By Krishna Milgrom
Surprisingly, Googling “plow” gives you the yoga pose as the second definition, along with a fitting example:
…a yoga pose assumed by lying on one’s back and swinging one’s legs over one’s head until the outstretched feet approach or touch the floor. “positions like plow and headstand can strain the neck”
Further down the page is another pertinent definition:
(especially of a vehicle) [to] move in a fast and uncontrolled manner
These aptly describe how I used to do Plow Pose before Svaroopa® yoga: recklessly! I plowed into the pose, hurling my legs over my head. I didn’t settle into asana — I settled into a crash landing. My whole spine tightened, and I had way too much weight on my head. The pose was a pain in the neck, but I did it anyway: my yoga books said it’s good for me.
Then came Svaroopa® yoga. I learned a way to do what was good for me in a way that is good for me. My Halasana pink handout (October 2004) says:
This is “supposed” to be relaxing, restful. Do it with less effort!
With blankets to remove pressure from my neck, and blocks or a chair to settle my feet on when the floor was too far away, I could experience the Plow as it is supposed to be.
I am grateful to Swami not only for teaching me this way of doing the pose. I’m also thankful for her recommendation several years ago that we practice the pose daily. I plowed right into it, as in another definition on the same Google page:
continue steadily despite difficulties…
With steady practice, and less effort, Plow has become relaxing and restful. When I settle into the pose, it becomes blissful. Following the pink sheet instructions, I come out of the pose gently. Instead of hurling my legs back to the floor as I used to do, I secure my lower back with my palms and bring one leg at a time to the wall. With both feet on the wall and knees bent, I lay my arms alongside me as in Shavasana. Then I slowly roll my back to the floor. Ahhhhh! What bliss! As each vertebra unfolds one by one, my spine pops and crackles with released energy. Bliss streams from my tailbone through my heart and into my skull.
I don’t want to move.
Then, as recommended, I do Matsyasana (Fish). This opens my heart and rib cage in the opposite way from how Plow does. I need this. Having worked for decades sitting bent over a keyboard, I find my posture tends to the Neanderthal look. Matsyasana helps ensure that I stand more erect.
After practice, I feel lighter and more open. I practice every day. My body grumbles when I miss a day.
I have not received all the benefits that the pink sheet describes for the Plow. For example, I still have varicose veins, but they have moved from my lower legs to my neck. (Just kidding! However, in my legs they are definitely much less noticeable.) And I am still gray and balding, although my pink sheet suggests the opposite:
“It has been said that it prevents (and even cures) gray hair and baldness. Who knows?”
Well, I know. But so what! When you have a heart full of love, a healthy spine, and a skull full of bliss, who needs hair?