Spring is the season of growth, when Mother Nature bursts forth in beauty and light. In the Bay area, pink and white buds are blossoming on the trees while the bright colorful heads of flowers begin to open toward a warming sun.
We have this tendency for inspiration, transformation and growth toward light, each one of us. The yogis call the vayu or wind that governs this growth udana vayu. Udana is like the energy of spring, as its movement guides upward and outward expression of the will, growth and transformation.
Present in the first stage of exhalation, like the sigh of Spring in early bloom, udana inspires that which brings forth positive effort and expression, such as speech, sound and vibration, for example, when we speak our truth, express our joy through singing and chant OM.
This month’s column features Halasana, the Plow Pose to help you embrace the energy of spring. Aptly named for the tool that helps to till and prepare the soil, the practice of inverting can help remove negative thoughts and impressions, leaving behind rich, fertile soil for the seeds of yoga to germinate and sprout.
This pose, generally practiced after Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand), cools and calms the brain, stimulates the abdominal organs and the thyroid gland, can help regulate hormones, reduce stress, and open the shoulders, back body and spine. You’ll want to avoid this pose if you have a neck or shoulder injury, an eye disorder, and during the blood time of your moon cycle.
May you experience beauty, light and love in this season of spring.
Halasana is often taught with the support of blankets to maintain the natural curve of the neck and avoid over-stretching it.
Place the smooth edge of 1-3 neatly folded blankets about a third of the distance from the short end of your mat. Fold your mat over this edge of the blankets. Place your shoulders on the edge of the blankets, and your head on the floor. This way, when you are inverted, your head can slide if need be, thus reducing the possibility of immobilizing your neck with the “stickiness” of your mat.
Practice Sarvangasana: bend your elbows, place your hands on your back and lift your legs up overhead.
To come to Plow Pose, bring your feet back over your head and rest them on the floor or a block. Release your arms. Here, you can interlace your fingers and draw the flesh of your outer upper arms under and in so that your shoulder blades draw in slightly closer together. Press your upper arms down and lift your tailbone up to help create the sensation of length in your spine.
If this action creates tension in the shoulders or neck, or if the elbows don’t fully extend, keep your arms on the floor and simply root down through your forearms and hands.
Maintain a steady pressure through your arms and curl your toes under. Lift your pelvis and inner thighs toward the sky, and press through your heels. Activating the legs will take pressure off the neck so that your weight is balanced on the shoulders, not collapsing into the chest, neck or throat.
Feel the points of connection to the earth – arms, shoulders, back of head. By pressing the back of your head very lightly into the floor, you can maintain the natural curve of your neck and avoid overstretching the neck muscles and fascia.
Halasana supports a natural Jalandhara Bandha (net-bearing bond) at the throat. Balance your efforts here by lifting your chest toward your chin, rather than dropping your chin into your chest and putting excess weight on the back of your neck.
Soften your eyes and swirl your breath around in the base of your throat with a very light Ujjayi. Against the lift and lightness of your torso, can you feel a downward flow from your pelvis toward your throat, as the reverse flow of blood and energy cools your spine, neck and head, throat and brain?
When you are ready to come out, bring your hands to your back and slowly release your spine to the earth. Rest on your back, with knees bent if you like, and like a flower, keep your mind quietly rooted in Awareness, reflecting the light and beauty of growth and transformation.
Chrisandra teaches three body-inspired, mind-altering weekly classes at Yoga Tree. Click here to see her schedule. She is a core teacher in Yoga Tree’s Teacher Training Programs. Immerse yourself in a 7-day Tantra Training, April 15-21, 2013. Click here to register. Email Chrisandra@gmail.com
Beautiful photography by Ryan Scott. firstname.lastname@example.org