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Please recommend a flow of poses as a Moon Salutation. I do one in my class and it is so loved. Would like to see what you recommend.
—Laura Taub, Ocala, Florida
Reverence for the Moon dates back to ancient times, although the practice of aligning one’s yoga practice with the Moon is much less explored and less understood.
The concept of a Moon Salutation, or Chandra Namaskar, came about in recent years as a calming complement to the traditional Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation A). Surya Namaskar was designed to be bold and intense and create warmth, like its namesake star. Practiced early in the day, it incites our more masculine attributes of accomplishing and making things happen, whereas Moon Salutations allow for the cooling and calming feminine nature of the Moon to be part of our practice. These slower sequences are meant to be practiced quietly and slowly as a precursor to sleep.
Yet what anyone takes away from a Moon yoga practice may not be quite so easily categorized. “The influence of the Moon is powerful,” explains longtime yoga teacher and YJ astrology contributor Tara Martell. “A lot of people think of resting postures when they think of a Moon practice,” says Martell. “Yet under any Moon, some of us will be tired, while others of us will be energized.” It’s personal. To create balance, Martell explains that we need to be recognize and honor our needs while moving the energies.
So, what is a Moon Salutation?
Search for “Moon Salutation” and you’ll encounter countless sequences that you can practice verbatim or rely on as inspiration. The original Moon Salutation was created in the late ’80s by teachers at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and features several standing poses—including the traditional Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) and Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose) as well as less-conventional Goddess Pose—and links them in sweeping, unhurried, fluid fashion.
Several variants on the original any way of moving—or being still—that feels intuitive in your body aligns with the feminine aspect of trust and surrender and gentleness that is the intention behind a Moon practice.
Many teachers prefer to keep the practice low to the mat during Moon practices to enhance a feeling of being grounded. Common poses include Balasana (Child’s Pose), Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), and Skandasana (Side Lunge). Others prefer to substitute less intense poses where posssible, taking Child’s Pose instead of Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) and Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) in place of Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose).
These poses can be sequenced as you desire, whether you stick with a simple practice of varying Sun Salutations with Child’s Pose in place of Down Dog or incorporate these into an intense practice that ends with longer, quieter Yin and restorative stretches that allow you to come into stillness. Try to determine your approach less from thinking and more from feeling into what you want.
Should you practice yoga during the full Moon and new Moon?
According to astrology, the full Moon and new Moon are times when our physical self and our psyche are more in flux and less grounded. “These are the two times each month when we lose our footing a little,” explains Martell. “We can create balance by moving those energies out of our bodies and our minds.”
In the Ashtanga tradition, which emphasizes yoga as an everyday practice, it is believed that our bodies require complete rest during the new and full Moons. In observance of nature, students refrain from practicing on these “Moon days.” Given the intense and regimented approach of Ashtanga, which relies on the rigorous practice of the same sequence of postures, a day of rest makes sense. Many studios still cancel Ashtanga and Mysore classes on the new and full Moon days.
And that rest can be necessary. Yet a less drastic approach than disregarding one’s practice can allow us to move in a way that attunes our practice beneath the Moon. We can practice according to our needs and our mood, based on the influence of astrological alignments as well as everyday life.
A Moon Salutation
Megha Nancy Buttenheim, who co-created the original Chandra Namasakar, has continually altered the original depending on the needs of herself or students, including a chair yoga version. She encourages us all to continue to fashion our own Moon practices. Buttenheim explains, in a statement on the Kripalu Center’s website, that the Moon practice “keeps changing, evolving, and growing with time.” As does our individual yoga practice.
A variant on a common Moon salutation follows. It can be practiced on its own or you can use it as a foundation for adding more poses.
Inhale and lift into Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend), then exhale and step your left foot back and lower your back knee into Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge). Keep your hands on the mat for a breath and press through the top of your back foot and ground down through your front heel. Inhale and slowly extend your arms alongside your ears. Continue to ground down through your feet and lift yourself out of your low back. Relax your shoulders. If desired, you can bend your elbows or interlace your fingers behind your back and take a slight backbend.
On an exhale, bring your hands down and step back to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). If you like, lower yourself into Balasana (Child’s Pose) and remain here for several breaths. (Depending on your mood, if you prefer something more intense, you could come to Three-Legged Dog and shift your shoulders forward and step your lifted foot behind you into Wild Thing, or from Low Lunge you could take a One-Legged Chaturanga before stepping back to Down Dog, or…whatever feels most intuitive and graceful or badass to you.)
Slowly make your way back to Downward-Facing Dog Pose and make your way back to the front of the mat. Repeat on the other side.