SmartMat Pose of the Week – Half Moon Pose
Half Moon Pose, Ardha Chandrasana, is likely to be one of the first standing balance poses students will encounter in a class at their local studio. It’s popularity is due in part to it’s relatively easy transition from most lunge poses.
But I think the pose also makes a frequent appearance in classes because it is one of the best poses to learn how to feel and balance opposing forces in the body. Specifically, one has to learn how to balance the muscular “do-er” energy in the body (the sun energy) with the more calming, “being” energy (the moon energy) in order to find the sweet spot in this asana. Too much of one force or the other, and the delicate balance will be compromised.
Finding the Balance
Since having our energies in optimal equilibrium is not usually the default state for most of us, we’re likely to enter this pose with our dominant energy trying to take over the show. If your softer moon energy leads, you’ll have to work harder on the muscular energy in this posture so you don’t fall down. If you’re more of a do-er with sun energy dominating, your muscles are probably a bit tighter. In that case, you’ll need to focus on softening in this posture and lengthening out from the core in order to find the balance.
In either event though, we have to make a strong connection to the earth first. And to do this, we’ll need to be aware of a common misalignment that occurs at the base of this pose. Take a close look at the foot position in this picture below:
Notice how the foot on the ground is slightly turned in and the toes are not pointing straight ahead. A lot of us opt for this stance because our hamstrings feel tight, and by turning the toes inward we can by-pass that muscle slightly and still get our hand to the ground. It may look like we’re doing the pose, but chances are we’re locked out at the knee joint and only holding a tentative balance at best.
It’ll be pretty hard if not impossible to feel energy flowing freely in your limbs in a balanced way with this version. Instead, it’ll feel more like you’re gripping the floor instead of rooting into it, creating a rigidity throughout the body. Practice regularly like this, and it may even start to cause some knee strain.
Optimize Alignment For Energetic Flow and Balance
With a few simple adjustments in the bottom leg, you can open the gateway for the muscular (sun) energy and organic (moon) energy to move freely through the body, creating a true sensation of balance and even a meditative quality in the posture.
Here’s What You Need To Do:
1. Make sure the toes point straight ahead on the bottom foot. You can use the feedback from your SmartMat to insure you’ve hit the proper alignment.
2. Take a slight bend in the bottom knee, helping you to activate the leg muscles and to make your hand more available to the mat.
3. Take an inhale and imagine drawing your active sun energy up the standing leg and arm until your core feels activated too. Once the muscles feel engaged, the knee can straighten if your hamstring muscle allows. If it needs to stay bent, that’s ok. Just keep drawing up the muscles of the leg to stabilize the balance. (It can help to stay looking at the mat too in order to keep your balance.) If you can, try to rotate the top hip completely until it stacks itself on top of the bottom hip. Keep drawing the energy in from all four limbs to keep the core contracted and strong.
4. Once the muscular (sun) energy is active, use an exhale to extend out in all directions through your bones to balance out the strong muscular energy with some softer organic energy. Visualize radiating out a silver moonlight with each exhale.
IMPORTANT: Use each breath to carefully negotiate how much to draw up the muscles on the inhale, and how much to reach out through the bones on the exhales. It will change moment to moment. You’ll learn quickly that the energetic sensation of balance in this posture is not a static thing that you hit once and forget. It’s something you have to keep adjusting with every breath.
Do it this way, and it’s likely the pose may feel a lot harder to you, even if you’ve been practicing a while. But it will also be more authentic, more energetically engaged. Easier isn’t always better. You’ll have to stay focused and present to maintain the balance.
When we know the misalignment traps to watch our for in the pose (and any pose for that matter), we’re better prepared to take the optimal position that allows for maximum energetic flow in the body. It’s then that your poses can start to feel like gateways into a deeper inquiry and meditation on the self. And that’s where things can really get interesting.