Ardha chandrasana is one of those poses that offers a little something for everyone. It's a heating pose, building strength in the legs and core. It's a heart opener, expanding the chest as the limbs reach in all directions. It's a stretch for the hamstring, inner thigh, and groin of the standing leg, and it's a fantastic focus builder, requiring lightness in the body and mind, moment-to-moment awareness, and grace.
The stabilizing muscles around the lower leg, ankle, and foot of the standing leg are working strongly in this pose, rapidly and subtly engaging and releasing, making tiny adjustments as we sway, perhaps imperceptibly, back and forth, side to side with the natural rhythms of the body -- stillness in motion. I find that when I practice ardha chandrasana, the lower leg and foot are where the sensation arises first. The effort then becomes spreading and relaxing the toes and grounding evenly through the four corners of the foot to avoid gripping the mat. And breathing. It may seem counterintuitive, but a deep, even breath will help you balance. When the breath stops, tension arises in the body. This tension will pull you out of the pose. Relax and breath to find your balance.
It is advisable to keep a micro-bend in the knee of the standing leg in this pose to engage the leg completely and protect the knee from undue stain and stress. It also makes the pose a little more challenging, a little more unsteady, demanding the full attention of the mind and total recruitment of the body. That's a good thing, right?
In a vinyasa practice, ardha chandrasana usually follows trikonasana in a sequence. It's a natural progression of the stretch in the inner thigh and the work of the back leg to fly forward onto the front foot and truly stack the hips. But if you really want to challenge your balance and feel something in your standing leg, try this, holding each pose for 3-5 deep breaths:
- Start in a high Cresent lunge, right foot forward.
- Exhale to hinge forward over the front thigh, inhale to Virabhadrasana III (warrior 3).
- Exhale the right hand to the floor 6-10 inches ahead of the right pinky toe, inhale to revolve open to Ardha chandrasana (half moon), left hand reaches to the sky.
- Exhale the left hand to the mat beneath the left shoulder, inhale to peel the right hand up, twisting to Parivritta ardha chandrasana (revolved half moon).
- Exhale the right hand down, both hands grounded beneath the shoulders, inhale to lengthen forward, then exhale to fold over the standing leg in Urdhva prasarita eka padasana (standing splits).
- Inhale to float back to crescent lunge.
- Exhale to vinyasa.
- Repeat with the left foot forward.