Plow Pose - Halasana

How to Do Plow Pose - Halasana
Plow Pose - Halasana. Ann Pizer

Type of pose: Inversion

Benefits: Stretches the shoulders, back, neck, hamstrings and calves.

To prop or not to prop? That is the question in plow pose just as it is in shoulderstand. Each teacher has his or her own, often very strong, opinion about whether you should use a folded blanket under your shoulders in this pose. Those trained in Iyengar yoga are strong advocates for the prop (no surprise there).

The idea is that using the blanket makes more room for the neck so it doesn't get compressed and allows for a straighter spine. Having done it both ways, I prefer it with the blanket but it must be set up correctly. 

The blanket should be folded to a rectangular shape that is about as wide as your yoga mat. You can stack several thinly folded blankets if you want more height. Place the blanket at the very end of your mat or toward the middle of the mat with the mat folded back over it. Either way, the important thing is that your shoulders are on the blanket and your head is off it, resting on the bare floor. This is so your head can slide if necessary. Set yourself up this way and then lift the legs overhead.

If you don't like the blanket, you can get a similar effect by making sure that your shoulder blades are firmly tucked, making a little platform for your back as they do in bridge pose.

Instructions:

1. Come to lie on your back. If you are using a blanket, position yourself with your shoulders on the blanket and your head and neck on the floor. Tuck you shoulder blades under.

2. Lift your legs to 90 degrees and pause there.. Then lift your butt and use your abs to bring your feet up and over your head until your toes touch the floor behind your head.

Keep your legs straight.

3. Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms.

4. Roll your shoulders under one at a time.

5. Your hips should be aligned over your shoulders.

6. Once you are in position, do not turn your head to look around the room as this can be dangerous for the neck. Keep the neck straight and the gaze upwards.

7. Since the diaphragm is compressed, it's hard to breathe in this position. Try to stay for five deep breaths.

8. To come out, release your arms, lift your feet, and roll the spine one vertebra at a time slowly down to your mat. Keep your legs straight and feet together.

Beginners' Tips:

If your toes do not reach the floor overhead, you need to find something else for them to rest on.

1. One option is to practice the pose near a wall so that your feet will touch the wall and rest there when they come over head. It may take some trial and error to find the right distance from the wall.

2. Another option is to place a chair behind you that will catch the feet as they go over your head.

Again, you may have to experiment a bit to find the right place for the chair. 

Advanced Tips:

1. Plow is a good launching pad for shoulderstand. After your shoulderstand, come out through  karnapidasana.

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