Thursday, November 5, 2009

DIY Restorative: Halasana (Plow Pose) w/ Chair

Lately I have been so busy with so many different projects, my yoga practice has mainly been a home restorative practice. Sometimes it's just what the doctor ordered; to set up in a sweet restorative posture, cover the eyes with a lavender scented eye pillow and just breath there for 5 or 10 minutes (or more). If you have never experience restorative yoga, I highly recommend you start today!!! I would like to share with you one of my favorites, all you need is a mat, a blanket and a chair (a metal folding chair is ideal, but any armless chair should work).

Spread your mat out on the floor and place the chair facing sideways at the end of the mat (this will ensure that the chair doesn't slip) so that you have the rest of the mat extended lengthwise toward you on the floor. Fold your blanket until you have about a 2-2 1/2 inch cushion, then place the folded blanket on the seat of the chair and come into the pose as described below. Make sure you are set up so your neck, shoulders and arms are supported by your mat, you can even fold your mat into thirds or quarters and/or place another folded blanket under your upper back and shoulders to cushion the part of your cervical spine that is pressing into the floor. Now come into and out of the pose as described below.

Come to lie on the section of your mat that extends onto the floor with your head as close to the chair as possible. Arms down by your sides, palms facing down. Knees bent with the soles of your feet on the floor. Now raise both legs to a 90 degree angle, feet flexed, and keep them flexed throughout.

Spread your fingers well and press strongly into the floor with both palms, tone your belly, INHALE, and on the EXHALE, pressing into your palms and using your engaged core muscles; float your legs up and over the chair, allowing them to gently come to rest on the padding you so lovingly prepare for them.

Please take a moment before you settle in to adjust yourself. You may want to reach around and use the legs of the chair to wriggle your thighs further back, keeping in mind that you should have as much of the fronts of your thighs on the support as possible. When you're comfy, you can close your eyes (an eye pillow is great in this posture if you have one!) place your arms back down by your sides, palms facing down. Settle in and just breath evenly in and out through your nostrils.

I recommend doing this pose for a minimum for 5 minutes to get the full benefits!

To come out:

Crack open your eyes and mentally prepare yourself first. See yourself coming out of the posture with grace and ease (no crash landings!!!). Take several deep inhales & exhales. Now again, press firmly down with both palms into the floor, suck your belly in and lift both legs up and over the chair, coming back to a 90 degree angle. Lower both soles of the feet (at the same time) to rest on the floor with knees bent. Pause. Take a few breaths. Hug both knees into the chest and slowly roll to your right side, into a little fetal position. Inahale and Exhale here. Gently press yourself up to sit, and take a few breaths in a comfortable seated posture. Smile! This should feel rrrrreally good!

Chair supported Halasana (Plow Pose) stimulates the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, or in other words the "rest and digest" fuction. When the relaxation response is engaged, it has profound healing effects for the body and mind! It slows down the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and muscle tension; circulation to vital organs increases, and more!!! Also, in this pose you are in a throat "lock" (bandha, in sanskrit) which stimulates the throat chakra, as well as massaging all the glands and muscles in your neck/throat area, as well as helping to stimulate the relaxation response. It has been said that practicing this pose for 10-20 minutes is akin to taking a Valium! (not that I know what that feels like :P)

Enjoy yogis and yoginis, and report back to let me know how it works out!!!