Our yoga often reflects the shifts we encounter off the mat. Since we can’t always control what life tosses our way, the next best thing is in how we respond to the shift. As yogis, we know that it can sometimes be easier to go with the flow than to fight every step of the way.
The standing balance Half Moon Pose or Ardha Chandrasana perfectly embodies the unique balance one needs to navigate the twists and turns of life during this time of year.
Mind Over Matter
This pose draws parallels with my years as a tennis player. On the court, it was not just athleticism that would help me win, but rather mind over matter. The most nerve-racking moments came when I was near the net, with an opportunity for an overhead shot.
This was when I’d be racked with an unrelenting tidal wave of doubt, second-guessing, and fear of missing what I deemed an easy shot. When I succumbed to this mental avalanche, more often than not, I blew it.
If my yoga teacher-self went back in time to see how my body looked at those critical moments, I’m sure it was either a case of my chest being too closed off, with shoulders slumped, chest withdrawn, so that the ball went straight into the net as soon as I hit it.
Or it would be the other case, where my upper body and racket would be too open and ungrounded, so that when racket connected with ball, it sailed way past the baseline. I either didn’t commit enough energy or was overzealous. I hadn’t mastered that fine balance in the middle.
Expansiveness and Centering
Similarly, Ardha Chandrasana lets you confront your own measure of trust and courage. If you don’t commit enough energy and focus to the pose, finding the freedom within it is tough. Yet, if you open up without grounding, you can topple over from overenthusiasm.
Without equal parts expansiveness and centering, this balancing pose can be frustrating. However, if we incorporate a sense of adventure coupled with self-awareness, this pose makes you feel like you’ve reached the highest mountain peak, or successfully slammed that elusive overhead shot.
Here's how to do Half Moon Pose.
Half Moon Pose Warm-Up
Start with a series of three Sun Salutations A (Surya Namaskar A), followed by three Sun Salutations B (Surya Namaskar B).
Then, enjoy one or two rounds of a standing sequence beginning with Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), moving to Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana), Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana), and into Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana).
This sequence opens the hips, lengthens the side waist, and strengthens the legs—all components necessary in Half Moon Pose. Pay attention to the breath; spend three to five breaths in each pose and let each breath gracefully lead you into the next pose like an artful dance. Do both sides.
Entering Half Moon Pose
In Extended Side Angle with your right leg in front, reach your fingers out, placing your fingertips on the floor or on a yoga block about a foot past your right baby toe. Your front knee may move forward toward your toes as you find your ideal hand placement.
Bring your left hand to your hip, keeping your chest open and slightly turned skyward. Bring more weight into the right foot, firming up the back leg like you’re pushing off the floor. With the front knee bent, let the back foot hover a few inches above the floor and flex it.
When you’re steady here, resume firming up your back leg as you straighten the front leg. Be careful not to hyperextend the standing leg. Congratulations—you’re in Half Moon.
Your top hand can stay at your hip or reach toward the sky until the arms align in a T. If there is no strain in your neck, gaze towards the thumb in the lifted hand to maintain focus and balance.
Fine-Tuning Half Moon Pose
- Stack your bones to cultivate ease: Much like the poses in the warmup sequence, stack your top hip over the bottom hip, your back pressed up against an imaginary wall. Your shoulders also mimic this stacking; chest slightly spiraling up to the sky as you lean back.
- Engage both legs to maneuver confidently within the pose: Externally rotate the standing leg, trying to turn your leg toward the imaginary wall behind you. Keep the knee in line with the midline of your foot. Internally rotate the lifted leg like you’re trying to point your knee towards the floor, keeping the foot flexed.
- Enjoy long lines on all sides: As your breastbone moves forward to lengthen the front body, the tail bone moves toward the back lifted heel to lengthen the back body. At the fullest expression of this pose, both arms extend to a T and external rotate, shoulder blades moving towards the waist. Collarbones stay wide, inviting spaciousness into the chest. As in Triangle, lengthen the side waist on the bottom by moving your armpit further away from the hip, keeping the shoulders stacked and away from the ears. This also encourages your ribs to hug in toward the sides of your spine.
- Find balance through opposing actions: This is an omnidirectional pose; you’re spreading yourself out in all directions, while also drawing energy to your center to maintain stability. As the top of your head moves forward, the heel of your back foot presses backward. Ground your standing foot evenly on the floor, keeping your torso and top arm buoyant yet firm.
Finishing Half Moon Pose
Spend three to five breaths in this pose before stepping the back foot down. Feel free to counter the pose with another Reverse Warrior, perhaps straighten the front leg to stretch the hips out again before moving to the second side.
To close the practice, enjoy two to three backbends like Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), followed by some gentle supine twists, before ending with Corpse (Savasana). May you enjoy freedom and grounding this season!