Inhale and raise legs to ninety degrees.
Come to ardha halasana. Inhale and try to lift the back off the ground. Place hands on back to give support. Try and place the toes on the floor behind. Place hands on the ground. Hold.
Halasana (plough pose)
1. Lie flat on the back with the legs and feet together.
2. Place the arms beside the body with the palms facing down.
3. Relax the whole body. Raise both legs to the vertical position, keeping them straight and together, using only the abdominal muscles.
4. Press down on the arms and lift the buttocks, rolling the back away from the floor.
5. Lower the legs over the head. Try to touch the toes to the floor behind the head. Do not force the toes to touch the floor.
6. Turn the palms up, bend the elbows and place the hands behind the ribcage to support the back as in sarvangasana.
7. Relax and hold the final pose for as long as is comfortable.
8. Return to the starting position by lowering the arms with the palms facing down, then slowly lower the back and buttocks to the floor.
9. Raise the legs to the vertical position. Using the abdominal muscles, lower the legs to the starting position, keeping the knees straight.
Note: While holding, maintain normal breathing.
Breathing: Inhale while in the lying position. Retain the breath inside while assuming the final pose. Breathe slowly and deeply in the final pose. Retain the breath inside while returning to the starting position.
Duration: Beginners should hold the pose for 15 seconds, gradually adding a few seconds per week until it can be held for one minute. Adepts may hold the final pose up to 10 minutes or longer.
Physical - on the abdomen, relaxation of the back muscles, the respiration or the thyroid gland.
Spiritual - on manipura or vishuddhi chakra.
Sequence: Sequence: If possible, perform this asana immediately after sarvangasana. To go from sarvangasana to halasana, bring the feet slightly over the head for balance, slowly remove the arms from their position behind the back and place them on the floor in the starting position, palms facing down. Relax the body and slowly lower the legs over the head, keeping them straight and together, until the toes touch the floor. Keep the legs straight and continue as described above. Follow halasana with either matsyasana, ushtrasana or supta vajrasana as a counterpose, practised for half the combined duration of sarvangasana and halasana. It may also be followed by the variations for halasana given at the end of this chapter. Halasana is a good preparatory practice for paschimottanasana.
Contra-indications: This asana should not be practised by those who suffer from hernia, slipped disc, sciatica, high blood pressure or any serious back problem, especially arthritis of the neck.
Benefits: The movement of the diaphragm which takes place during the practice of halasana massages all the internal organs, activates the digestion, relieving constipation and dyspepsia, revitalises the spleen and the suprarenal glands,
promotes the production of insulin by the pancreas and improves liver and kidney function. It strengthens the abdominal muscles, relieves spasms in the back muscles, tones the spinal nerves, improving the operation of the sympathetic nervous system, and increases blood circulation to the whole area. It regulates the activities of the thyroid gland which balances the body's metabolic rate, and stimulates the thymus gland, boosting the immune system. It is used in yoga therapy for the management of asthma, bronchitis, constipation, hepatitis, urinary tract and menstrual disorders.
Variation I: In the final pose, walk the feet away from the head until the body is completely stretched and a tight chin lock is performed. Breathe normally for as long as is comfortable in the final pose. This position stretches the upper back, including the neck, giving more flexibility to the upper spine.
Variation 2: In the final pose, begin to walk the toes towards the back of the head, keeping the legs straight and together. Take hold of the toes, keeping the arms straight. Breathe normally for as long as is comfortable in the final pose. This position stretches and increases flexibility in the lumbo-sacral region of the spine. After practising these variations, return to halasana and then to the starting position.