Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
Half moon pose, known as ardha chandrasana in Sanskrit, is a challenging balancing pose that builds strength and stamina in the chest, arms, abdomen, buttocks, hips, and legs. The pose mimics a glowing moon, with the arms and legs representing moonbeams. Half moon pose captures the power of the moon’s light in a dark sky in this powerful, strength building posture.
Half moon pose tips the classic standing balance on its side. It combines a leg and arm balance with a hip and chest opener for a pose that checks all the boxes on your yoga practice bucketlist. The pose builds muscle, of course, but also concentration, balance, coordination, and flexibility. In addition, half moon pose has a positive effect on digestive, menstrual, and mental health.
- Begin in mountain pose (tadasana) in the middle of the mat.
- Step your left foot back, approximately three feet behind your right (increase the distance if your legs are longer than average, decrease it if they are shorter). Turn your left foot outward 90°, so that it faces the long edge of your mat. Square your hips in the same direction.
- Inhale. Pop your hip back.
- Exhale. Bend sideways over your right leg. Keep your back erect, as if you are sliding down an invisible wall directly behind you. Take hold of your right ankle with your right arm.
- Inhale, extend your left arm vertically to take triangle pose (trikonasana). Look up toward your raised hand.
- Exhale. Lower your left arm behind your back. Bend your elbow and place your palm against the top of your right thigh.
- Look down toward your right foot. Ground through your foot, planting the four corners of your sole and all five of your toes firmly into the mat.
- Inhale. Bend your right knee and slide your left foot a few inches closer to your right. Plant the fingertips your your right hand on the mat approximately a foot in front of your right foot.
- Exhale. Push off your left foot and straighten your right knee to raise your left leg into the air. Lower your right palm onto the mat completely, sliding it further forward if necessary to maintain your balance. You may bend your right knee slightly to avoid hyperextension or, if you do not have a tendency to hyperextend your knees, engage the muscles of your right knee to protect the knee joint.
- Press the bottom inside corners of your shoulder blades toward your heart center to open the chest. Also, keep your hips and chest open by pressing your left hip and shoulder toward the sky. Press your left foot upward and backward to extend your left leg. Press the top of your head forward to lengthen your spine.
- Rotate your hips outward to deepen the hip opener. Ideally, your knee cap will face perpendicular to your body.
- Keep your left arm bound behind your back, or slowly raise it vertically. If you raise your left arm, shift your gaze upwards towards the hand of your extended arm.
- Breath and hold the pose. Support your body weight with, primarily, your base leg and, secondarily, your base arm.
- Exhale. Drop your left leg to the mat, returning to triangle pose. Inhale and step your left foot forward, back into mountain pose. Repeat the pose on the opposite side.
Tips, Photos and Videos for Beginners
Modifications and Props
Prop your base arm up with a block. If you can’t reach the mat when you sideways bend in step nine (above), decrease the intensity of the bend by planting your base arm on a block instead. Place a block approximately a foot in front of your feet in step one. When you prepare to bend in step eight, place your fingertips on the block.
Sugarcane in Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandra Chapasana). This even more challenging variation of half moon pose incorporates a deep asymmetrical backbend. In step twelve (above), raise your left arm. In step thirteen, exhale and bend your left leg and shoot your knee high into the air. With your left hand, take hold of your left foot from the inside. Breath and hold the pose while you actively press the top of your left foot against your hand to lift your leg higher and intensify the backbend. Exhale. Release and straighten your left leg. Inhale. Follow the instructions in step fourteen to exit the pose.
Half moon pose looks graceful, but requires toughness and both muscular strength and flexibility to pull off. It strengthens a comprehensive list of the muscles in the shoulders, back, arms, and legs and stretches muscles throughout the body. Muscularly, half moon pose is an intense posture that benefits a long list of muscles.
As with other standing balances, half moon pose requires deep mental concentration. This requirement has therapeutic implications for anxiety and stress. The pose engages the abdominal region, improving digestion (by, for example, relieving constipation) and relieving period symptoms like cramps and gas.
Do not attempt eagle pose if you:
- have a headache.
- have low blood pressure.
- have vertigo.
- have colitis.
- can’t sleep
Warm up in preparatory poses that (1) build balance, like tree pose (vrksasana), (2) open the chest, like side angle pose (utthita parsvakonasana), (3) open the hips, like bound angle pose (baddha konasana), and (4) stretch the sides, like triangle pose. Working up to half moon pose component by component makes the pose more accessible.
Hamstrings. The hamstrings are the three long muscles that run along the back of the thigh. They extend the hip, flex the knee, and rotate the lower leg. Half moon pose stretches the hamstring muscles of the lifted and base legs, building flexibility and resilience in the legs.
Glutes. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. Half moon pose stretches the gluteus medius and minimus. It also strengthens the gluteus maximus, which does the heavy lifting.
Triceps surae. The triceps surae consist of the gastrocnemius, in the back of the calf, and the soleus, in the front of the calf. These muscles stabilize the ankles and provide the power when walking and jumping. Half moon pose stretches the gastrocnemius for more flexible, more resilient calf muscles.
Hip flexors. The hip flexors are a large group of muscles located deep in the thighs, hips, and buttocks. They connect the leg, pelvis, and abdomen and allow you to lift your upper leg towards your body or bend your body over your upper leg. Sitting for long periods of time weakens the hip flexors, making it difficult to lift the upper legs and bend over. Half moon pose stretches the psoas in the inner hip/groin area of the lifted leg.
Hip rotators. The hip rotator, or lateral rotator, muscle group includes six small muscles in the hip that control external rotation of the legs. Short hip rotator muscles lead to poor pelvic alignment. Half moon pose lengthens the tensor fascia lata, contributing to improved range of motion for kicks, jumps, and splits. If your knee cap points perpendicular to your body in step eleven (above), internally rotate your thighs to deepen the stretch in the hip rotators.
Erector spinae. The erector spinae is a bundle of muscles and tendons in the back that control extension and rotation. Because they are responsible for straightening the back, the strength of the erector spinae muscles are closely linked with posture. In half moon pose, the back bends sideways, lengthening the erector spinae muscles on one side of the body and strengthening those on the other side.
Hip adductors. The hip adductor muscles are located in the inner thighs. They are are responsible for leg movement away from the center of the body as, for example, during a star jump or split. Half moon pose stretches the adductor muscles, particularly if you internally rotate your thighs in step eleven (above).
Abdominals. The abdominal muscles are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. In half moon pose the abdominals do much of the heavy lifting. For best results, don’t clench your rectus abdominus (your six pack). Instead, engage both your rectus abdominus and the obliques on either side of your stomach.
Quadriceps. The quadricep muscles cover the front and sides of the femur, making up much of the muscle mass of the thighs. The quads stabilize and allow extension of the knee joint. Half moon pose builds strength in the quads, which engage when the legs are bent.
Rhomboids. The rhomboid muscles in the upper back are responsible for retraction of the shoulder blades. Opening the chest in half moon pose by extending the shoulder upward and pressing the shoulder blades toward heart center strengthens the rhomboid muscles.
Pecs. The pectoralis major and minor muscles connect the front walls of the chest with the upper arms and shoulders. These muscles draw the arms towards the body. Half moon pose stretches the pecs as you open your chest with either the arm bind or by raising the arm.
Serratus anterior. The serratus anterior muscles are located on the sides of the chest, just below the armpits. They rotate the scapulas, particularly when the scapulas tilt forward. Half moon pose stretches the serratus anterior muscles in the raised arm and strengthens the serratus anterior in the base arm.
Triceps brachii. The triceps brachii is a large muscle on the back of the upper arm responsible for straightening the arm. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk. Although the arm balance is secondary to the leg balance in half moon pose, the triceps strengthen as they support the body in the posture.
Want to give a go at a more difficult yoga position? Check out the plow pose for beginners.