The world exists in a balance of the subtle and physical; it’s up to us to notice all parts. It’s easy to be in awe of the powerful energy of the sun, but don’t forget how much the silver glow of the moon can teach you about the softer side of light.
Just like on the outside, it’s easy to focus on the heaviness of your body and forget about the lightness of the energy within it. Ardha chandrasana, or half moon, is a great pose to get in touch with all aspects of being. As you ground into the earth on your standing foot, notice how prana flows into parts of your body you may have been ignoring. If you struggle to extend your leg, notice the way your ujjayi breath makes it effortless. As you hold this pose, you are working with gravity, yet you can enjoy a lightness in your body and the full experience of living.
Hip alignment for long-term health
Our hope is that you will be able to enjoy asana for life. This is why we teach ardha chandrasana in a way that supports hip health by moving within -- not beyond -- your hip’s optimal range of motion (we also cover this in our post on virbhadrasana B and trikonasana). Working from this point is a practice in ahimsa, or kindness, and self-care.
The correct positioning for the hips is for the bottom hip to point straight ahead and directly to the earth. The top hip will rise at a natural diagonal relative to the base hip, but don’t force it to face the side (this not a natural direction for your hip and will cause long-term wear and tear on the joint). Focus on turning your chest, not your hips, for an energizing twist. This will allow you to find greater connection to how your body is meant to move in ardha chandrasana and in life.
Here at Hale Pule, we talk about asana with three designations: essence, anchor and strength. This is a simple tool to remember the intention of the pose, where your body is grounded and the muscles you engage for proper alignment. These components will support optimal energy flow and a sustainable practice throughout your life.
Ardha chandrasana from the ground up
This pose promotes the cooling lunar energies, but is challenging and invigorating.
1. Stand in tadasana.
2. Using the strength of your pelvic floor, extend your right arm forward, left arm back. Work toward creating a straight line, but don’t hyperextend your shoulder to make this happen. It’s okay for your back arm to be out to the side until your chest opens.
3. Shift your weight into your right leg and lift up and out of your right hip (don’t sink). Keep your right hip facing straight ahead so that the joint stays in its optimal range of motion. You will keep your body in this orientation throughout the pose. Flex your left foot and extend your left leg slightly back.
4. With active legs and a flexed back foot, pivot from your hips, moving your back leg and torso in one line. Work toward bringing your left leg parallel to the floor and your right hand on the floor below your shoulder (we offer several helpful modifications that will allow you to reach this point over time).
5. Keep your right hip facing forward and your left hip at a natural diagonal as you turn your chest to the left and look up toward your top thumb, to the side wall or straight down at your lower hand. Hold for 15 to 20 breaths.Come out of this pose with your breath and the same fluid movement with your back leg and torso in the same line. Repeat on the other side.
At the wall (option 1: strengthening and alignment)
Stand just far enough from a wall so your fingertips just barely touch. Keep your left arm on the side of your left thigh and pivot forward, bending your elbow and placing your palm flat on the wall. Turn your chest to the side, keeping your hips in alignment.
At the wall (option 2: balance and alignment)
Stand so your right hip and shoulder touch the wall. Keep these points connected to the wall as you pivot at your hips until your arm reaches the floor and your leg is at 90 degrees relative to the base leg.
With a block
If you cannot bring your hand to the ground, just hold a block in your front hand and place it on the ground as you pivot forward. Keep your palm flat and fingers extended while rebounding on the block, don’t grip.
Common trouble spots
Pointed toes. Flex your top foot as if it were standing on the wall behind you. This engages the muscles in your legs and supports balance.
Both hips facing the side of the room. You’ll be able to enjoy asana for life when you pay attention to the alignment of your hips. The hip joint of your standing leg should be facing directly down at the mat. The hip joint of the lifted leg will be at a small diagonal that will depend on the body -- don’t force it to where you think it should be (see our post on virbhadrasana B to learn more about keeping your hips safe).
Leg too high. Work toward raising your leg parallel to the floor, or hip height. Any higher can cause misalignment and strain your back.
Gripping toes on mat. This is a sign you’re thinking too much and not using the bigger muscles of your legs and pelvic floor. Come out of the pose a bit and use the strength of your engaged leg and your breath. If you are not breathing smoothly and evenly in any expression of ardha chandrasana, practice at the wall or with a block.