In a sequence of asanas, the plough pose is generally followed after the shoulder stand (‘Sarvangasana’) and then a backbend such as the fish pose, or the camel pose to restore the spine to its normal condition.
It has many variations for both beginners as well as more intermediate practitioners and can be especially helpful for those looking to take their yoga practice to the next level.
So let us take a look at the pose in detail, what its benefits are and how you can introduce variations if you are already in the habit of practicing this pose regularly:
The Basics of Plough Pose:
In Sanskrit, the plough pose is known as ‘Halasana’. In the preliminary plough pose (‘poorwa halasana’), the kidneys are stimulated, the pelvis is stretched, and the intestines are activated. It is also a good pose to practice if you are looking to remove excess fat in the area.
To practice it, you need to lie flat on your back and raise your legs to a vertical position while keeping your buttocks and torso firmly on the floor. This is an ideal pose for beginners with limited flexibility. On a spiritual level, the plow pose activates the Vishuddhi (throat) and Manipura (Solar Plexus) chakras.
Benefits Of the Plow Pose:
When practicing the plough pose, there is a movement of the diaphragm. This massages all internal organs, activates digestion, relieves constipation, and energizes the spleen. The plough pose also improves liver and kidney functions and promotes the production of insulin by the pancreas.
The abdominal muscles are strengthened, and one experiences relief in muscle spasms of the lower back. Additionally, the spinal nerves are toned and there is an increase in blood circulation. Since the plough pose regulates the thyroid gland, the body’s metabolic rate is balanced, and the immune system is improved overall.
How To Practice the Plough Pose?
- Lie flat on your back on the mat or ground with your legs together and your arms beside your body with the palms facing down. Relax your body for a few seconds.
- Keeping your legs together and straight, raise them vertically using only your abdominal muscles.
- Press down on your arms and lift your buttocks. Roll your back away from the floor.
- Lower your legs over your head.
- Bring your toes towards the floor behind your head. Do not strain if you are unable to reach the ground.
- Turn your palms upwards, bend your elbows and place your hands behind your ribcage to support your body.
- If you are comfortable, you may also place your arms on the ground beside your body or join them together. Hold the pose as long as you can without straining yourself.
- Gently return to the starting position by lowering each vertebra and your buttocks.
- Lower your legs using your abdominal muscles.
- Relax in Savasana (corpse pose) for a few seconds and follow it up with the cobra pose or any other backbend.
Common Mistakes While Practicing the Plough Pose:
When you are lifting your body, you must use your abdominal muscles and core instead of the leg muscles. Be very careful during this because jerking the body into position can cause injury. The same applies to when you are releasing the pose as well.
In the final position, the trunk should be straight and not collapse. In case you experience difficulty in breathing, check the position of your trunk and release the pose if you are uncomfortable. If you are unable to reach the ground with the toes, you can place a yoga block or a cushion to achieve the results. Also, be mindful of your gaze. You should look straight and not sideways. Make sure your head is not turned to any side. This may cause serious injury to the neck.
Beginner’s Tips for Practicing the Pose:
Practice the supported shoulder stand pose (Sarvangasana) to prepare your body for this pose. You may place a cushion or a folded blanket under your buttocks to help lift your trunk gently. You can also place a yoga block near your head if you are unable to touch the ground with your toes.
If you are unable to hold your trunk up, adjust the position of your hands for better support but make sure that the weight of the body is not on your palms. Initially, you can hold the pose for 15 seconds and then gradually increase the duration as you get more comfortable. Lastly, make sure your neck is relaxed.
Cautions During Practice:
If you suffer from hernia, sciatica, slipped disc, or irregular blood pressure then you should not practice the plow pose. Those with any serious back injury or arthritis of the neck should completely avoid this because it will cause further injury and discomfort.
Ensure that you are lying down on a smooth and flat surface to prevent any injury to the neck.
Variations Of the Plough Pose:
- When you have reached the final step of the plough pose, walk your feet away from the head till the body is completely stretched. Practice a chin lock and resume breathing normally.
- Once you are in the plough pose, stretch your arms out and hold your toes above your head. Keep your limbs stretched out straight. This variation increases the flexibility of the shoulders and the spine.
- In the dynamic variation of the Halasana, hold the pose for a few seconds and then roll the body back into the starting position rapidly. Sit up and immediately get into the seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana). This completes one round of the dynamic plough pose (Dhruta Halasana) and intermediate practitioners may practice up to ten rounds of this. However, those with knee problems should not practice this pose.
- You can also practice a variation of the pose with a partner (Stambhan Asana: the posture of retention). In this, both participants should lie on the ground with their crowns touching. The bodies should be in a single, straight line and the arms should be stretched out to a shoulder level. Participant 1 should come into the plough pose with their feet touching the navel of Participant 2. This should be repeated by Participant 2 after Participant 1 releases the pose.