvangasana with an exhalation, then roll down onto your back, or simply roll out of the pose on an exhalation.
Beginner Tips: An important option that is recommended for beginner as well as advanced students, is to place a folded blanket or folded mat under the shoulders, allowing the head to sit over the edge. This will release pressure from the cervical spine.
Most beginning students can’t comfortably rest their feet on the floor, but they can still practice this pose with an appropriate prop.
• Brace the back of a metal folding chair against a wall and set one long edge of a shoulder support (blanket or folded mat) a foot or so away from the front edge of the seat. The exact distance between the chair and support will depend on height -taller students will be farther away, shorter students closer. Lie down on the support, with the head on the floor between the support and the chair. Roll up with an exhalation, resting the feet on the seat. Check to see that the body position is neither too close nor too far from the chair, then lift into Salamba Sarvangasana before moving into Halasana.
•As an alternative to a chair, bring the feet to press against a wall for stability.
•If the feet are able to come close to the floor, use a block under the feet and rest them there.
Deepen the Pose: Engage the hamstrings and lift the sit bones towards the sky to help bring the back perpendicular to the floor.
Misalignments: In this pose (and in Salamba Sarvangasana) there’s a tendency to overstretch the neck by pulling the shoulders too far away from the ears. While the tops of the shoulders should push down into the ground, they should be lifted slightly toward the ears to keep the back of the neck and throat soft.
Variation: Parsva Halasana (pronounced PARSH-vah, parsva = side or flank)
This pose can only be performed with the feet on the floor. Perform Halasana, keeping your hands on your back. With an exhalation walk your feet to the left as far as you comfortably can. One hip or the other may sink toward the floor, so try to keep the pelvis in a relatively neutral position, hips parallel to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then inhale the feet back to center. Take 2 or 3 breaths, then exhale the feet to the right for the same length of time, come back to center, and release Halasana.