Half Moon Pose
- Begin in a wide-legged stance, right foot facing toward the front of the room, arms spread wide. (For example, it can flow nicely to go from a wide-legged pose like Warrior 2 or Triangle pose into Half Moon.)
- Cartwheel the arms down so that the hands come to the floor on either side of the front right foot. Walk the hands forward a bit, about 6-12 inches in front of the foot.
- Press into the hands and the right foot, straighten the right leg, and lift the back foot off the floor. Try to lift the left leg to hip height.
- Extend actively through the left foot to keep the left leg raised up strongly, but don’t lock the left knee.
- When you feel steady, lift the left hand off the floor. You can bring the hand to your left hip and open the chest; to go deeper, raise the left arm straight into the air.
- Now you’re balancing on your right foot and right hand, with your left leg and left arm making the shape of a half moon. Most of your weight should be on the right foot, with your hand just providing balance as you need it.
- Breathe here. Focus your gaze on a point in front of you, and use your ujjayi breath to help balance. If you feel steady, you can raise your eyes up to look at your left hand.
- Bring the left hand down to the floor, then gently bring the left leg down. You can come back into your wide-legged stance, or you can bring the left foot together with the right foot at the top of the mat.
- Come back up to standing, bringing hands to a prayer at your heart.
- Complete the pose on the other side.
Ardha Chandrasana is excellent for improving balance. Because it works the standing foot strongly, it’s good for the health of the foot. The pose also benefits the core muscles and improves strength in the raised arm and leg. Half moon pose can also help with conditions like indigestion, constipation, menstrual pain, fatigue, and backache.
Half moon pose may be quite difficult for someone with balance problems. Such students can try to practice the pose at the wall for added stability. This pose also puts some strain on the standing leg, so those with leg injuries should take care. If you have neck problems, keep the gaze focused on the floor and keep the neck long and even. Low blood pressure is another counterindication for this pose.
My Experience with Half Moon Pose:
I’ve hated half moon pose for years. I tend to dislike all the forward-bending balance poses: half moon, warrior 3, and standing split are all very uncomfortable, so this month I decided to challenge myself and practice half moon regularly. I’ve even been practicing the pose in the kitchen while cooking dinner! In addition to my home practice, I also attended N’s Tuesday night class several times this month, where she had us do a series of balance poses strung together, including half moon. These sequences were really difficult for me – when doing one or two balance poses and then coming down, I can do well, but several all at once without a rest was challenging.
I think that one thing I don’t like about poses like half moon is that the forward bending action makes me feel off-balance. In poses like tree or dancer, I’m standing up tall and can see what’s going on around me, but in a forward-bending balance, I’m relying on just my leg, and if I fall, my head is a lot closer to the ground. I wobble much more in half moon than I do in an upright pose like tree, even though in half moon I have two points of contact with the floor. I think the change in my center of gravity, plus the discomfort of trying to balance while bent over with my head close to the ground, have combined to make me dislike half moon pose and the other poses like it.
Working on half moon pose this month, I feel like I’ve identified why I don’t like the pose as well as the areas where I feel physical discomfort – the pose seems to put a lot of strain on my standing leg, for example. After practicing the pose frequently this month, I do feel stronger and more balanced in it. I want to cultivate a feeling of lightness and ease in the pose. Before this month, I didn’t like the pose so it was never a part of my home practice; from now on, I want to continue to practice the pose regularly and see where it takes me.
(Photo artistry by F. The yoga room is too small for him to fit all of me in one shot, so he took a bunch and collaged me together.)