Embrace Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon)
I truly love a balance pose. Not because I love balancing or because I’m good at it (balance poses are anything but effortless for me), but because after falling out of a balance pose it’s always so clear that if you keep straining, it will never happen. Balance poses are really for improving your mental balance — your ability to let go — much more than improving your physical balance. The best thing I ever heard for balancing poses is that “it’s not about staying in the balance. It’s about how you react when you fall out of it.”
Having said all that, I’m so inspired by Drisana’s Ardha Chandrasana (half moon) variation in our summer catalog, and I wanted to share some tips and a series of asanas that have helped me embrace this pose, both physically and mentally.
BUILD YOUR BASE. The feet (big shock) are an important element in this pose. There are three main points of support on the feet: The ball of the big toe, the little toe, and the heel. Take a moment to stand in Tadasana and ground through those points of support. To find your center, you have to be OK with falling out of it, so rock around, explore your edges, then come back to center.
OPEN YOUR HIPS. Hips are another very important element for half moon pose. In order to stack your hips and avoid pain, your hips have to be flexible. But here is the point most people miss: They must also be strong! You can’t just sink into your hips and wrench them open — you need to be able to lift them.
STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE. The spine and abs are the last parts I’ll have you focus on. The spine is crucial in ALL yoga postures. Take care of it. One of the best ways to take care of your spine is to strengthen your core. You don’t have to clench it, but find a soft strength — the more you clench, the more you will cause resistance. Think of yourself like a willow. Strong and movable. Do not be stuck.
BREATHE. What’s the most important element of your yoga practice? BREATH! If you are not breathing, you are not present. Go as slowly as you need to for maintaining your breathing at all times.
Preparing for Ardha Chandrasana
I like to open my hips first in Baddha Konasana (bound angle). You can do this sitting with or without props under your knees, depending on your flexibility.
Utkata Konasana (goddess pose) is a more challenging hip opener. Keep your tail bone tucked down, spine long and your knees over you ankles. you can move from side to side (like in the image above) to lengthen your spine in preparation for Ardha Chandrasana.
To strengthen and open your hips, Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle) is a favorite of mine. I love the variation shown above because it is also very good for strengthening the core. You can always place your elbow down on your leg or your hand down on the earth. Variations are there for a reason. They will only set you up for more success.
A wonderful way to open your hips and strengthen your legs is through Utthita Trikonasana (triangle). Make sure you are pushing away with each leg, like you are going to split your mat in two. Pull up through the center of your body, even weight on each leg.
This Ashwa Sanchalanasana (high lunge) variation is an amazing hip opener. Bringing your arms behind your back, clasp your hands and fold foreword. The tendency is to plop your torso on your thigh, but lift up instead. I know it’s crazy hard, but BREATHE and let gravity open your hips.
The next three poses are some of my favorites. If you flow through them it can be intensely calming. I find the longer I hold these three, the more the sensation of pratyahara (inward turn of the senses) grows and the more stable I become.
To begin to find your balance, practice Vrksasana (tree pose). Find those three points of support. Play with your edge. DO NOT be afraid of waving. When we let go we normally find out something new.
Next you can move in to Utita Hasta Padangusthasana (extended hand to big toe pose). Again building more leg strength and soft focus. It also helps to further improve your awareness of your 3 points of support and core.
Virabhadrasana 3 (warrior 3) is the next step. Begin to find the center of your body . Here you really begin to engage the core- imagine that string pulling from your belly button up towards your spine. This should be firm but not rigid. Imagine that your belly is making a soft smile. When you bring your body foreword keep your torso up while you lift your leg. Your hands can be on the earth out in front of you or by your sides.
And now for Ardha Chandrasana (half moon)!
As you begin to transition, slowly bring the weight foreword into your right leg, finding your three points of support (think like a willow — no locking of the knees). Your gaze should be 3-4 ft in front of you to start. Use the right hand on the ground to help you gain your foundation, then lift the back leg up and extend it out straight. Slowly rotate the hip’s up so they are stacked on top of one another. Don’t sink into your hips — find levity! The same goes for the arch of your standing leg. Feel the lift of energy pulling up from the earth. The spine should be long and strong with the tailbone tucking under. The gaze can be down at the ground or up towards the ceiling as you gain your balance. If you need to, gain confidence by using the wall.
If you want to do Drisana’s variation, turn your gaze back to the floor and reach for your back foot with your lefthand. Kick in to your hand to increase the back bend don’t put all the pressure in your low back. Keep your tailbone tucking and sacrum opening.
Photos of Hannah by Quotidian Photography