The Health Benefits of Halasana (Plow Pose)

We at CNY Healing Arts invite you to bask in the many benefits of Halasana. This is an excellent pose for the morning, since it promotes alertness and a flexible spine – the spine can become somewhat compressed during sleep, which can cause tightness or stiffness in the back.

To practice this pose with a licensed yoga instructor, check out our yoga class schedule for each location (Syracuse, Rochester, Albany).

Getting Into Plow Pose:

Begin in Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand). Hesitate and breathe deeply for a few seconds. Then, bend from your hip joints, slowly lowering your toes to the floor above your head. If you cannot touch the floor with your toes, practice this pose near a wall so that your feet will reach the wall when you bring your legs over head.
Try and keep your legs fully extended, toes perpendicular to the floor. Your feet should stay together throughout Halasana. Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms away from your legs, rolling the shoulders into place one at a time.

Press the arms actively down into the floor as you draw your tailbone and the tops of your thighs towards the sky. Your hips should be aligned over your shoulders. Continue to draw your chin away from your chest, softening the throat. Breathe steady and deep.

Hold posture for 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on your skill. To release, lift your legs back into Salamba Sarvangasana and roll your body out of the pose as you exhale – one vertebra at a time, keeping your legs straight and feet together.

Benefits of Plow Pose:

• Stretches all muscles and ligament in your calves and thighs, resulting in greater leg flexibility
• Therapeutic for leg cramps
• Stimulates your thyroid, parathyroid, throat, lungs and abdominal organs
• Helps relieve gas and upper/lower back pain or discomfort
• Promotes good digestion
• Stretches your shoulders and spine
• Therapeutic for menopause, infertility, insomnia, headache and sinusitis
• Relieves stress and fatigue

The Health Benefits of Cat-Cow Stretch

            Cat-Cow Stretch is the incorporation of Marjaryasana (Cat Pose) and Bitilasana (Cow Pose). The two asanas are paired together for a gentle, flowing vinyasa. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, vinyasa is defined as “breath-synchronized movement.” If you practice Vinyasa Yoga, you will move from one pose to the next as you inhale or exhale; that is, your movements will match your breathing.

Getting Into Cat-Cow:

Begin on your hands and knees in Table Pose. Your hips should be set directly over your knees and your shoulders, elbows, and wrists should be in line and perpendicular to the floor. Keep your back straight (like a tabletop) and your spine in a neutral position. Let your neck be long and your eyes soft, looking at the floor. Stabilize your shoulder blades by drawing them down your back.

Once you have established Table Pose, move into Cow Pose. As you inhale, simultaneously lift your sit bones upward, press your chest forward, and allow your belly to sink towards the floor. Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and gaze straight ahead.

As you exhale, come into Cat Pose. Simultaneously round your spine outward, tuck your tailbone, and draw your pubic bone forward. Release your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest. Note: if you have a neck injury, keep your head in line with your torso throughout Cat-Cow.

Go back and forth between Cow and Cat on each inhale and exhale, matching your movements to your own breathing. Do this for 5-10 breaths and try to keep an even distribution of weight between your hands and knees. After your final exhale, end the stretch in Table Pose.

Benefits of Cat-Cow:

  • Improves posture and balance
  • Strengthens and stretches the spine and neck
  • Stretches the hips, abdomen and back
  • Increases coordination
  • Massages and stimulates organs in the belly, like the kidneys and adrenal glands
  • Creates emotional balance
  • Relieves stress and calms the mind

The Benefits of Yoga

Imagine an activity that increases your flexibility, strengthens your muscles, centers your thoughts, and calms your mind and body.  Yoga does all of this and more!

When some people think of yoga, they imagine having to bend like a pretzel. That makes them worry that they may be too old, too unfit, or too inflexible to begin yoga. The truth is that everyone can benefit from yoga regardless of age, experience, or level of flexibility.

Here are just some of the ways yoga can benefit you:

Stress Relief: Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter system is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs

Improved Flexibility:  Stretching your tight body in new ways will help it become more flexible, bringing greater range of motion to muscles and joints. Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body. That includes ligaments, tendons, and the fascia sheath that surrounds your muscles. And no matter your level of yoga, you most likely will see benefits in a very short period of time.

Stronger Muscles:  Yoga helps shape long, lean muscles. Strong muscles do more than just look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain.  It is well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many yoga postures are weight-bearing.

Healthier Organs:  Yoga is perhaps the only form of activity which massages all the internal glands and organs of the body in a thorough manner.  This stimulation and massage of the organs in turn protects us from disease.
Better Breathing: Yoga teaches us to take slower, deeper breaths.  This helps to improve lung function, triggers the body’s relaxation and increases the amount of oxygen available to the body.

Complete Detoxification:  By gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the various organs, yoga ensures the optimum blood supply to various parts of the body. This helps in the flushing out of toxins throughout the body. These benefits include delayed aging, increased energy and a remarkable zest for life.
Why not give yoga a try and see what it can do for your body, your mind and your soul.

Linda Hill, Certified Yoga Instructor