Halasana (Plow Pose) registers as 4* on Iyengar’s scale of difficulty.
Halasana is arguably one of my favorite asanas because of the deep back body stretch it provides. In Halasana, your spine and hamstrings are fully extended and stretched. As Iyengar mentions, stretching the back body so completely helps prepare you for Paschimottanasana, another deep back body stretch.
Interestingly, Paschimottanasana is also one of my favorite poses. My love of these deep back stretches stems from their symbolism. As I mentioned in my post on Paschimottanasana, the back body represents the past. When we stretch our back bodies, we open up to and acknowledge the past, as well as let go of it.
This past weekend, I went to a folk music festival where one of the bands, The Swell Season, played a traditional Irish song at the end of the night. The song, “The Parting Glass” is typically sung at a wake, from the perspective of the corpse. That may sound a bit morbid, but the lyrics are a beautiful reminder of the importance of looking back on the past with equanimity and no regrets:
Of all the money that ere I had, I spent it in good company
And of all the harm that ere I done, alas ’twas done to none but me
And of all I’ve done for want of wit, to memory now I can’t recall
So raise to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.
How can you, on your mat and in your life, gaze back upon the past with love, gratitude, and joy? The next time you catch yourself rethinking the pose you just did two minutes ago, or wishing that your day had turned out differently, pause. Be glad to be here, right now, and thank the past for ushering you forward.