Halasana - The Plow Pose

At a Glance

The name of the pose is symbolic: The plow is a sharp instrument used to prepare the soil for sowing by softening and turning the layers of earth, thus kick-starting its nurturing power. The shape of the body in this asana very much resembles an old fashioned plow. Not only is the body placed upside down and turned around, but the mind is sharpened through the practice which prepares for the seeds of consciousness to grow. On top of the pose's profound esoteric potential, the inverted forward bend induces diaphragmatic breathing, massages all internal organs and has beneficial effects on the back, nervous system, thyroid and thymus glands.

POSE TYPE
Supine pose

POSE CATEGORY
Inversion

ORIGIN
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
Swami Sivananda
Dhirendra Brahmachari

SANSKRIT
Halasana
हलासन

PRONUNCIATION
hah-LAHS-anna

TRANSLATION
Plow (Hala)
Pose (Asana)

Performance

STARTING
Lie in a supine position, legs together, arms close to the body, aligning the entire body, bringing the head in line with the spine.

ENTERING
Lift the pelvis and lower back, rolling the shoulders backward by moving the shoulder blades close to each other. Optionally, the hands may be interlocked under the buttocks.
Lift the legs and slowly roll backward by bending the legs and bringing the knees toward the face, shifting the torso into a vertical position. Optionally, support the straightening of the spine with the palms on the lower back.
Carefully and gradually bring the feet down toward the ground behind the head, the tucked toes placed on the ground. (Pointing the toes away from the head is a slightly more demanding variation.)
The legs need to be kept straight, the feet are close together but are not touching each other. The arms are on the ground behind the back with the fingers interlocked or with the palms facing upward.
Care should be taken that the arms do not separate too far from each other: Keep the upper arms parallel, by moving the elbows toward each other ensures that the shoulder blades remain close to each other, thus protecting the upper spine and neck.
To protect the neck, the head must not be moved during the entire performance.
The asana should never be entered or performed with jerks, as various structures of the body may get dislocated.
One may alternatively enter into the pose by first raising the whole body into a vertical position (Sarvangasana), and from there slowly lowering down the legs behind the head.

RELEASING
Bring the knees close to the face, push the palms into the ground, and carefully, slowly roll out of the posture, vertebra by vertebra.
Care should be taken to keep the head on the floor for a period of recovery.

VARIATION
A triple folded Yoga mat or a big flat pillow may be placed under the shoulders while the head is kept on the floor (so back and neck are not on the pillow).This helps to free the neck and to compensate for inflexibility of shoulders and neck, and helps to assume a comfortable body position.
Stiffness in the hamstrings, hips and spine may hinder the toes to reach the ground. In such cases, one may first rest in the posture with bent legs, aspiring to straighten them gradually. If this is not possible, pillows or even a chair may be placed under the feet to establish the connection to the ground, and to stabilize the posture.

Effects

PHYSIOLOGICAL
- Stretches the shoulders and spine.
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles.
- Stimulates the spleen, the adrenal, thyroid and thymus gland.
- Tones the spinal nerves.

ENERGETIC
- Activates the Third Eye Chakra.

PSYCHOLOGICAL
- Harmonizes the mind, increases intelligence, and concentration.

Contra-Indications

- Hernia
- Serious back problems
- Slipped discs
- Sciatica
- Neck injury, arthritis of the neck
- High blood pressure
- Asthma
- Diarrhea
- Should be avoided during menstruation
- Pregnancy: experienced women can practice until late stages of pregnancy, unexperienced women should not take up the practice after becoming pregnant

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