Finding Your Radiance in Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
Are you looking to explore the strength, balance and radiance of Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)? Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you there.
Half Moon Pose (ardha = half, chandra = moon asana = pose) is an energetically expansive posture that asks us to radiate out in all directions like the moon’s luminescence in the night sky. A fairly tricky balancing pose, Ardha Chandrasana strengthens the legs, ankles and feet, as well as the core.
The key to this yoga pose is creating stability in the standing leg in order to elevate and externally rotate the lifted leg and hip, then actively extend through both legs, across both arms and out through the crown of the head, to open the hamstrings and groin, and lengthen the spine.
Benefits of Half Moon Pose
Ardha Chandrasana not only improves balance but also increases proprioceptive awareness—the ability to sense your body in space. The yoga pose requires a strong awareness of the leg in the air to keep it straight and in line with the torso, and to spread the toes and press through the heel of the lifted foot. All of this is accomplished through proprioceptive awareness, that is, without ever looking back toward the extended leg or foot.
Once you’ve discovered how to stabilize yourself in Half Moon Pose, extending out through the limbs in all directions feels liberating. Whether it’s your first time balancing in the pose, or you’re an expert, the posture can be exhilarating.
Steps to Do Half Moon Pose
- Begin standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) in the center of your mat. Step your feet hip width apart, keeping them parallel to the outer edges of your mat.
- Inhale and extend your arms out parallel to the floor. Turn your left foot slightly in and your standing right leg and foot out 90 degrees. Make sure that your right foot and knee are pointing straight forward, and that your front heel is in line with the center of your back arch.
- Place your left hand on your left hip. Exhale and bend your right knee, reaching your right fingertips to the floor ten to twelve inches in front of your right pinkie toe.
- Inhale and press firmly down into all four corners of your right foot as you straighten your right leg and lift the left, coming to balance on your right foot and fingertips.
- Spreading through the toes of your lifted left foot, press out through the heel as you externally rotate your left hip and rib cage skyward.
- Bringing your right fingertips directly under your right shoulder (the length of your torso in front of your right pinkie toe), extend your left arm up directly above your left shoulder.
- Inhale, press down through your standing leg and radiate out in every direction.
- To release, lower your left foot back down to the mat about a lunge distance behind your right foot, stepping back into Triangle Pose. Inhale, press down into both feet and rise up to stand. Bring your hands to your hips, straighten the right leg and turn it back in, feet parallel. Turn your left leg out and repeat on the second side.
Common Misalignments in Ardha Chandrasana
Problem: Beginning with the foundation, it is quite common for the standing foot to turn inward during the transition into the balancing pose.
Solution: Concentrate on pressing down through all four corners of your standing foot, particularly the mound of your big toe. Also keep the knee of your standing leg facing directly forward over your ankle as you make the transition.
Problem: Be mindful that you don’t hyperextend or lock out the knee of your standing leg.
Solution: Maintain a micro-bend and strongly engage your quadriceps, lifting them upward. If you’re having difficulty balancing, concentrate on pressing the inner edge of your standing foot down as there is a tendency to shift your weight to the outer edge of the standing foot.
Problem: Another common misalignment is for the standing hip to swing outward, bringing the outer edge of the thighbone forward and out, which can feel like tightness in the hip flexors.
Solution: To realign the standing leg, bend the standing knee an inch and press the knee open toward your right pinkie toe. With the standing knee still bent, pull the outer edge of your leg and hip back. Inhale and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor to re-straighten your right leg.
Problem: It’s imperative to lift up and out of your bottom hip. Often students will collapse into the hip joint, placing all of their weight into their standing leg.
Solution: If you cannot lengthen the tailbone, straighten the bottom leg and lift up and out of the standing hip, or lift and open your chest, try using a block under the hand that is placed on the floor. You can push into that hand and create leverage and expansion.
Problem: Lastly the top leg can drift slightly behind the torso.
Solution: Keep lifted toes spread wide with the foot flexed to activate the leg muscles. Essentially you want the lifted leg in line with the topside of your torso, creating one line from armpit to heel. Classically, the alignment of the top leg is parallel to the floor along with both side bodies.
Half Moon Pose: Stages and Variations
Placing a block under the bottom hand can be extremely helpful. I’ve been practicing yoga for over ten years and have very open hamstrings, and I love using a block in this pose. Think of the block as an opportunity to enhance the full expression of Ardha Chandrasana. Most importantly, notice the way you feel in the pose with a block versus without a block and determine which feels more expansive.
Half Moon Pose works well in three stages. First, start by building the pose at the wall with the outer hip, buttocks, back, shoulders and arms of the standing leg side against the wall. Here you can become familiar with the shape and actions of the pose.
Second, try the pose perpendicular to the wall with your top foot pressing firmly into the hard surface. Extend your raised leg into the wall and lengthen both side bodies. Here you can really begin to experience what it feels like radiate out through the limbs, as well as what it takes to begin to square the torso as it opens to the side.
Finally, begin to explore Half Moon Pose in the middle of the room and experience the strength, balance and radiance of the pose.
Meagan McCrary is an experienced yoga teacher (500 ERYT) and writer with a passion for helping people find more comfort, clarity, compassion and joy on the mat and in their lives. She is the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga a comprehensive encyclopedia of prominent yoga styles, including each system’s teaching methodology, elements of practice, philosophical and spiritual underpinnings, class structure, physical exertion and personal attention. Currently living in Los Angeles, Meagan teaches at the various Equinox Sports Clubs, works privately with clients and leads retreats internationally. You can find her blog, teaching schedule and latest offerings at www.MeaganMcCrary.com, as well as on Facebook.