Halasana, also known as plow pose, is one of the most basic yoga inversion poses. Gentle and restorative, halasana is often used in hatha yoga and other forms of yoga meant to rejuvenate the body. It is an excellent pose for stretching out a tired or aching back and can help improve flexibility all along the spine.
Starting halasana is usually easiest from the floor. Lying on a blanket or yoga mat, stretch the arms overhead so that they rest behind the body. Though the arms should be fully stretched, shoulders should be pulled down away from the ears, since this can put stress on the neck. Toes should be slightly pointed, creating a long stretch from fingertips to toes.
Using the core muscles of the abdomen, lift legs smoothly and simultaneously straight up. Relying on the core rather than the leg muscles helps make plow pose a full-body posture that improve core strength. Legs should be lifted over the head, so that toes come to rest behind the head inside the arms. This is a deep lower back stretch and it may feel good to rest in the position for a moment.
Activating the core muscles again, lift the back and hips so that weight is resting on the upper back and shoulders, and walk the feet backward a few more inches. If possible, the back should be perpendicular to the ground. Lift the arms and allow them to come forward, resting in front of the body. Once the arms are in position, hands move to the middle of the back, providing strength, balance, and support that helps straighten the back even farther. Arms can also remain flat on the floor, or clasped together on the floor for a deeper stretch.
Breathing while in halasana can take some practice. The neck and throat are somewhat compressed in this pose, so it is important to keep the throat relaxed to prevent oxygen restriction. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is often recommended. If breathing is difficult, consider placing a foam block or folded blanket under the neck and shoulders to help ease the pressure of the body on the floor.
Exiting halasana is usually done by a simple reversal of movements. With hands on the low back, lift legs up in the air. Some people will hold their legs perpendicular to the floor, making the entire body a long, straight line up to the sky. Bend at the hips to slowly lower the spine back to the ground, letting the legs follow until they are stretched out in front of the body again.