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Ever found yourself in Revolved Half Moon, wobbling like crazy on your standing leg while awkwardly twisting your torso, desperately trying to lift your gaze without losing your balance, and wondering if you’re even breathing let alone doing the pose “right”?
Ardha Chandrasana can be…challenging. Although one perk of your physical yoga practice is that it helps to hone your sense of proprioception—that is, how or where you are positioned in space—it can be difficult to find that sense in complex poses when several anatomical actions occur at once. Especially when some of those actions are in parts of the body that you can’t even see. If any kind of balancing is involved, as in Revolved Half Moon, that challenge alone can occupy most of your attention.
This is why you need to use a wall.
A wall is the yoga prop you never knew you needed—especially when it comes to understanding the nuanced alignment of complex balancing poses. A wall gives you something solid and concrete to push into with the aim of experiencing how that action feels in your body so that you can recreate it later without the support of the wall. The tactile feedback literally trains your proprioceptive senses for the actions you would like to maintain.
How to learn complex yoga poses at the wall
In Revolved Half Moon (as well as Warrior III), you could practice the pose with your lifted foot pressed against a wall for stability, although doing only that would be shortchanging yourself of much of the benefit that a wall can offer. Instead, you want to deconstruct a complex posture into its anatomical actions and explore them one at a time with the tactile feedback of a wall. This helps you become aware of different elements of the pose that might otherwise be lost as you attempt to do them all at once.
Take Revolved Half Moon. The lower half of your body is the standing L shape of Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) while the upper body is rotated. Given that this pose puts most of us at the upper end of our flexibility while also challenging our balance, it’s easy to lose track of the details of the pose. As you struggle to stabilize your standing leg, you might forget to energize the unseen lifted leg. And in an effort to deepen the twist, you might take the pelvis with you as you turn your chest instead of focusing on rotating the shoulder blades and thoracic spine, which offer greater benefits to upper body posture and breathing.
When you practice exercises that isolate a different aspect of how your body needs to move in Revolved Half Moon, the firm support of the wall provides much more objective information than relying on your perceived position in space and helps focus your mind on often-overlooked anatomical actions.
See also: Build Balance in Revolved Half Moon
A yoga sequence at the wall for Revolved Half Moon
In this sequence, you’ll stretch or push against a wall in various positions. Once you feel strong in the individual positions, you can use your heightened sense of proprioception to inform your practice even after you move away from the wall.
You will need a blank section of wall plus 2 yoga blocks (or water bottles or books).
What it does: Begins to mobilize your shoulder blades and initiates rotation in your thoracic spine for the twist required by Revolved Half Moon.
How to: Stand with your left side 2–3 inches from the wall. Extend your left arm straight ahead of you, turn your palm toward the wall, and press it into the wall. Reach your fingertips a little further away from you, which will require you to move your shoulder blade away from your spine. Slowly slide your hand overhead and then behind you until it’s a little above shoulder height. Pause here for a breath and feel your left shoulder blade glide closer to your spine and the left side of your chest rotate toward the wall. Then slide your left hand down toward your left hip. Release your hand from the wall and bring it back out in front of you. Repeat for a total of 4 circles. Repeat on the right side.
Standing Forward Bend at the Wall
What it does: Lengthens your hamstrings in preparation for the flexibility required in the standing leg of Revolved Half Moon.
How to: Turn your back to the wall, keeping your heels 2–3 inches away from it. Lean your sacrum against the wall, soften your knees, and fold forward over your thighs. Let your head and arms hang heavy and gently tilt your sit bones up the wall until you feel a gentle stretch in the belly of your hamstrings. Take 3–4 slow and steady breaths here, then bend your knees enough to plant your palms on the floor in preparation for the next pose.
Plank at the Wall
What it does: Begins to ready the core and legs to create the length and extension required by Revolved Half Moon.
How to: Walk your hands away from the wall until your legs straighten and your wrists stack under your shoulders to bring you into Plank Pose. Lift one leg and set the sole of your foot on the wall at about the same height as your shoulders. Drive your hands down and forward to create tension between that foot and the wall as you lift your second foot and set it on the wall hip-width from the first. Your wrists will now be slightly forward of your shoulders. Hug your thigh muscles against your thigh bones and cinch in around your waist to lengthen from your head to your heels. Hold for a breath or two, if you can, then lower your feet back to the floor. Walk your hands back to your feet, bend your knees, and rise up to standing.
Revolved Triangle at the Wall
What it does: Much of the rotation in Revolved Half Moon is created by leverage from the shoulder blades. The bottom shoulder moves away from the spine (protracts) and the top shoulder moves toward the spine (retracts). These actions help rotate the chest and thoracic spine (the section of the spine that attaches to the ribcage). So we now bring the previous actions together and add the twist.
How to: Turn to face the wall. Set your left foot about a foot away from the wall and step your right foot back about 3 feet behind your left. Turn your right toes out enough to comfortably ground your right heel without turning your hips away from the wall. Then place your fingertips on the wall around hip height, shoulder-width apart. Hinge at your hips and fold forward until your arms and spine are parallel to the floor. Inch your feet further forward or back, if needed, to completely straighten your arms. Distribute your weight evenly between both feet, drawing your left hip crease away from the left side of your waist so that the two sides of your sacrum are level. Press your palms into the wall and firm in around your waist, drawing your pelvis away from the wall just as you did in plank with your feet on the wall.
Bend your elbows to lift onto your fingertips. As if you were looking at a clock, walk your left fingertips toward 12 o’clock and your right fingertips toward 6 o’clock, keeping your legs strong, hips level, and waist narrow as you rotate your upper back and ribcage. Draw your left shoulder blade toward your spine to lift that elbow toward the ceiling, in a similar movement as in the Shoulder Clocks. Wrap your right shoulder blade away from your spine around your side ribs to help you move that elbow toward the floor.
Take a couple of breaths here, feeling the steadiness of your base contrast to the mobility of your shoulders and spine, then slowly retrace your steps on the second side.
Warrior III at the Wall
What it does: Brings all those anatomical actions together: strength and steadiness in the legs, hips level, waist cinched to lengthen the midsection, and the movement focused on the shoulder blades, ribcage, and upper back.
How to: Sit on the floor with your sacrum and back against the wall and your legs straight in front of you. Set your blocks on either side of your heels to mark your leg length from the wall.
Then come back to standing. Set your left heel between the blocks, and then take the blocks in your hands and walk them away from the wall until they stack under your shoulders. Choose a block height that supports your spine in a neutral shape, parallel to the floor. Steady your weight in the center of your left foot, then lift your right foot and place it on the wall at hip height with toes pointing straight down toward the floor. Feel free to bend your left knee to put a little slack on your hamstrings, but actively straighten your right leg and drive out through your right foot as if pushing the wall away from you, just as you did in Plank. Cinch in around your waist, lengthening the crown of your head away from the wall. Stay here.
Revolved Half Moon at the Wall
What it does: Provides support as you approach Revolved Half Moon in all aspects of your body.
How to: Slide the block on your right directly underneath your sternum, then push down through your right hand to draw your right shoulder blade away from your spine to wrap around your side ribs. Feel how that action initiates the rotation of your ribcage toward the left. Float your left hand off your block, bend your left elbow, and draw it toward the ceiling, squeezing your left shoulder blade close to your spine to help turn your chest further to the left. Straighten your left arm and reach it toward the ceiling. If you like, you can follow your fingertips with your gaze.
Hold here for a breath or two as you push into the wall and floor to energize your legs and core. Use the leverage of your shoulder blades to rotate your chest. Then slowly back out and repeat on your other side.
Revolved Half Moon Pose
What it does: When you have prepared your body in the various preceding exercises, the pose no longer feels quite so befuddling in all its various components. You can come into it with confidence.
How to: Come into Revolved Half Moon as you did in the previous version against the wall, this time away from the wall. Continue to push through your lifted leg, maintaining a level pelvis and supportive core, and using your shoulder blades to help you rotate your chest. Linger in Revolved Half Moon for a breath or two to notice how it feels compared to what you normally feel. Slowly release and repeat on the other side beginning with Revolved Triangle at the Wall.
See also: How to Use a Wall for Sun Salutation A
About our contributor
Rachel Land is a Yoga Medicine instructor offering group and one-on-one yoga sessions in Queenstown New Zealand, as well as on-demand at Practice.YogaMedicine.com. Passionate about the real-world application of her studies in anatomy and alignment, Rachel uses yoga to help her students create strength, stability, and clarity of mind. Rachel also co-hosts the new Yoga Medicine Podcast.