Plow Pose (Halasana) is exceptional for reducing lower back pain and helping you get a good night's rest.
(Pronounced as "hah-LAHS-anna")
The Sanskrit word Hala means "plow," and here your body assumes the shape of a farmer's plow.
Get into Shoulder Stand or Salamba Sarvangasana. From there, bend your hips to slowly lower your feet down, bringing the toes over the head. It is best to keep the legs straight as your place the toes behind your head on the floor. If your hamstrings are very tight though, then you can bend your knees as you lower the legs down. Then practice straightening one leg at a time once both feet have contact with the floor.
Tighten your knees as you push your sitting bones and tailbone up toward the ceiling as high as you can. While you push the backs of the thighs and sitting bones up, your torso should naturally come toward your chin. Expand your chest so that your sternum lifts to meet your chin. Do not push your chin into your sternum. Relax your throat. Press your shoulder bones strongly into the mat to lift pressure off of the back of your neck.
Adjust your hands so that the bottoms of your palms press into your back just below the bottom of your ribcage. In this position, your elbows and the backs of your upper arms rest on the mat or any support you have used for your shoulders in the Shoulder Stand. Use your hands to lift your trunk, holding it perpendicular to the ground.
If you can hold this pose for more than a minute, then go ahead and release your hands away from your back. Then stretch your arms out away from your back behind you on the floor. Interlock your fingers together and press your arms down into the floor as you keep lifting your sitting bones up.
Gradually increase the duration of the pose up to 5 minutes. To come out, support your back with your hands and slowly roll your sacrum down to the ground.
At first, you will have a tendency to collapse your weight onto the vertebrate where the bottom of your neck meets your shoulders. That wrong positioning puts too much strain on your neck. Train your shoulders to protect your neck by practicing the pose on blankets. Lay part of your yoga mat on top of two folded yoga blankets so that your shoulders will not slip on this support.
Place a yoga block on the ground next to the middle of the blankets. Now when you lie down on this support, your head and most of your neck rest off of the edge of the blankets. Your shoulders press into the blankets near the edge, and the rest of your back is on the blankets with the block forming the support under your tailbone. Now come into the pose as usual.
When you first learn this pose, it is safer to practice it with a chair. Brace a sturdy chair against the wall. Place two folded yoga blankets on the ground about 1-2 feet away from the chair. Lie down so that your head is on the ground and your shoulders are near the edge of the blankets. The chair should be behind your head when you lie down. Now when you kick your feet up into a Shoulder Stand and then lower your feet down over your head, your toes will rest on the seat of the chair. You can adjust the distance between the blankets and the chair to accommodate your height.
When you are in the full pose, bring your shoulder blades closer together. Then try gently bending one knee at a time to let the knees almost touch the floor by the sides of your head, which pulls your torso up more toward your chin. Alternate the legs between bending and straightening to feel this adjustment.
To master the lifting of the front of your thighs in this posture, ask a partner to help you do this pose with a chair. As you come into Halasana in the normal way, ideally with your shoulders supported by blankets, ask your partner to help lift your feet up onto the seat of a chair. Now have them slowly help lift your legs as they slide the chair closer to your head. Eventually, they should position the chair so that the side edge of the chair's seat supports the root of the tops of your thighs. Focus on pushing your sitting bones up to the ceiling in this position.
If you can do Halasana comfortably with your feet on the floor, then you can move on to try this variation. Parsva Halasana, pronounced as "PARSH-vah hah-LAHS-anna," is the same thing, but you move your legs out to the side. After you come into the full Halasana, just hold your hands against your back for support as you walk your feet out to the right side. The goal is to bring the feet all the way to the right so that they are in line with your right ear on the floor. Keep your legs straight and twist your torso as you come into it. Then repeat it with your feet walking to the left side. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds or more on each side.
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