Halasana is the plow pose. Set up blankets as instructed for the shoulderstand. Lie down on the blankets with the head and neck off the top edge of the blankets and the shoulder an inch or more away from the blanket edge. With knees bent and feet on the floor, press the upper arm bones down and lift and swing the hips up as the legs go over the head. Press the tips of the toes into the floor and stretch into the heels.
Lift the front of the thigh to the back of the thigh, stretching the legs fully. Support the back with the hands (SEE FIGURE 14-6). Stay for several breaths, depending upon your comfort level and steadiness. Walk the hands down toward the shoulder blades every few breaths.
FIGURE 14-6: Halasana
To come out of the pose, release the hands from the back and press the upper arms down as you slowly roll out of the pose. Bend the knees, feet flat on the floor, and move your body off the blankets toward your head, so the waist is on the top edge of the blankets where the shoulders were during the pose. After a few breaths resting in this position, move the buttocks off the blanket onto the floor and rest here for several breaths. Then cross the legs on the blanket and rest and change the cross and rest. Uncross the legs, roll onto the right side and press the hands down to bring yourself up to a seated position.
Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) and Halasana (plough pose) are usually done together. Try practicing them this way coming into Halasana first to set up the shoulders and arms properly for Sarvangasana. Then, after several breaths, come up into Sarvangasana, staying as long as you are comfortable and can maintain the extension of the spine and the lift and lengthening of the legs. Then, come back down into Halasana. Stay in Halasana according to your comfort and ease and then come down and do the resting sequence described in Sarvangasana and Halasana.
If your feet don't reach the floor in Halasana, place a chair behind the blankets. Come into Halasana and place the tips of the toes on the chair seat (refer to FIGURE 14-2,). Support the back with the hands. Observe whether you are on the top of the shoulders. Stay in the pose and when ready to come out, release the hands from the back, pressing the upper arm bones down and rolling out of the pose.
FIGURE 14-7: Supported Ardha Halasana with bent legs and shins resting on chair back
Halasana can be done as a passive, restorative pose by using a chair with a bolster or stack of folded blankets on the chair seat. The chair can be turned sideways if there is not enough room for the legs to go through the space between the chair back and the chair seat. As you come into the pose, the thighs rest on the bolster or blankets. The hands can support the back, or the arms can come out to the sides, by the shoulders, with the elbows bent (SEE FIGURE 14-7).
If you suffer from ischemia or cervical spondylosis, do not perform Halasana. If you're subject to migraines, asthma, or other breathing problems, high blood pressure, or fatigue, or if you're overweight, practice using props and with your eyes closed.
The benefits of Halasana include the following:
It relieves fatigue.
It improves digestion.
It lengthens the back muscles and the spine, improving its alignment.
It tones, squeezes, and stimulates the abdominal organs.
When done actively, not passively as a restorative pose, it strengthens the spine and the spinal muscles.
In the rounded, restorative Halasana, the back muscles are lengthened.
It helps relieve backache.
It improves forward-bending ability by increasing suppleness of the back muscles and the hinging of the hip joint.
The arm, neck, and back muscles, and the spine must become stronger in order to maintain the shoulderstand and headstand postures. Begin daily (except during menstruation) with thirty seconds or ten breaths in each pose. After two weeks of solid, injury-free practice, increase it to one minute. Thereafter, increase your time by ten complete breaths or thirty seconds each month.