I am working on a few sequences for upcoming workshops and I will be teaching a Yin Yoga class very soon. Yin Yoga is a very restorative style of yoga that focuses more on relaxation than on proper alignment and strength. Each pose is held for several minutes to allow the student to completely surrender to the essence of the pose. Plow pose is one of my favorite poses, and I teach it in both my power and my yin classes.
Hala is the sanskrit word for plough. Asana is sanskrit for posture. Therefore Halasana is known in English as Plough Pose or Plow Pose. Plow is considered to be a gentle inversion and a restorative pose. In Yin Yoga this pose is referred to as Snail.
Anatomy of Plow
Plow is generally taught as a preparatory pose for Shoulder Stand or Salamba Sarvangasana. It is a great way to stretch the spine and to work on the chin lock or Jalandhara Bandha. In this pose, it is essential that the student does not move or twist the head or neck, as this could cause injury.
B.K.S. Iyengar writes about this pose in Light on Yoga. Iyengar believes this pose is good for increasing spinal mobility, increasing blood circulation in the spine, relieving backache, releasing shoulder tension, stimulating the thyroid glands, calming the nerves (which we now know is done by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system during an inversion that has a chin lock component), and relieving discomfort due to gas.
Plow Pose activates a multitude of muscles along the body. Plow activates the psoas and pectinus muscles in the pelvis and the quadratus lumborum in the back. The quadriceps, tibialis anterior, peroneus longus and brevis are activated in the thighs and calves. The posterior deltoids are activated in the shoulders.
Due to the pressure on the abdomen, this pose is not recommended during pregnancy. Due to the inversion element of this pose, it is not recommended for students with high blood pressure and if a student has a spinal injury that does not allow spinal flexion then they should not attempt this pose.
How to get into Plow
To enter into Plow, lay flat on the ground on your back. Slowly lift your legs up vertically and then use your abdominal muscles to lift your hips up off the ground (support them with your hands) and gently lower your legs until your toes touch the floor above your head. Keep your legs together, there should not be any gaps between your thighs, knees or between your feet. Keep your weight in your shoulders (do not shift weight into your neck). If you toes can touch the floor, then remove your hands from your hip and lower them to the floor and interlock your fingers. Relax all of the muscles in your neck and face and breathe deeply through your nose. Hold the pose for one to five minutes.
How to get out of Plow
To get out of plow, return your hands to your back or hips. Lift your legs up slowly and roll your spine down onto the floor and gently land your hips on the floor. Then lower your legs all the way to the floor.
Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark
The Key Poses of Yoga by Ray Long