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plough pose

Lifestyle Yoga

Halasana – The Plough Posture

March 20, 2020

Hala means a plough, the shape of which this posture resembles, hence the name. (Light on Yoga, p 216)

 

There are asanas we encounter so many times that we don’t realize there is a lot more to them than meets  the eye.  The halasana is one such posture…

It helps to:

  • Relieve backache.
  • Bring flexibility in the shoulders and elbows.
  • Relax the mind and body.
  • Promote better sleep.
  • Improve digestion and appetite.

 

Contraindications

Don’t practice if you have diarrhea, or are menstruating.  If you have a neck or back injury then wait until you are completely healed.

 

Busting the Myths

The final posture is usually depicted with the toes touching the floor.  However, if you don’t have the requisite flexibility, forcing your toes to touch the floor can do more harm than good.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • In an attempt to touch the floor with the toes, many practitioners end up  pushing themselves beyond their capacity and injure themselves.  A simple trick is to rest your feet on a chair or a small table instead of on the floor.
  • There is a strong link between the halasana and the paschimottanasana.  When your back gains mobility in one, then the other improves too.
  • Tighten your thighs and roll them in to activate your legs and engage your core.  You are trying to keep the spine extended.

 

Over the years I’ve studied the nuances of the halasana and that has certainly improved my practice.  I found an older picture of me doing this asana here.

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Lifestyle Yoga

Week 2 Day 1 – Abs Are Made in the Kitchen…

February 8, 2015

…But you have to work on them in yoga class too!  So for Day 1 of Week 2 do a bit of abs work.  The great thing about yoga (and particularly about our classes) is that most yoga moves involve the core.  Every single time you do a rep of the Surya Namaskar, you’re utilizing your core strength.  So today practice a few rounds of the Surya Namaskar to warm up and then start with your leg raises.  You can do 3 sets of 15 each.  Take a small break and repeat twice more.  You can choose to plank and side plank as well.  These moves engage the core and strengthen the arms as well.

The Naukasana (The Boat Pose) is an awesome way to strengthen the abs and also to test your balance.  Start with lying down on the floor and raise your torso and legs up at the same time.  No jerky movements.  Keep your legs absolutely straight.  Push your shoulders back and try and expand the chest.  Elongate the neck.  Breathe.  You should be balancing on your tailbone.

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Setubandhasana (The Bridge Pose)

2015-02-03 13.36.53[1]After the Naukasana you can start to stretch your abs a little bit.  Start with the Setubandhasana.  Start with keeping your feet about hip width apart.  Keep your arms on the floor next to your body with your palms flat on the floor.  Push into the floor with your hands and press your feet into the floor and raise your hips up.  Tighten your glutes to take the load off of your back.  Make sure that your ankles and knees are in one line and perpendicular to the floor.  Once your hips are as high as you can take them lift your hands and place them on the small of your back.  Your fingers should be facing each other and thumbs should be on the outside, circling your waist.  This helps in strengthening the arms and wrists.  Try and get your elbows as close to each other as possible.  Your shoulder2015-02-03 13.38.31[1]s should also be pushed back and chest should be expanded.  You should also experience the Jalandhar Bandha.

 

 

 

 

Chakrasana (The Wheel Pose)

After the Setubandhasana, the Chakrasana is a great way to deepen the stretch on the torso.  As a prep, you can practice holding the Bhujangasana.  After this lie down on 2015-02-03 13.40.17[1]the floor on your back.  Bend your arms and place your hands under your shoulders.  Bend your legs and bring your feet as close to your hips as possible.  Lift your hips up first just like you did in the Setubandhasana.  Then start to push your hands into the floor and raise the shoulders up as well.

 

The Halasana or the Plough Pose

When you practice back bends its important to do complementary poses as well.  The complementary pose for the Chakrasana is the Halasana.  In the Halasana yo2015-02-03 13.45.16[1]u must try and get your spine straight.  The Jalandhar Bandha in the Halasana is a deeper and stronger one than the one in the Setubandhasana.  Keep your elbows locked and arms clasped.  Push your shoulders away from your ears.

 

 

Try this cool variation as well:

2015-02-03 13.43.55[1]

 

 

 

 

 

Remember after all this you must go into the Savasana and allow your spine to rest and relax.

 

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Stretching – Then and Now

January 16, 2014
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@Malaka Spice

 

It’s been close to 10 days here and my routine here is as challenging as ever.  I realize that if it’s your first time here, then it does take a while to adjust and adapt.  The first time I had a 4 hour practice I was incredulous … and didn’t know how to deal with it.  Rather, I didn’t know how to make the most of it.  When I practice at home it’s only for an hour and a half, and by the end of it I’m drained out.  So the first few days here, I was always exhausted.  So much so that I felt I couldn’t give the best in the asanas and always felt sloppy and ungainly throughout the practice.  Mondays and Tuesdays specially, since practice on those days is almost 4 hours long, and by the time I’m done with practice its an ordeal just to walk home.  My fantasies these days centre around buying an apartment next to the institute so that I can crawl home in no time and surface again only for the next class.

However, now I’ve started to get used to the routine.  I’m actually able to make the most of the extended practice sessions.  In fact, 2 hours is just about enough time for a satisfying practice…how I’m going to sustain this when I’m back in Bangalore is the stuff other blog posts are made of.

Yesterday I had my class in the evening (where I’m referred to as ‘Bangalore’, and another

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Milk tea just this once 🙂

girl is called ‘USA’, oh and then there’s ‘Madam China’ in the 6 am session).  It was an amazingly intense session.  The class was fast paced with a focus on stretching the lower body (Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottansana, Baddhakonasana etc).  Finally we did the Upavista Konasana, which is a challenging pose for me.  I slowly made my way down and eased my torso onto the floor.  I remember the days when I started practicing yoga and this pose was a big challenge.  I wouldn’t be able to extend my back and my hip joint was stiff.  As the years went by, I was still pretty reluctant to practice this pose because it didn’t come naturally at all and it was frustrating.  Even now, sometimes I’m able to execute this pose well, and sometimes I feel like lead.

 

Yesterday I was able to ease myself down and placed my forehead on the floor.  I stayed there kind of happy and satisfied with myself.  There’s always an element of pleasant surprise also, because some days your body can extend and some days it just doesn’t.  This reverie lasted until I heard, “BANGALORE!  You’re sleeping!  Extend more!  Walk forward with your hands!!!  That’s it, that’s good.  Trance mein chali gayi thi phir se.”

And I realized that for the most part, this is how I practice.  I arrange myself into a pose and then my mind says, “This is it, you’ve done well.  You’re done.”  And then my pose goes dead, and progress stops.  Or, as the teacher said, I fall asleep.  So when I was told to extend more, I had to push through the limitations of my mind (kind of still the internal dialogue) and discover if I could, in fact, go further.  I realized that I could, and for that little bit of time I experienced new life.  And received a bit of enlightenment.

The Halasana is a pose that we do daily in class.  We use props to ensure that the spine and neck are straight.  The picture is of me doing the Halasana many years ago.  When my internal dialogue was loud and overpowering.  I’m sure it’s improved over the years.  And after this class, I know how to work in this (and in all other asanas).

Halasana (Plough Pose)

How To

  1. Lie down straight on your back making sure your head lies on the floor.
  2. Exhale, bend your legs at the knees and bring your knees close to your chest.
  3. Lift your buttocks off of the floor supporting your back with your hands.
  4. Make sure to plant your elbows firmly on the floor.halasana
  5. Bring your body perpendicular to the floor, until your sternum touches your chin.
  6. Gently extend your legs out behind your head.
  7. Keep your face and neck relaxed.
  8. Practice with your arms stretched out behind and fingers interlocked to relive pain and cramps in fingers, hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.

Benefits

  • Relieves fatigue.
  • Helps to calm down the mind.
  • Relaxes your eyes and brain.
  • Controls hyper tension.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Lengthens the spine and improves alignment.
  • Reduces insomnia and anxiety.
  • Relieves stress-related headaches and migraines.

Contraindications

  • Don’t practice during menstruation and if you have cervical spondylosis.