8.07.2010

Asana of the Week: Ardha Chandrasana


Ardha chandrasana, otherwise known as half moon pose, is so named because if you squint your eyes -- almost close them, really -- then gaze softly through your eyelashes, crossing your eyes ever so slightly, the shape of this asana resembles that of a half moon. Kinda.

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:
  1. Start in a high Cresent lunge, right foot forward.
  2. Exhale to hinge forward over the front thigh, inhale to Virabhadrasana III (warrior 3).
  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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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).
  6. Inhale to float back to crescent lunge.
  7. Exhale to vinyasa.
  8. Repeat with the left foot forward.

10 comments:

  1. I first learned ardha chandrasana from pyramid, and found it darn near impossible. The first time I tried it from triangle it was a completely different pose! I must start with my hips open otherwise I just can't access it.

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  2. Jamie - What's this "pyramid" you speak of?

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  3. I think parsvottanasana is often referred to as pyramid.

    This sequence is one of my favorites! Right now I love to incorporate the bind of the flying leg, and lift up into natarajasana, then switch to natarajasana B and lower into bound revolved half moon. with some pincha mayurasana for a resting pose ;)

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  4. Alice - Oooh! Very saucy additions to the sequence you have there. I'll have to give it a go sometime. I always have trouble lifting up into natarajasana... feels like a mental block.

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  5. Just found your blog and read a ways back. I am learning a lot from your experiences! Thanks for sharing them!

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  6. I have been reading your blog for a while, but this is my first time commenting. I have especially enjoyed your accounts of teacher training. I did my teacher training last year and had many of the doubts that you have expressed. It has been nice to know I am not alone. You are very inspiring.

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  7. JodiB - Thanks so much for you kind comment. That is exactly why I write about the practice.

    Rae - It's definitely been a challenging experience, and the journey is just beginning. I'm sure that's true for both of us.

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  8. Warrior One is such a popular pose, but not everybody does it correctly. There are ways to make hands-on adjustments so everyone can succeed in this pose. I found Leeann Carey has a free yoga video on exactly how to do this. Thought your readers might want to check it out: http://planetyoga.com/yoga-blogs/index.php/free-yoga-video-hands-on-adjustments-in-warrior-one-pose/

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  9. I just found your blog by googling pics of ardha chandrasana. I might copy your pic and link back to hear in my own personal yoga journal, which I don't think anyone reads. In fact, I think I will. If you don't want me to, kindly let me know. Loved your post --

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  10. Hi Dogfood Provider - Thanks for the comment! Feel free to link to the post.

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