Derived from ardha, meaning half, and chandra, meaning moon, adrha chandrasana radiates with the symbolic power of the Hindu lunar deity, Chandra. In the Hindu cosmology, Chandra is the bringer of fertile morning dew, the protector of rabbits, the lord of plants, and the source of soma, the juice of eternal life.
Here, the moon represents mind, imagination, emotion, sensitivity, and the natural ebb and flow of life. In Vedic thought, the waxing moon brings good fortune and encourages action, while the waning moon warrants caution and reflection. Drawing on this imagery, half moon pose dares us to pause on the cusp between that shift in phases. It challenges us to hang in space and reflect the light around us so that we shine steadily, even when our skies are dark.
In class, we will move into half moon after the warrior sequence, at the opening of our balancing series. If you are practicing on your own, enter ardha chandrasana after several sun salutations and the warrior poses. It's best to have also moved through triangle and extended triangle, which lengthen the hamstrings, rotate the pelvis, and thus open the muscles in the trunk, chest, and back.
To move into half moon, begin in extended triangle, with the legs in a wide stance, front and back feet in line. The toes on the front foot should point straight ahead while the toes of the back foot should point outward, almost 90 degrees. Shift the lower arm from its position on the ankle, reaching it forward about six inches ahead of the front foot. Move the body's weight forward until the front leg is straight and the hand rests six inches in front of it on the floor. Firm up the abs to draw the center of gravity over the standing leg, which should be perpendicular to the torso.
Proper alignment will channel the upper body's weight into the leg and leave the fingers of the lower hand to gently stabilize without strain. This will permit the back leg to float up into the air, allowing the pelvis to rotate as the chest opens and the upper hand lifts toward the sky. Lengthen the spine by pressing outward from the heel of the lifted leg, while gently stretching the tailbone and the occipital bone in opposite directions. While the pose does engage major muscle groups in both legs, the emphasis should be on feeling light and long. Paradoxically, the key to achieving balance and relaxation lies in redirecting the force of the body's weight away from the center. Lengthening through the lifted arm, the back of the head, and the floating leg creates a sensation of suspension, a feeling of hanging, almost weightless in space. While the pose is active, there should be effort but not strain.
Yogis who are exploring the pose for the first time or are in the early stages of developing the posture may wish to use a block under the lower hand to extend its reach to the floor. While the block will make it easier to balance, it's important not to press too much weight into the hand. The fingertips are only meant to stabilize the body, not to channel any significant amount of weight.
It's also important not to lock the knee on the standing leg. While the force of the body will be pressing downward, it's best to imagine pulling up from the ankle, keeping the knee straight but soft. The focus on pulling up from the ankle will engage the groin and shift some of the burden from the quads and lower leg.
It's helpful to try the pose against a wall to feel the perfect alignment of the pelvis, back, and lower leg. When the body is in the optimal position, the hips will be stacked, the back will be long and flat against the wall, the shoulder blades will be drawn down along the spine, and the floating leg will hover in line with the torso, with the flexed foot higher than the shoulders. The body should form one long, straight line from the back of the head to the airborne heel. The weight on the lower hand should be minimal, and the standing leg should be gently engaged.
The head may turn to lift the gaze upward. If this causes any strain or discomfort in the neck, however, the head may remain in a neutral position, with the eyes looking out. Yogis who are just beginning to explore this pose or who have shoulder injuries may also opt to keep the upper arm bent, with the hand resting gently on the upturned hip.
While you hang in half moon, enjoy the sense of suspension as you take a brief time-out from the constant wax and wane of life. Let any pent up emotional energy flow until it finds its own level and settles into stillness. Dangling in space, without feeling any need to grip or struggle, take a moment to reflect the light of the universe and to appreciate how your presence returns its shine.