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Five Pillars Yoga

Yoga Lab: Ardha Chandrasana

Cosmic Alignment from the Ground Up in Half Moon Pose

Grounded and uplifting, Ardha Chandrasana is a standing balancing posture that’s also a hip and heart-opener. Ardha is the Sanskirt word for half, and chandra means moon. The yogi is inside the half moon: Her stacked arms create the full circle’s diameter and her outstretched leg reaches back to the curve of the moon behind her.

Astronomy bonus: The moon reached the halfway point of its cycle on Sunday, so now’s a great time to practice this asana, cosmically speaking. a0ee86aec66ff735abdcd27fc534891d

Half Moon Pose is frequently taught as part of a vinyasa flow, usually toward the middle or end of a standing sequence. As such, there’s often not a lot of time to play in it. Like any balancing posture it’s nice to have several breathes to fall in and out of equilibrium, and, as a hip opener, to find the stacking of the hips that makes the pose almost effortless.

Why do it? Well, Ardha Chandrasana

  • Works the whole core (front to back)
  • Strengthens the ankles, knees, thighs and bum
  • Tones the intercostal muscles
  • Stretches the inner groin muscles, hamstrings and calves
  • Opens the shoulders, chest and heart
  • Increases spinal flexibility
  • Improves coordination, focus and balance
  • Regulates kidney function, helping to improving digestion and relieve constipation

It also feels a little bit like flying.

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Here’s how to get into it. 

Make sure your hips and groin are open and affable before you begin. Consider spending a few minutes in Baddha Konasana, Bound Angle Pose, with the soles of your feet together, knees opening out to the sides. Allow the inner groins to relax and press the feet together so the thighs can roll out and away from each other.

Next, stack and open the hips with a three-legged down dog. Lift one leg, bend the knee and point it up toward the ceiling. Lengthen through the side body, and let gravity pull the foot of your lifted leg toward the floor behind you. Stay for several breathes, and repeat on the other side.

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When your hips feel awake, take a wide stance front-to-back on your mat, setting up for Utthita Trikonasana, Extended Triangle Pose. (For more on Triangle check out our Yoga Labs on the original and the revolved version.)

We’ll start on the right side. Align your front heel with your back arch. Ground down through the feet and press firmly into the outer edges to allow the inner thighs to outwardly rotate, away from the midline of your body. Extend your arms from your shoulders and hinge forward, bringing your right hand to rest on your right shin or on the floor. Moving on, bend the front knee gently and walk your fingertips out in front of you, past the edge of your mat. Advanced option: Place a block under your hand. (It is the truly wise yogi who knows when to seek support.)

Bring your left hand to your left hip crease and slowly lift your left leg up behind you, pouring weight into your right foot and fingertips as you come forward. With the left leg extended behind you, make sure your foot is in the same line as your hip socket, foot flexed, toes facing in.

Use your left hand to manually open your left hip up, stacking left hip on top of right. Stay here, or straighten your left arm up to the ceiling, making one long arm from your extended left fingertips to your grounded right hand. If it feels okay in your neck, shift your gaze to your left hand.

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Continue to stack the hips and shoulders. Tip your heart up to the sky. Engage through both feet. Stay awhile. Then float on down and take it on the second side.

Photos: Top watercolor illustration available here; moon phase watercolor by tigermilk; first quarter moon photo by Priya Kumar; Triangle Pose illustration by Minne; photo from Whole Living