How to do Halasana Pose
- Begin lying on the mat in a supine position. Bring your knees and ankles together. Lay your arms by your side, palms down. Press your hands firmly into the mat.
- Inhale. Engage your abdomen as you lift your feet straight up into the air and hold them perpendicular to the mat.
- Exhale. Press your palms into the mat actively to lift your buttocks off the floor. Keep your ankles and knees together and your legs straight. Bring your feet over your head as you roll your back off the mat until you are balancing on just your shoulders and arms.
- Draw your chin away from your sternum to maintain space in the middle and upper neck.
- Drop your feet towards the mat above your head. When you feel resistance in your neck or hamstring muscles, stop.
- If your feet touch the mat above your head, tuck your toes under. Press through your toes to lift your tailbone higher. Internally rotate your upper thighs by drawing your groin muscles in towards your pelvis.
- Breath and hold the pose.
- Inhale. Slowly roll your back onto the mat, vertebra by vertebra. Raise your feet straight up. Exhale and slowly lower them onto the mat.
Modifications and Props
Prop your feet. As a beginner, it is completely normal if your feet don’t touch the mat. In fact, forcing your feet down can damage your neck and hamstring muscles. Prop your feet by placing a folding chair, block, or folded blanket above your head. If you’re using a folding chair, brace the back of the chair against a wall.
Bend your knees to accommodate tight hamstrings. If yoga plow strains your tight hamstrings, adjust the pose by bending your knees slightly in steps three through eight (above).
Plow Pose Variation I (Halasana). Deepen the stretch in the neck, shoulders, and upper back by walking your feet away from your body in step six (above). This tight chin lock is described by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in his influential asana guide.
Plow Pose Variation II (Halasana). If you can comfortably plant your toes on the mat in plow pose, take the pose deeper with this variation. In step six (above), tuck your toes and walk your feet in towards your head. Release your palms from the mat, and slowly sweep your arms up. Turn your palms in and take hold of the outside of your feet. This variation stretches the shoulder and lower back muscles.
Dynamic Plow Pose yoga (Druta Halasana). The dynamic version of plow pose transitions rapidly between plow pose and sitting forward fold (paschimottanasana) for an aerobic stretch. Only attempt this pose if transitioning in and out of yoga plow is easy. Move rapidly through steps one through six (above). Skip step seven and move immediately into step eight. On the exhale, bring your legs to the mat and sit up into forward fold. Inhale into step two, raising your legs as you lie back.
Half Lotus Plow Pose (Ardha Padma Halasana). Add a challenging external rotation of the hip to your plow pose with this variation. In step one (above), bend your right knee and place your right foot in the crease of your left hip for half lotus pose (ardha padmasana). Maintain this leg positioning throughout the pose. After step eight, repeat with the left leg in half lotus.
Partner Plow (Stambhan Asana). This partner version of the yoga plow is another brainchild of Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s. Like all partner poses, it adds a lighthearted social dynamic to the asana. In step one (above), lie on the floor with the crown of your head touching your partner’s. Extend your arms over your head on the floor and take hold of your partner’s hands. Straighten your arms and, keeping hold of your partner’s hands, bring them to the floor. Keeping your arms in this position, go through steps two through eight. In steps five through seven, rest your feet on your partner’s belly. When you’ve finished, have your partner do steps two through eight. Alternate.
Conventionally, plow pose yoga follows shoulder stand. From shoulder stand, transition seamlessly into plow by bending at the waist and, keeping your legs straight, lowering your feet over your head with deliberate, controlled movement. Once you’ve dropped them as low as they’ll go, release your hands from your back. Straighten your arms and press your palms into the mat. Alternatively, clasp your hands together against the mat.
Follow plow pose with another inversion like fish pose (matsyasana), reclined thunderbolt pose (supta vajrasana), or camel pose (ustrasana). These back bending inversions will counter the intense forward bend of plow pose.
Trapezius muscle. The trapezius muscle extends from the back of the head down to the shoulder blade. It is partially responsible for the gross motor movements of the head and neck. Plow pose stretches the trapezius muscle through the shoulders and neck. The further your feet are planted from your body, the more intense the stretch through the trapezius.
Erector spinae. The erector spinae is a bundle of muscles and tendons in the back that control extension and rotation. Because they are responsible for straightening the back, the strength of the erector spinae muscles are closely linked with posture. The upside down forward bend of plow pose strengthens these muscles.
Hamstring muscles. The three hamstring muscles – the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris – run along the back of the thigh. They extend the hip, flex the knee, and rotate the lower leg. Plow pose stretches the hamstrings, particularly when the feet are planted close to the body.
Triceps surae. The triceps surae consist of the gastrocnemius, in the back of the calf, and the soleus, in the front of the calf. These muscles stabilize the ankles and provide the power when walking and jumping. Planting the toes and pressing through them in plow pose stretches the two calf muscles.
Triceps brachii. The triceps brachii is the large muscle on the back of the upper arm responsible for straightening the arm. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk. Keeping the arms planted on the mat in plow pose lengthens the triceps.
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