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Half Moon Pose: The Complete Guide

Build leg and ankle strength as you seek stability and extend into Ardha Chandrasana.


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By finding balance between the calming energy of the moon and the fiery energy of the sun, Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) shows you how to coordinate opposing movements: You root down with your standing leg and stabilized arm while lifting and extending your raised leg and opposite arm.

It may surprise you to find that while this pose asks your body to move in very different directions, you’ll (eventually) feel quite strong and steady, like you are suspended in air and balancing without much effort. Experiment with the energies of this pose and continue to play with them throughout your practice, especially during transitions.

If you lose your balance in Half Moon, simply refocus and reconnect with your breath. It’s the same way in daily life: When you get distracted, come back to the present moment.

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Half Moon Pose basics

Sanskrit: Ardha Chandrasana (are-dah chan-DRAHS-anna)

ardha = half
chandra = glittering, shining, having the brilliancy or hue of light (said of the gods); usually translated as “moon”

Pose type: Standing Balance

Targets: Full Body

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Benefits

Half Moon Pose improves balance and counteracts the effects of sitting.

Other Half Moon perks:

  • Strengthens your core muscles
  • On your standing thigh: strengthens your thighs and ankles. It also stretches the back of your thigh (hamstrings) and your buttocks (glutes)
  • On the lifted thigh, it stretches your groin and front of your hip (hip flexors), including your psoas. It also strengthens your thighs (especially your outer thighs/abductors) and your buttocks (glutes).
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Half Moon Pose: Step-by-step instructions

  1. Start in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) with your left foot forward.
  2. Bring your right hand to your hip and turn your head to look at the floor.
  3. Bend your front leg and shift your weight into your front foot.
  4. Reach your front hand a little forward and place it on the mat or a block directly beneath your front shoulder. Press down through your fingers to steady yourself.
  5. Lift your back leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Slowly turn your chest to face the right, twisting your torso and hips. Reach your top hand to the ceiling.
  6. Either keep your gaze on the floor or slowly bring it to your top hand. Keep a slight bend in your standing leg so you don’t hyperextend your knee.
  7. Exit the pose the same way you came into it and return to Extended Triangle.
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Explore the pose

Half Moon Pose is usually sequenced somewhere in the middle of a standing pose series, often after Triangle Pose.

For an added challenge and quad stretch, bend your top leg and reach for your top foot to come into Chapasana, or Sugar Cane Pose—a variation of Half Moon Pose that is more of a backend.

Be mindful!

  • If you’re having trouble balancing, keep your gaze straight ahead.
  • If you are side-bending too much to reach the floor, place a block under you bottom hand.
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Half Moon Pose variations

Photo: Christopher Dougherty

Half Moon Pose on a chair

To make the pose easier on your lower back, try this posture with your hand or forearm on the base of the chair. Lift your leg up as high as you can without forcing.

Photo: Christopher Dougherty

Half Moon Pose on a chair 2

Another way to use a chair is to hold onto the back of a chair. Lift your leg as high as you can without forcing. You can keep your top hand on your hip or lift it up toward the ceiling.

Photo: Eleanor Williamson

Knee-down Half Moon Pose

To focus on strengthening more than balance, try the pose on the floor with one knee down.

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Preparatory and counter poses

Prepare for Ardha Chandrasana by stretching the hamstrings. Also, practice poses that challenge your balance. Additionally, in other poses in which your hands are on the mat, such as Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), practice pressing down with your fingers into the mat, as this action will help with steadiness when you are balancing.

Preparatory poses

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Counter poses

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

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Your body in Half Moon Pose | Anatomy

In Ardha Chandrasana, your body weight is on one leg, with one hand extended and touching the floor. The other leg is extended parallel to the floor and acts as an active counterbalance. Freely interpreted, the pose carves a full moon ideally; it hangs quietly in the sky. All limbs remain in the same plane, because tipping the leg or the upper arm backward will cause loss of balance.

The pose is an intense stretch of the hamstring, gluteal, and gastrocnemius muscles on the back of the standing leg. The action of maintaining balance and stretching the muscles on the back of the standing leg are interconnected. Contracting the quadriceps and hip flexors of the standing leg help to maintain balance but also signal the muscles at the back of the leg to relax through reciprocal inhibition.

If you start to lose balance, you can regain stability by bending your standing knee. For additional stability, slightly lower your lifted leg. Both of these actions lower your center of gravity and make it easier to balance. Throughout the pose, focus on your breathing to maintain balance.

In the drawings below, pink muscles are stretching and blue muscles are contracting. The shade of the color represents the force of the stretch and the force of contraction. Darker = stronger.

Half Moon Pose: Ardha Chandrasana
Illustration: Chris Macivor

Laterally flex the trunk by engaging the oblique abdominals, the deep back muscles, and the hip flexors. The rectus femoris and sartorius muscles cross the pelvis and hip, making them synergistic hip flexors. Engage the rectus femoris by lifting your kneecap toward your pelvis.

Lift your back leg by using your hip abductors—the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fascia lata. Activate the quadriceps to straighten the knee and lift the pelvis and trunk forward.

Half Moon Pose: Ardha Chandrasana
(Illustration: Chris Macivor)

Use the muscles on the side of your standing leg to assist in balancing. The gluteus medius, minimus, and tensor fascia lata flex the hip and stabilize the pelvis.

Contract the upper rhomboids to draw your shoulder blades toward the midline of the back, opening the chest and turning it slightly upward. Reach toward the floor with the lower arm by activating the serratus anterior, drawing the scapula away from the spine.

Excerpted with permission from The Key Poses of Yoga and Anatomy for Vinyasa Flow and Standing Poses by Ray Long.

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Put Half Moon Pose into practice

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About our contributors

Teacher and model Natasha Rizopoulos is a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings. A dedicated Ashtanga practitioner for many years, she became equally as captivated by the precision of the Iyengar system. These two traditions inform her teaching and her dynamic, anatomy-based vinyasa system Align Your Flow. For more information, visit natasharizopoulos.com.

Ray Long is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga, a popular series of yoga anatomy books, and the Daily Bandha, which provides tips and techniques for teaching and practicing safe alignment. Ray graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and pursued post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Montreal, and the Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over 20 years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters, and teaches anatomy workshops at yoga studios around the country.