Yoga improves your mood, eases stress, enhances flexibility, improves strength and bolsters your confidence. This ancient, Eastern practice comes in a multitude of forms, from restorative to highly athletic. Some poses in yoga are contraindicated for certain medical conditions and can be dangerous if performed improperly. One of these poses is the Plough pose, or Halasana.
Plough pose should be performed late in a practice during the finishing postures, usually after Bridge pose and Shoulder Stand. You want your body to be fully warmed up before attempting it. To get into Plough, you lie on your back on a mat and extend your legs straight up in the air. Support your back with your hands as you slowly lift your hips up off the floor and bend from the hip joints to lower your toes to the floor behind your head. Keep your back straight and either continue to support your back with your hands or clasp your hands together and stretch the arms onto the mat underneath your hips. Hold the pose for one to five minutes, depending on the intention of your practice. To come out of the pose, roll down with control.
Plough pose calms the brain, stimulates the digestive organs and the thyroid, stretches the shoulders and spine and reduces stress, notes the online version of Yoga Journal. In the book “Alternative Medicine and Rehabilitation: A Guide for Practitioners,” author S. F. Wainapel says that inversions such as Plough pose help drain the veins of the legs and brings more circulating blood into the top lobes of the lungs, improving breath capacity. Inversions can also help with renal function and lower blood pressure.
Plough pose is not recommended during menstruation and pregnancy, unless you are an experienced yoga practitioner and have had clearance from your physician. Plough pose can aggravate neck injuries. Even in healthy people, the load on the neck experienced in Plough can sprain the ligaments of the cervical spine and cause damage to the discs in this region. People with spinal osteoporosis and arthritis are of particular risk. In extremely rare cases, Plough pose can cause arterial dissection – a condition in which rapid movement at the neck causes a tear in the lining of one of the arteries and blood seeps in causing a clot. The clot causes intense pain, migraines and even stroke.
Modifications and Alternatives
Touching your toes to the floor over your head is an advanced version of the posture. Seek out a reputable teacher when attempting this pose for the first time. If you are not ready for a full Plough pose, but want to reap some of the benefits of this inversion, place a bolster or blanket underneath your hips for support. For some people, the toes cannot reach the floor so you may place a chair behind you and roll your legs up and over so the toes touch the seat as a modification. If you choose not to perform Plough pose, simply hug your knees into your chest as an alternative.
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