Half Moon Yoga Pose

half moon yogaHalf Moon pose is a yoga asana that focuses on balance and strength in one leg.  The Sanskrit name for the Half Moon yoga pose is Ardha Chandrāsana.  Ardha simply means half, and signifies that we are doing something on one side of the body.  Chandra translates into moon or lunar and can also mean luminous or glittering.  In the Hindu tradition, Chandra is a lunar deity who brings the revitalizing dew of the moon to the parched earth below. Chandra is also the keeper of the soma, the sacred elixir which bestows eternal life. When you learn to properly execute a balance pose, it has the potential to steady and quiet the mind. You have to be intensely focused as you come into this pose, otherwise you will lose your balance. Every time we fall and get back up, we have an opportunity to cultivate both perseverance and patience, two skills that are very useful in our daily lives.

Yogic Breath

You want to make sure that you are breathing properly for this pose. Holding your breath activates your fight-or-flight system and will keep you from being able to focus or balance. Your basic yogic breath is going to be Ujjayi Breath – the Breath of the Conquerer or Victorious Breath.  Ujjayi breath is like deep, diaphragmatic belly breathing.  To do it properly:

Breathe in through the nose, filling the belly like a balloon.

Exhale through the nose, heating up the back of your throat.

If you sound like Darth Vader, you’re doing it right.

Diaphragmatic breathing engages the rest-and-digest response in the body. Diaphragmatic breathing is almost the same as Ujayii, only without the Star Wars effect. Your breath should always fill the belly up first, then rise up through the chest to expand the lungs.  Any time you feel anxious or unstable, check in and see if you are breathing properly. You can do this whether you are on or off the mat.

Your basic breath in yogic movements is to inhale as you move toward or out of a pose and exhale to stretch.  Once you get the feel for a flow-styled yoga practice, eventually, your breath and movement will flow fluidly and you will not have to think about it.

This short flow sequence will prepare your hips, hamstrings, and side-body for the intense stretch and balance of Half-Moon pose.

The Sequence

mountain poseStart in Mountain Pose

Stand with your feet hip distance apart and prepare to fold forward.

Forward Bend

forward bendPreparation Benefits

Stretches the hamstrings, hips, and calves.

Strengthens your thigh muscles and knee joints.

Coming into the Pose

  1. From standing, exhale and fold forward from your hips, not your waist.  Try to keep the spine as straight as possible to maintain a long torso.  You are trying (eventually) to bring your chest to your thighs.
  2. Spend some time in the forward bend to relax.
  3. You can bend your knees if you need to. Over time the backs of your legs (your hamstrings) will become more flexible.
  4. On each inhale, draw your navel into the spine to lift the torso out of the hips.
  5. On each exhale, let gravity pull your torso down.
  6. Let your head hang.

Lunge

lungeBenefits for Preparation

Opens the front hip (groin) of the extended leg.

Strengthens your legs for balancing.

  1.  From the forward bend, place your hands on the floor and step back with the right foot, balancing on the ball of your foot.  You can drop to one knee if you are unable to maintain your balance in high lunge.
  2. You can leave your torso lightly on your front leg or arch it upward in a slight backbend.
  3. Push down through the grounded heel and lift your torso out of the front hip.
  4. To feel the opening of the front hip, extend through the heel of the back leg.
  5. Raise your arms to deepen the stretch.
  6. Stay here for 10 breaths.
  7. Come down on the left knee and sit back on the right heel for a counter-pose.

Half-Split

Benefits for Preparation

Stretches the hamstring.

Gives a counter-stretch to the front hip.

  1.  Bend over the straight leg by extending out of the hip.
  2. Come back into high lunge.
  3. Step the left leg forward and come back into forward bend.
  4. Come back to Standing
  5. Lunge other side
  6.  Repeat the entire sequence for lunge and half-split on the opposite leg.

Transition

  1.  Return to Standing
  2.  Forward Bend
  3.  High Lunge on the Right
  4. Raise your arms to prepare for Warrior II 

Warrior II – Side Warrior Flow

warrior poseBenefits for Preparation

Opens hip and chest.

Stretches the side-body.

  1. As you bring your arms parallel to the floor to open the chest, rotate your torso to the left, turning your left foot to 90 degrees.
  2. Make sure your right knee stays over the ankle, and if possible, keep the bent-leg thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this pose by activating the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor.
  3. Maintain equal length in the sides of your torso and stretch out through the arms, hands, and fingertips.
  4. Look down the right arm and straight through the middle finger.
  5. See if you can feel where you can stabilize yourself through your feet, legs, and core.  That is how you find your center of balance.
  6. Enjoy the sense of opening in the hips and chest. 

Warrior 2 Flow

  1. warriorLean back over the left leg to stretch the side body, bringing your right arm with you.
  2. Give yourself a good side-body stretch, but don’t overdo it.
  3. Come back into Warrior 2.
  4. Rotate back through the High Lunge.
  5. Bring your hands to the floor in low lunge.
  6. Sit back again for the Half-Split counter-pose.
  7. Come back through lunge and into the standing position again.
  8. Step back with the other side.
  9. Repeat the entire sequence on the opposite leg.

Transition

  1. Come back into Mountain Pose and take 1-2 minutes to feel the effects of the stretches.  See if you can also notice slight pulsations throughout your body.
  2. Inhale bring your arms overhead.
  3. Exhale into forward bend, noticing any changes in your body. Do you feel more open?  Are your hamstrings looser?  Is your chest coming closer to your thighs?

 Preparatory Flow Sequence

Now you will flow to Warrior II in preparation for Triangle:

  1. On an inhale, step the right foot back into High Lunge.
  2. Exhale, rotate into Warrior II-Side Warrior-Warrior II.
  3. Stay in each position as long as you like, keeping in mind that you are preparing your body for Half-Moon Pose.

Triangle Pose

triangle poseBenefits for Preparation

Stretches the hamstrings and front of the thighs.

Strengthens the legs and knees.

Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, and chest.

  1.  From Warrior II, straighten your right leg and lean over it, reaching down toward the floor with your right arm and hand.  You can support yourself on your shin, a block, or a chair if you are not flexible or stable enough to come into the full pose. Your eventual hand placement will be on the outside of the foot. Your left arm is extended toward the ceiling.
  2. Anchor your front leg by pushing through your heel and into the ball of the foot.
  3. Activate the outer hip of the back leg by pushing through the outer edge of the back foot.  See if you can get a sense of the stabilizing effect of that activation.
  4. Rotate your torso to the left without leaning forward.
  5. Keep your head in a neutral position. You can look up toward the ceiling if this does not hurt your neck.
  6. Bring the left arm toward your head for an extended side stretch.
  7. Bend the right leg and come back into Warrior II to come out of the pose.
  8. Rotate through Lunge and come back to the Half-Split counter-pose.
  9. Move through the same flow sequence as before to come back to Standing.
  10. Repeat the entire sequence on the other side.

Now you are ready for the Half-Moon Yoga Pose. If you have never tried this pose, you may want to start against the wall for support. This will allow you to freely find your center of gravity for the one-legged balance.

Half-Moon Pose

  1. half moonFollow the entire sequence until you get back to Triangle.
  2. Bring your left hand to your left hip.
  3. Bend the right leg and place your right hand on the floor about a foot in front of your right foot. Use a block if you need to.
  4. Press your weight into your right foot.
  5. Slowly begin to lift the back leg, keeping an awareness of your center of gravity.
  6. Keeping your foot engaged and ankle flexed, bring your back leg parallel to the floor.
  7. Extend through the heel of the back foot to activate the back leg.   Notice how this stabilizes you.
  8. Keep the top hip stacked over the bottom hip.
  9. Continue rotating your torso to the left to open the chest.

Variation:

  1. Bend the back leg and grab your foot with your hand to stretch the thigh.
  2. Push your foot into your hand to activate and stabilize.
  3. Release the foot.

To come out of the pose:

  1. Bend the right leg and lower the left leg to come back into Triangle.
  2. From Triangle, go back through to Warrior II.
  3. Rotate through Lunge and come back to the Half-Split counter-pose.
  4. Move through the same flow sequence as before to come back to Standing.
  5. Repeat the entire sequence on the other side.

Now you are ready to rest and enjoy the effects of this flow-styled approach to a balance pose.

If you liked this fluid approach to the yoga asana, you may be ready to kick it up a notch and try an even more more challenging style of yoga like Ashtanaga Yoga.