How to Do Plow Pose (Halasana) in Yoga

How to Do Plow Pose - Halasana
Plow Pose - Halasana. Ann Pizer

Also Known As: Plough Pose

Targets: Stretch for the shoulders, back, neck, hamstrings, and calves

Level: Intermediate

To prop or not to prop? That is the question in Plow Pose (Halasana) just as it is in Shoulderstand. Each teacher has his or her own, often very strong, opinion about whether you should use a folded blanket under your shoulders in this pose. Those trained in Iyengar yoga are strong advocates for the prop. The idea is that using the blanket makes more room for the neck so it doesn't get compressed and allows for a straighter spine.

Benefits

Plow Pose stretches the shoulders, back, neck, hamstrings, and calves. It is a pose that will stretch the paraspinal muscles of the lower back, which are often not targeted in other poses, and may help relieve a backache. Plow is considered to be a relaxing and calming pose.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Come to lie on your back. If you are using a blanket, position yourself with your shoulders on the blanket and your head and neck on the floor. Tuck your shoulder blades under.

  1. Lift your legs to 90 degrees and pause there. Then lift your butt and use your abs to bring your feet up and over your head until your toes touch the floor behind your head. Keep your legs straight.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms.
  3. Roll your shoulders under one at a time.
  4. Your hips should be aligned over your shoulders.
  5. Once you are in position, do not turn your head to look around the room as this can be dangerous for the neck. Keep the neck straight and the gaze upwards.
  6. Since the diaphragm is compressed, it's hard to breathe in this position. Try to stay for five deep breaths.
  7. To come out, release your arms, lift your feet, and roll the spine one vertebra at a time slowly down to your mat. Keep your legs straight and feet together.

Common Mistakes

Know When You Are Ready for Plow

Plow Pose is not for beginners. You need to be accomplished in proper body alignment and have sufficient flexibility to do it safely. If you cannot do Shoulderstand, you are not ready for Plow.

Using a Prop Correctly

Plow Pose can put your neck in a vulnerable position if you place too much weight on the top of the spinal column. Using a blanket as a prop can help protect the neck so the weight will be on your shoulders instead of your neck.

If you use a blanket, it must be set up correctly. The blanket should be folded into a rectangular shape that is about as wide as your yoga mat. You can stack several thinly folded blankets if you want more height. Place the blanket at the very end of your mat or toward the middle of the mat with the mat folded back over it. Either way, the important thing is that your shoulders are on the blanket and your head is off it, resting on the bare floor. This is so your head can slide if necessary. Set yourself up this way and then lift the legs overhead.

If you don't like the blanket, you can get a similar effect by making sure that your shoulder blades are firmly tucked, making a little platform for your back as they do in Bridge Pose.

Beginners' Tips

Need a Modification?

If your toes do not reach the floor overhead, you need to find something else for them to rest on.

  • One option is to practice the pose near a wall so that your feet will touch the wall and rest there when they come overhead. It may take some trial and error to find the right distance from the wall.
  • Another option is to place a chair behind you that will catch the feet as they go over your head. Again, you may have to experiment a bit to find the right place for the chair. 

Up for a Challenge?

Plow pose is a good launching pad for Shoulderstand. After your Shoulderstand, come out through Ear Pressure Pose (Karnapidasana).

Safety and Precautions

Do not do Plow Pose if you have any neck, shoulder, or back injuries or chronic pain conditions. You should also avoid it in conditions where you do not want increased blood pressure in your head, such as glaucoma, following dental bone grafts, or with uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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