How to Do Half Moon Pose in Yoga
Half Moon Pose is a standing yoga posture that will challenge your leg muscles and your ability to balance. It can also be a fun pose to transition into from Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)! The two poses are similar in their full-body extension; Half Moon is like a balancing variation of Triangle.
The Sanskrit name for this pose, "Ardha Chandrasana" (ARD-uh chan-DRAHS-uh-nuh), comes from three words:
- "Ardha" — meaning "half"
- "Chandra" — meaning "moon"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
There are a variety of modifications available for this pose, making it a suitable balancing posture for beginning and advanced yoga students.
Benefits of Half Moon Pose
Half Moon Pose strengthens the thighs, ankles, abdomen, and buttocks. It opens the chest, shoulders, and torso, while lengthening the spine. This pose also effectively stretches the groins, hamstrings, and calves.
As we look deeply within, we understand our perfect balance. There is no fear of the cycle of birth, life and death. For when you stand in the present moment, you are timeless.
Because your heart is higher than your head in Half Moon, this pose also provides the benefits of mild inversions, including relief from stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Half Moon, like Extended Triangle Pose, also stimulates the organs of the torso, which can provide relief from digestive distress, such as indigestion and constipation. When practiced correctly, this pose is therapeutic for sciatica and lower back pain.
Most notably, Half Moon improves your sense of balance and full-body coordination. It helps to increase your body awareness and the sense of your body's position in space (this sense is called "proprioception"). Improving your proprioception can bring more poise to your everyday activities. It can also help you prevent the risk of injury by making you more aware of your body's position and movements.
Do not practice Half Moon Pose if you have low blood pressure or are currently experiencing headaches, insomnia, or diarrhea. Those with neck injuries should not turn their heads to face the top hand (in Step 7 of the Instructions, below), but should continue looking straight ahead. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin by standing at the top of your mat. Turn to the left and step your feet wide apart. Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder-height. Your feet should be as far apart as your wrists. Rotate your right (front) foot 90 degrees, so your front foot’s toes point to the top of the mat. Turn your left foot’s toes slightly in. Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot.
- Reach through your right hand in the same direction that your right foot is pointed. Shift your left hip back, and then fold sideways at the hip. Rest your right hand on your outer right shin or ankle. If you are more flexible, place your fingertips on the floor. You can also place your hand on a yoga block.
- Align your shoulders so your left shoulder is directly above your right shoulder. Gently turn your head to gaze at your left thumb. This is Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana).
- Bring your left hand to rest on your left hip. Turn your head to look at the floor. Then, bend your right knee and step your left foot 6-12 inches closer to your right foot. Place your right hand’s fingertips on the floor in front of your right foot.
- Press firmly into your right hand and foot. Straighten your right leg while simultaneously lifting your left leg. Work toward brining your left leg parallel to the floor, or even higher than your hips.
- Reach actively through your left heel. Do not lock your right leg’s knee. Keep your right foot’s toes and kneecap facing in the direction of your head.
- Stack your top hip directly over your bottom hip, and open your torso to the left. Then extend your left arm and point your fingertips directly toward the sky. If you can balance comfortably there, turn your head and gaze at your left thumb.
- Draw your shoulderblades firmly into your back. Lengthen your tailbone toward your left heel.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release, lower your left leg as you exhale. Return to Extended Triangle Pose. Inhale and press firmly through your left heel as you lift your torso. Lower your arms. Turn to the left, reversing the position of your feet, and repeat for the same length of time on the opposite side.
Modifications & Variations
Practicing Half Moon Pose will strengthen and stretch your entire body. It can sometimes be difficult for beginners to find balance and correct alignment. Try these simple modifications to find a variation of the pose that works for you:
- If you can't touch the floor with your bottom hand or fingertips, rest your hand on a block. Begin with the block on its highest side. Gradually lower it to the middle, and then to its lowest height as you gain more confidence.
- Beginners can also practice this pose with their backs against a wall. This will provide support and ease any fear of falling as you learn the correct alignment of the pose.
Beginners can also use a wall to learn the correct alignment of the lifted leg:
- Stand a leg's length away from the wall, keeping your back to the wall.
- Lower your torso into a forward bend with your fingertips on the floor in front of you. Then raise your left leg parallel to the floor.
- Press the sole of your left foot against the wall with your toes pointing down.
- Gradually rotate your torso and left leg to the left, coming into Half Moon with your left foot supported against the wall.
- For a greater challenge, lift your bottom hand away from the floor and rest it on your standing leg’s thigh.
To gain the benefits of Half Moon Pose, it’s important to practice it with correct alignment. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) provides the foundation for this pose, so it's important to learn the correct alignment for Triangle before moving into Half Moon. Thoroughly review iSport’s guide on How to Do Extended Triangle Pose in Yoga before practicing this pose.
- Work on getting the foot and leg placements first. Build the pose from the ground up.
- Do not allow your torso to drop forward in the pose. This often happens if you’re straining too hard to reach your front fingertips to the floor, or to raise your leg too high. Instead, work to keep your hips, chest, shoulders, legs, and head along the same line. Imagine that you’re practicing the pose between two waterfalls. If you drop your torso forward or lean too far back, you will get wet. Work to keep your body "dry."
- Keep your standing leg’s knee soft. Do not lock or hyperextend it.
- Firm and activate the muscles of both thighs. Work toward maintaining an equal balance of energy and effort in both legs.
Over the Moon
Half Moon can challenge your practice in new ways. Remember to breathe smoothly throughout the pose. As you continually draw your awareness back to your breath, you can stay calm and aware of the present moment. Don't be afraid to fall — just try the pose again. Relax your breath, focus your mind, and take it slowly. With practice and patience, you'll be balancing gracefully in space, just like the moon.