Relaxing in Halasana (Plow Pose)
Halasana is so named because the basic shape of the pose literally resembles a traditional plow, a farming tool found in Indian cultures. Halasana frequently follows the practice of saravangasana (shoulder stand) and forms part of the ‘finishing sequence’ in the Ashtanga series. There are many benefits to practicing Halasana that may not be immediately apparent. For one, it calms down our sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response and is therefore both calming and restorative to our frazzled nerves and body. It also increases the suppleness and flexibility of the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine and increases circulation to our spine. There are also benefits to our endocrine system from practicing Halasana as it massages our thyroid gland and balances the secretion of thyroxine and adrenaline which then regulates our metabolism.
To begin Halasana, lie down on the mat and slightly rotate your shoulder inwards so that your shoulder blades rest flat on the ground. On an inhale, flex your hip joints and lift your legs with your feet pointing towards the ceiling, knee joint fully extended and press your lower back (lumbar region) into the ground. Exhale and draw your navel towards your spine as you curl your spine and bring your toes to the floor above your head. Plantar flex both your feet so that the front of your feet touches the mat. Keep both your legs extended and straight as you lift the top of your thighs and your tailbone towards the ceiling. You should feel both your quadricep femoris and bicep femoris working to keep your legs straight and lengthened. Open your sternum by keeping your shoulder blades firmly ground on the mat. With a slight external rotation of your shoulder joint, bring your hands to the oppposite side of your legs and interlock your fingers, extending your elbow joint fully and resting your elbow on the mat. Be careful not to hyperextend your elbows.
There was a time when my toes could not touch the mat and I found difficulty breathing comfortably in this pose. As your spine and hamstrings become more flexible over time and you learn to relax your diaphragm and chest, you would be able to reap the calming benefits of this wonderful pose. 🙂