How to Do Plow Pose in Yoga
Plow Pose is an inverted yoga posture that stretches the spine and shoulders while rejuvenating the nervous system. Because the pose calms and relaxes the nerves, brain, and heart, it is traditionally practiced near the end of a yoga class to help prepare the practitioner for Corpse Pose (Savasana) and meditation.
The Sanskrit name for the pose, "Halasana" (hah-LAHS-uh-nuh), comes from two words:
- "Hala" — meaning "plow"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
It is named after the shape of an Indian plow (or plough), which is used to cultivate the land. In practice, the pose's soothing and revitalizing aspects prepare the landscape of your mind, body, and spirit for deep contemplation and renewal.
Benefits of Plow Pose
Plow Pose opens the neck, shoulders, and back. By compressing the abdomen, it massages and tones the digestive organs, which improves detoxification. This pose stimulates and regulates the thyroid gland, relieves excess phlegm and mucus, and regulates the breath.
Yoga is a method to follow to help your body and your breath and your mind move into that peaceful state.
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Regular practice of Plow Pose calms and restores the sympathetic nervous system, improves memory and concentration, and relieves stress and fatigue. It nourishes the spine and rejuvenates the entire body. This pose is also therapeutic for headaches, infertility, and insomnia.
Do not practice this pose if you are currently experiencing diarrhea. Also avoid this pose if you have glaucoma or other eye problems, or a serious back or neck injury. Women who are menstruating should consult with their teacher before practicing inversions, such as Halasana. Women who are pregnant can practice Halasana if it is already a part of their regular practice; otherwise, wait at least eight weeks after giving birth before attempting this pose. Those with asthma or high blood pressure should only practice a version of the pose with the legs supported if the feet do not come all the way to the ground (see Modifications & Variations, below).
The full expression of the pose — with the feet on the floor — should only be practiced by intermediate and advanced students who have a regular practice. Do not attempt the full version of the pose without the guidance of an experienced, knowledgeable instructor.
Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin by lying flat on your back with your legs extended and your arms at your sides, palms down.
- On an inhalation, use your abdominal muscles to lift your legs and hips up toward the ceiling. Bring your torso perpendicular to the floor. Straighten your legs and slowly lower your toes to the floor with your legs fully extended.
- If your toes do not yet touch the floor, support your back with your hands. Lower your legs as far as possible, keeping your legs straight. Continue to keep your back supported if your feet do not touch the floor.
- If your feet rest comfortably, extend your arms along the floor and interlace your fingers. Press your upper arms firmly into the floor, drawing down through the pinkie finger side of your hands.
- Align your hips over your shoulders. Un-tuck your toes and press the tops of your feet into the floor.
- Lift your tailbone higher, and draw your inner groin deep into your pelvis. Keep a space between your chin and chest, and at the same time, lift your chest to open the upper back. Soften your throat. Gaze down toward your cheeks.
- Hold the pose for up to five minutes.
- To release, support your back with your hands. Then, slowly roll down, one vertebra at a time, bending your knees if you need to.
Modifications & Variations
Plow Pose can provide a host of benefits to your mind, body, and spirit when practiced regularly. It’s important to feel comfortable and relaxed throughout the pose. Be sure to make whatever changes you need to reduce discomfort when practicing it. Here are a few suggestions:
- For extra shoulder support, place a folded, firm blanket beneath your shoulders before coming into the pose. Your head and neck should be off the blanket.
- Those with very tight shoulders or large breasts can add more height (3-4 blankets) to feel comfortable and supported.
- Many beginners find that their toes do not yet reach the floor. If this is the case, brace a chair against a wall behind you. Then, practice the pose with your legs resting on the chair. If the chair is very comfortable and you want to go deeper, switch to resting your feet on a bolster. Gradually, your feet will come all the way to the floor.
- If you do not have a chair or bolster available, practice the pose with a wall behind you. Rest your feet along the wall for support.
- Experienced students can deepen the stretch by performing Side Plow Pose (called "Parsva Halasana" in Sanskrit). Only practice this variation if your feet rest comfortably on the floor.
- Perform steps 1-3 in Instructions, above.
- Then, walk your feet to the left as far as it is comfortable, keeping your pelvis neutral and your hips lifted. Hold for a few breaths, then walk your feet back to center. Rest here, then walk your feet to the right. Hold for a few breaths, then come back to center and release the pose.
Halasana is a rejuvenating and invigorating pose when practiced correctly! Be sure to take it slowly and make whatever adjustments you need to reduce discomfort. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Breathe consciously throughout the pose. Continually bringing your awareness back to your breath will help relax your mind and body even further, preparing your body for a deep, renewing state of health and well-being.
- It might feel awkward getting into the pose the first few times you try it. Don’t worry about that, and take your time getting there correctly. Once you’re in the pose, you will gain all of the benefits!
- Take the pose slowly — do not swing your legs up.
- Keep your legs active and firm with straight knees. Do not squeeze your buttocks.
- Be patient. With time and practice, gravity will take over and your feet will eventually come to rest comfortably on the floor.
Cultivate Your Mind, Body, & Spirit
Regularly practicing Plow Pose can bring a deep sense of serenity and peace to your life, even off the mat. It can be a great pose to practice after a long day on your feet, or after an activity that requires a lot of emotional or intellectual stamina. Allow yourself plenty of time to rest peacefully after the pose. When you let your mind settle, you become rejuvenated and renewed!