Eight hours a day shoehorned behind a desk leaves you not only shortchanged, but also with shortened hip flexors, weak glutes, and posture like a bonsai tree. Many of us, consequently, turn to yoga.
But yoga not only helps with flexibility — it also can build strength and balance. That’s the beauty of yoga: it’s a comprehensive practice. And one of my favorite such postures is half moon pose, known by its Sanskrit name ardha chandrasana.
Half moon pose requires flexibility, strength, and balance, all in one simple-looking pose. But while it might not look complex when performed by a practiced yogi, this posture conceals a lot of subtle intricacies. Yet it’s accessible to beginners.
“As long as your hands are in the correct alignment, your hips are open and stacked, and you are standing strong on your grounded leg,” says Stephanie Saunders, Openfit executive director of fitness and a certified yoga instructor, “half moon is within your reach.”
How to Perform Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
- Stand tall in mountain pose — chest up, big toes touching, heels slightly apart — near the top of your mat.
- Step your left foot to the back of the mat, and ground your heel with a slight internal rotation, so the that arch of your left foot is in line with your front heel. Bend your right knee deeply and open your arms out to Warrior 2.
- Keeping the bend in your right knee, reach out over your right leg, tilting from your waist, and bring your right fingertips to the floor inside your right leg, as your left arm extends overhead.
- From this side angle pose, reach your right hand 12 inches in front of your right foot on the mat, and float your left leg off the floor.
- Straighten your knees (without locking out the right) and bring your left leg parallel with the floor. Your right kneecap should point toward the top of the mat.
- Keep your left arm extended to the ceiling and your right hand to the floor, making sure your head is neutral and your hips are square, left stacked over right.
- Hold the pose as long as is comfortable, then lower your left leg to the floor to return to the starting position. Switch sides, and repeat.
How to Make Half Moon Pose Easier
If you’re new to ardha chandrasana, lifting your back leg off the ground and shifting your weight can be intimidating. Here are a few beginner tips to make it more accessible.
- Use a block. Place a block 6-8 inches in front of your standing foot, and plant your corresponding hand on it as you lift your back leg. This will help with balance, especially if you struggle to place your hand on the floor.
- Use a wall. To get a feel for the alignment of this posture and reduce the need for balance, simply lean your back against the wall while in extended side angle pose. Then lift your back foot to come into half moon pose.
How to Make Half Moon Pose Harder
Getting into half moon pose takes strength and flexibility — staying there takes balance. One of the ways to make this pose harder is to challenge that balance.
- Lift your hand off the floor. Many yogis who practice half moon pose place their hand on the floor to improve their balance. Start by placing less weight on your hand, and eventually lift it off the floor.
- Shift your gaze. As you enter half moon pose, your gaze will be trained on the floor. To further challenge your balance, turn your head to look at the side wall and eventually toward the ceiling.
- Skip the floor. When you’re ready to really advance this pose, change the way you enter it. Instead of placing one hand on the floor and the other on your hip, start with arms extended to the sides in “T” formation, and simply shift your weight forward.
- Skip the step. Instead of sliding your back foot forward a few inches before raising it, lift your back leg from extended leg triangle without the step.
If you really want to advance the pose, Saunders has a couple more suggestions. “Once half moon pose becomes simple is where the fun begins,” she says. “Reach your floating arm back to your floating foot for a bind. And if it still is too easy, try standing on a yoga block for all of the above.”
Benefits of Half Moon Pose
Half moon pose requires strength, flexibility, and balance but it gives a lot back in return. Ardha chandrasana:
- Strengthens quads, ankles, glutes, and core
- Helps improve balance
- Stretches inner thighs and hamstrings
- Helps improve full-body coordination
Take your practice further with Openfit’s Yoga52, a collection of 52 elegantly-produced yoga classes from beginner to expert taught by five of the world’s leading yoga instructors.