Plough Pose  -Halasana

Step by step

  • From Salamba Sarvangasana lower the feet to the floor hinging from the hips. Or ..
  • Lie on your back with your upper back on a sturdy folded blanket, your head is resting on the mat, so the blanket ends in the hollow of the neck. The function of the blanket is to decrease the stretch in the back of the neck, to keep the back of the neck from flattening too much. You may need more than one blanket - make sure they are neatly folded and stacked.
  • Exhale draw your lower belly into your spine and firm your back into the floor.
  • Press your arms into the floor, inhale and lift your legs over your head towards the floor.
  • Allow the feet to lower towards the floor, perhaps the toes reach the floor, tuck the toes if they do. Stretch out through the heels.
  • Keep your gaze looking up, head still, face relaxed.
  • Extend your arms out, interlace the hands, walk your shoulders towards each other, with the intention to open the chest. Firming the upper back to the chest as well.
  • With an open chest, keeping your chin slightly up to keep the throat soft, place your hands on your lower back to support yourself.
  • Find the lift of the spine from the grounding through the arms and shoulders, and feet if they are on the floor.
  • Tailbone reaches to the ceiling, hips over shoulders, keeping the spine long and lift the top of the thighs. 
  • Stay here for 5 to 10 breaths.
  • To come out of the pose, simply release your hands and bring your arms back to parallel on the floor next to you, palms down and roll out of the pose on an exhale.

Beginner tips

  • You can bring your legs over head towards the floor with your knees bent.
  • Make sure you use the blanket supports suggested above, to insure that your neck is not compromised.
  • If your toes can't reach the floor option 1: practice this pose at the wall, so that your feet will hit the wall. You can slowly walk your way down.
  • If your toes can't reach the floor option 2: keep supporting your lower back with your hands and leave your legs in the air or support your feet with a chair.
  • It's a good idea to have someone help you when doing this pose for the first time, ideally by a qualified yoga instructor.
  • Don't turn your head when in the pose (for example to look at a teacher or video).

Benefits

  • Stretches the spine, shoulders and back of the legs.
  • Opens the upper back and chest.
  • Balances the thyroid gland.
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs.
  • Calms the mind and reduces stress and fatigue.

Watch out for

  • There can be a tendency to overstretch the neck. The tops of your shoulders should push down into the support, try to avoid the shoulders from moving too far away from the ears.
  • Make sure you keep the throat soft and the chest open.
  • Pose should be avoided if you suffer from any neck issues.
  • Don't turn the head when you are in the pose.

Variations

  • If you want to stay in this pose for longer, use a chair to support the legs. When you fold over you can rest your feet on a low chair to explore the pose.
  • You can squeeze the shoulder blades together to help yourself lift up on the tops of the shoulders.
  • You can move into Parsva Halasana - a variation of this pose. Walk your feet to the left as far as you can without causing discomfort. Hold for several breaths. On an inhale come back to centre. Repeat on the other side.
  • Practice a wide legged version coming into the pose in the same way and then bring the feet wider apart.