Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
1. To balance gracefully in either of the Half Moon poses, it’s essential that you build a solid foundation in the feet, legs, and hips. Doing so requires patience and resolve, but once you’ve got this underpinning, you’ll grip less in your diaphragm and rib cage. Your upper body will be light, and instead of being bound by gravity, you’ll feel as though you are soaring above the earth, like a great hawk.
2. Enter Half Moon from Triangle Pose. Stand sideways on your mat with your feet four feet apart. Turn your right foot out so that it is parallel to the side of your mat. Angle the back foot in slightly. Inhale and reach your arms out like that huge hawk, then exhale as you extend to the right, pitching your pelvis powerfully toward your back leg. Keep your torso long as you place your right hand on your shin.
3. From there, place your left hand on your left hip, bend your right knee, and take a small step in with your back leg. Place your right hand directly below your right shoulder just to the outside of your front foot. Straighten your right leg as you lift your left leg off the floor to hip height. Push through the sole of your left foot, as though you were pressing it against a wall.
4. Now, look down at your standing foot and make sure it’s still parallel to the edge of your mat. This foot typically turns out, pitching the standing leg off its axis and disturbing the equilibrium of the entire pose. To counter this tendency and to keep yourself upright, you need to find the plumb line of the pose, in this case the line running up your inner leg from your heel all the way to your inner groin.
5. To engage your inner leg, press the mound of your big toe down as you lift your arch. Stretch, spread, and activate the toes. The outer hip of the standing leg tends to splay out to the side in the Half Moon poses. To prevent this, draw in the center of your right buttock and pull the greater trochanter (the big bony knob of the outer hip) into your body. As you draw your right hip in, shave its outer edge back, like a carpenter planing a piece of wood. Then stay for a few breaths, noticing how it feels to have your standing leg set.
6. To complete the shape of the pose, stack the upper hip atop the lower hip. Without disturbing your standing leg, spin your chest up toward the ceiling as you reach your left arm up. Slowly take your gaze toward your left hand.
7. Spread the wings of your diaphragm and your inner chest cavity with soft, open breathing. As you stay in Half Moon for 5 to 10 breaths, go for the feeling of flying while staying in one place. If you fall in any direction, fall upward! Come out of the pose by lowering your back leg into Triangle Pose, and then switch legs.