Try this lovely lateral bend, side stretch, and balancing pose, for a vast array of benefits. Practice it at your next yoga class or private session.
ARDHA CHANDRASANA = HALF MOON POSE
“Ardha” means “half,” while “Chandra” is usually translated as “moon.” “Chandra” also means “shining, glittering, luminous, having the brilliancy of light.”
Pose Level: 1
Physical Description, How-To:
- Begin in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), towards the right side. Then, INHALE, bend the right knee, while bringing your right hand to the floor (or a BLOCK) just in front of (about 12 inches) your right leg. Keep your left hand on your hip for balance. Shift your weight forward, over the right foot and the right hand.
- EXHALE, press that right foot and leg into the floor and, keeping you left hand at your let waist (keeping that elbow bent), extend your trunk a little further towards your head, and slide your left foot a little towards the right leg. Slowly lift your left leg up straight, so that the left leg is parallel to the floor, while the right foot and leg press into the floor (keep that right leg perpendicular to the floor).
- INHALE, and slowly extend your left arm straight up, in line with the shoulder, pointing the fingertips toward the ceiling. You can keep your left hand on your hip if balance is challenging. If you do NOT have neck problems, and your arm is extended upwards, slowly turn your head to look at your hand. If you do have neck problems, or balance is challenging, keep your head in a neutral position and your gaze forward.
- EXHALE, bend your right leg and lower your left foot to the ground. Bring your left leg down slowly, with control and awareness.
- To come out, straighten and come up to Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), then come up through Utthita Hasta Padasana (Extended Hands and Feet Pose/5-pointed star pose).
- Now, repeat these steps on the other side.
Remember, Where should my awareness be?: One of the most important things is to keep your chest and entire rib cage turning towards the ceiling. Don’t let your top arm and chest drop forward and down; keep both lifted. Keep your bottom foot upon which you are standing in a firm position; don’t shift it. Your head should stay in line with your spine; don’t let it hang down, and don’t bring it forward. If you have neck problems, keep your gaze forward rather than looking upwards. Be sure NOT to lock your kneecap; keep it straight forward (not turned). Do not lock (hyperextend) the knee of the standing leg.
Modifications, How can I make it easier and more comfortable?: Do what is right for YOUR body, at THIS moment in time. You want the pose to be challenging, and yet comfortable and sweet. Most importantly, remember the wall is your friend! For balance, this pose should initially be practiced against a wall; put the back of your body against the wall. You can also use a block for your lower hand; start with the block at its tallest height, then move it down as you progress with practice (see large image at the top of this page). Eventually, this helps your hand reach the floor. As for your upper arm, if it is difficult to balance with your arm extended and reaching to the ceiling, feel free to keep your upper hand on your hip of the same side (rather than up). If the balance portion of this posture is too much, you can still gain a lot from the basic standing Kripalu version of Ardha Chandrasana (see small photograph to the left, above): Begin in Tadasana (feet are together or slightly apart), raise your arms to your sides, and if it is available to you put your hands in temple position (so long as your shoulders do not come up; if they do, keep your arms up in a “V” shape), then stretch to each side on the exhale.
Benefits, Why should I do this pose?: Ardha Chandrasana helps your coordination and balance. This posture works your hips and helps stabilize your pelvis, which improves your overall balance even while standing and walking normally (not just in the pose!). It also tones and strengthens your leg muscles and helps you keep your abdominal muscles in, which protects your back. It also strengthens and protects the knee because it works the gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata. Ardha Chandrasana helps you get into the habit of standing more on the soles of your feet; we tend to put all the weight on the heels, which makes the belly protrude and, over time, stresses the lower back. Ardha Chandrasana is especially recommended for runners. Some also report that it helps gastric problems, is good for backaches, and helps relieve menstrual pain (dysmenorrhoea).
Contraindications, What precautions should I take, or when should I not do this pose?: If you have any neck problems, do not look upward, as this might strain your neck; keep your gaze straight ahead and keep both sides of the neck even and long. This pose should not be done by those who have recently had knee or hip replacement. Those with unmedicated high blood pressure or osteoporosis should do this posture with great caution, or avoid this pose. This pose can sometimes aggravate headaches or migraines (though some report it helps!). Ardha Chandrasana should not be practiced if you are suffering from low blood pressure. It may also aggravate diarrhea (though some report over time it helps relieve gastric troubles) or insomnia (because it is an invigorating posture).
Role in overall Sādhanā Practice, How will this help me improve?: This is predominately a balancing posture. Learning how to synchronize movements while getting into this posture, and learning how to bring the lifted leg down with control, will improve your concentration and poise. Mastering Ardha Chandrasana improves your practice of standing sequences.
Taking it further, How can I deepen my pose?: Once you are firm and steady in Ardha Chandrasana, take your bottom hand touching the floor and raise it to touch your standing thigh. Then balance solely on that standing leg for 15 to 20 seconds. You can also move into more difficult variations, such as CHAPASANA (aka “Sugarcane Pose”) in Ardha Chandrasana, where you bend your top knee and grab it with the hand of your upper arm.
History and Symbolism, What are some fun facts about this pose?: Moon symbolism is particularly important in Hatha Yoga, and relates to balance, harmony, and integration. “Ha” is often translated as “Sun,” which is often symbolic of action, heat, light, and creativity, while “Tha” corresponds to the moon, and symbolizes reflection, receptivity, coolness, and darkness. “Ha” is also affiliated with the notion of “right breath,” and “Tha” with “left breath.” Hence, doing Hatha yoga is thought of a way to balance these polarities, and integrate various aspects of ourselves, active and passive, masculine and feminine, potential and manifestation, and right- and left-brain hemispheres.
Meditating on the nature symbolism of Ardha Chandrasana can help you extend and perfect this posture. While lengthening your torso in one direction, and your lifted leg in the other, think about this line your body mirroring the contour of the flat edge seen in the half phase of the lunar cycle. Then, lifting through your upraised arm towards the ceiling and pressing down through your standing leg into the floor, imagine these lines of your body similar to the lines radiating from the moon into the night sky.
In Indian mythology, there is also a fun story about the moon and its cycles, such as “Half Moon.” Chandra, the moon, was born out of the churning of the sea. When Chandra grew up, he married 27 lunar constellations of stars, who were all sisters. These sisters began complaining to their father, Daksha, that Chandra only loved one wife, Rohini, and neglected the rest of his wives. Enraged at the pain Chandra caused his daughters, Daksha cursed his son-in-law, and doomed him to fade away and die. But the complaining sisters felt remorse, as they really loved Chandra. They begged their father to remove the curse, but he could not entirely. Instead, Saksha lessened the curse; from here on, Chandra would fade for a fortnight, and then grow for a fortnight. This is why the moon waxes for two weeks and wanes for two weeks.
What waxes and wanes in your life? How might you begin to view this as balance, rather than something to mourn or fear? Physical balancing yoga poses also help us ask ourselves, “What might be out of balance my life, and what adjustments do I need to be steady and comfortable?” Practice Ardha Chandrasana for all these physical and meditative benefits.
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