There are many variations of halasana, all of which have distinctive benefits. We will shortly describe six. They are all performed from the final pose of basic halasana. They should not be attempted until one can easily do this basic form. These variations can be practised individually or one after the other as follows:
Variation 1: lower back stretch
From the final pose of halasana, the toes should be gradually moved nearer towards the back of the head. The legs should be kept straight and together. Grasp the toes with the hands to accentuate the process. The final pose is as shown in variation 1. Relax the body as much as possible, especially the spine. Breathe slowly and deeply. This variation notably stretches the lower back (lumbo-sacral) and makes it more supple.
Variation 2: upper back stretch
From the basic pose of halasana, gradually push the toes away from the back of the head. The hands can be placed behind the hips. The legs should remain straight and together. In the final pose there will be a tight chin lock as shown. The toes should be as far away from the head as is comfortably possible. Breathe slowly and deeply in the final pose. This variation produces an accentuated stretch of the back and neck.
Variation 3: anchored back stretch
Take the final pose of the basic halasana. Place the arms on the floor behind the head. Grasp the big toes with the fingers. Then variation 2 should be repeated; the toes should be gradually pushed away from the back of the head. The toes, however, are anchored by the arms; this limits the movement of the toes away from the head and induces an accentuated muscular tension in the back muscles. Hold the final pose, breathing deeply and slowly. Then release the tension and relax. This variation tenses all the back muscles and tones the associated nerves. It also massages the kidneys and adrenal glands.
Variation 4: the neck stretch
This variation is widely known as pashinee mudra (the folded mudra). Take the final pose of the basic form of halasana. Separate the legs by about half a meter. Bend the legs and bring the knees – as close as possible towards the shoulders and ears; if possible, place the knees on the ground. The thighs should be folded closely against the chest or as close as you are able. The top of the feet should lie flat on the ground. Wrap the arms around the back of the knees and the head. This is the final pose.
Try to relax the body as much as possible. Breathe slowly and deeply.
Many people will find this variation more difficult, though with practice it can be mastered. The neck muscles are given a powerful stretch, the cervical (neck) vertebrae loosened and the associated nerves toned. This variation also squeezes and massages the thyroid and parathyroid glands in the throat’.
Variation 5: neck tensing pose
Take the final pose of the basic form of halasana. Place the arms behind the back on the floor. Interlock the fingers.
Push the feet away from the back of the head as far as is comfortable. Then press the arms and hands against the floor so that the neck vertebrae are slightly raised off the ground. In the final position, the weight of the body is supported on the back of the head, the shoulders, the hands and the arms. Breathe slowly and deeply while maintaining the final pose. Then release the muscular tension and relax the whole body. This variation stimulates the large number of nerves passing through the neck. It improves their efficiency and in turn improves the health of the whole body.
Variation 6: pelvic stretch
Resume basic halasana. Hold the big toes with the fingers of each hand. Keeping the legs straight, slowly spread the legs on either side of the head; the toes should remain in contact with the ground. Separate the legs as much as possible without straining. This is the final pose. Breathe slowly and deeply. This pose stretches and tones pelvic muscles, nerves and organs.