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Halasana (Plow Pose), a full-body stretch that positions your body upside down with your feet over your head, offers interesting new perspectives. Practice it before settling into meditation, pranayama, Savasana (Corpse Pose), or before going to sleep.
Regular practice of Halasana stretches the thoracic, lumbar, and cervical regions of the spine, increasing circulation and suppleness. This posture can relieve backache, stretch the shoulders, and lengthen the spine. It can also reduce phlegm or mucus in the sinuses and respiratory system, and gradually lengthens and regulates the breath.
Carefully done, Plow Pose can release tension in the neck and throat. But prep and practice with care to avoid neck strain or injury.
Plow Pose basics
Sanskrit: Halasana (hah-LAHS-ah-nah)
Pose type: Inversion
Targets: Upper body
Why we love it: “Plow Pose certainly gives you a new perspective on things. Almost every body part is doing something it doesn’t normally do: You’re looking up at your knees. Your hips are higher than anything else. Your feet are over your head,” says Yoga Journal senior editor Tamara Jeffries. “This is a pose that requires you to shift your thinking while you’re doing it. You begin in a restful reclined position, then have to use strength to lift the body up, flexibility to take the body over, and careful attention to assure that your neck is safe. I find that once I’m in the pose with my toes tucked overhead, it’s surprisingly restful.”
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This calming pose reduces stress and fatigue. Additionally, it stretches your shoulders and spine—and can be therapeutic for backaches, headaches, insomnia, and sinusitis.
Plow Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Stack three blankets so that their edges line up. Place the stack near the front of your mat so that their edges line up near the middle of the mat.
- Sit at the front end of your mat and lie back over the blankets so they support your torso. Adjust your position so that the tops of your shoulders are about an inch over the edge and the back your head rests on the floor. Lie face up so that the front of your neck is long and there’s space between the back of your neck and the floor.
- Bring your knees toward your chest, then straighten your legs toward the ceiling.
- Using the strength of your abs—and supporting yourself with both hands at your low or mid back—lift your hips off the floor and roll up until you are supported by your shoulders. Stack your hips above your shoulders.
- Slowly lower your legs backward over your head until your toes reach the ground behind you. Rest your toes on the ground, feet flexed.
- Release your hands and place your arms no the floor, palms down or with hands clasped. Press down with your outer upper arms and shoulders to create more lift along the spine.
- Hold for 5 breaths or more.
- To exit, unclasp your hands, press your arms and hands into the mat, and slowly roll down one vertebrae at a time.
- Take a few moments to allow the back to settle back into its normal curves.
Teaching Plow Pose
These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- Always keep space between the back of the neck and the floor, to protect the cervical spine from injury.
- When coming into this pose, squeeze your shoulder blades together to help yourself lift up onto the tops of your shoulders. But once you are in the pose, broaden your shoulder blades across the back to open the sternum.
- You can overstretch your neck if you pull your shoulders too far away from your ears. While the tops of your shoulders should push down into the blankets, they should be lifted slightly toward your ears to keep the back of your neck and throat soft.
Variation: Legs up
A “freestyle” variation of Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose), you receive the benefits of the inversion without putting weight on your neck. Lie down with your feet on the floor and knees up. Lift your hips to place a block under your sacrum, then raise the legs straight up. Stay in the position for a few breaths, then lower the legs, remove the block, and lie flat, allowing the spine to return to neutral.