The first posture after Pranayama Deep Breathing (see Newsletter 1) is Half Moon Pose with Hands to Feet Pose (Ardha Chandrasana with Padahastasana).
To be clear: In some yoga traditions the name “Half Moon Pose” refers to a different posture (see illustration).
The description below only concerns Half Moon Pose/Hands to Feet Pose as practiced in the Bikram Yoga series. This posture consists of 2 separate postures (Half Moon Pose and Hands to Feet Pose). These Postures are practiced as one combined posture in Bikram Yoga.
The combination of these 2 postures stretches and warms up the spine in 4 directions. In Half Moon you stretch one side of the body, while compressing the opposite side. The Hands to Feet Pose that follows is a forward bend in which you lengthen the spine by stretching the top of your head towards your feet.
- Ardha: Half
- Chandra: Moon
- Asana: Posture
- Pada: Foot
- Hasta: Hand
- Asana: Posture
- Half Moon Pose with Hands to Feet Pose is the first posture in the Bikram Yoga series for a reason. This posture warms up the spine and activates the central nervous system. This promotes blood circulation in your body, getting your body ready to move and open up. The more you warm up your spine and activate the nervous system, the better your body will respond to the following 25 postures. The benefits:
- Strengthens all muscles in the core (back, abdomen, upper arms and shoulders)
- Alleviates lower back pains, bronchial problems, scoliosis, tennis elbow, and frozen shoulder
- Improves mobility in shoulder joints and opens up the chest and ribcage
- Increases flexibility of the spine
- Trims and tones waistline, abdomen, hips, buttocks and thighs
- Corrects bad posture
- Helps cure indigestion and constipation
- Promotes healthy kidney function
- Reduces imbalances in liver and spleen
- Helps reduce stress
Hands to Feet:
- Increases flexibility of the spine and muscles, tendons and ligaments of the legs
- Stretches the entire backside of the body, especially the hamstrings and the low back
- Strengthens the abdomen and trims the waistline
- Strengthens and lengthens the muscles in the back of the legs
- Strengthens the muscles in arms and shoulders
- Increases blood flow to the leg muscles and to the brain
The description below gives you a step by step overview of the technique and form of this posture. Check out the illustrations for clarification.
The set up:
- Bring your feet together, toes and heels touch.
- Look straight ahead, towards the mirror.
- Contract upper leg muscles. Keep your legs strong and straight throughout the posture.
- Suck your stomach in, spine long and straight.
- Bring your arms over your head sideways and bring your hand palms together.
- Interlock your fingers, release your index fingers and cross your thumbs.
- Keep your arms straight, touching with your ears.
- Squeeze hand palms tight together up to your wrists.
- Chin away from your chest, so your throat is visible in the mirror.
- Keep the bodyweight on your heels.
- Inhale and stretch up towards the ceiling, sucking your stomach in.
- Bend your body to the right, keeping your arms and legs straight and contracted.
- Push your hips to the left, so you feel a big stretch on the left side of your body.
- Squeeze your gluts and push your hips forward. Bring your upper body back, keeping the weight on your heels.
- Turn your right shoulder forward, until both your shoulders/armpits are equal to the front mirror.
- Push your left hip forward, until both hips are equal to the mirror.
- On every inhale, lift the left side of your ribcage up towards the ceiling, sucking your stomach in more. On every exhale, keep your stomach in and push your hips more to the left (beyond your left ankle) and pull with your (straight) right arm your (straight) left arm up, over and down to the right.
- Keep length in your spine by continuing to pull your abdomen in and up. From the side your spine should look flat (imagine you are bending in between 2 glass walls and you cannot touch either wall).
- Left side: Idem.
- Keep your arms over your head.
- Let your head hang back, look up and back. Keep your eyes open.
- Take a deep breath, lift your chest and bring your arms back over your face, keeping your arms straight.
- Push your hips forward and keep the weight on your heels, keeping your legs straight and contracted.
- Bend your spine backwards, from your tailbone to the back of your head.
- On every inhale, lift your arms more and push your hips forward.
- On every exhale, bring your arms back more.
- Exit the posture on an inhale and slowly come up, head last.
Hands to Feet:
- Inhale, stretch up to the ceiling and bend forward from your hips, keeping your spine straight, your arms and head together and belly in. You may bend your knees if you need to, to keep your spine straight.
- When all the way down, bend your knees deep, until your belly touches your thighs.
- Hold your heels from behind, underneath the heels, stepping on all 10 fingers.
- Bring your elbows behind your calves.
- Your fingers should point straight forward in the same direction as your toes.
- Your belly is still touching on the thighs. Touch your chest on your knees and your face against your shins.
- Role your weight into your toes, while pulling on your heels and push your knees back without losing the connection between your upper body, face and legs.
- You should feel stretching on the back of your legs and along your spine.
- Over time, you will be able to straighten the legs without losing the connection between upper body, face and legs.
- If you lose the connection between upper body, face and legs; pull more on the heels, to reconnect body and legs. If that doesn’t work; bend your knees more, until your body and legs touch.
- Exit the posture on an inhale; slowly come up, keeping arms and head together, spine straight (belly in, knees may be bent to keep the spine straight).
10 Tips to improve your Half Moon/Hands to Feet Pose:
Side bends and Backbend:
- Use your hips:
- In the side bends: The more you push your hips to the side (with your weight on your heels, legs straight and contracted), the more your spine will bend.
- In the backbend: The more you push your hips forward (with your weight on your heels, legs straight and contracted), the more you will be able to bend backwards and the more opening you will create in the hips.
- Keep your leg and butt muscles contracted and your weight on your heels. The stronger you keep your lower body, the more your upper body can bend and open up.
- Use your inhalations to find length/space in the posture and your exhalations to move further into the posture (without losing the form of the posture).
- If you struggle with keeping your arms straight: Concentrate on stretching your index fingers up towards the ceiling, while squeezing your hand palms tight together and push your hands up more (“away” from the top of your head).
- Especially if you feel your neck and shoulders “burn” in this posture: Hold on, keep your arms over your head as straight as possible. The more you keep your arms up there, the sooner your shoulders and neck will open up (it also helps to keep your heart rate up). Dropping the arms down will just make you struggle longer. Just keep in mind: Your arms will not fall off your body, you will be ok.
- Always stretch up, to create length in the spine (stretching the intervertebral discs) before you bend in any direction. By stretching the spine you increase the blood flow in the spinal column which enhances the flexibility of the spine.
- Keep stretching your arms up and out of the body. Your shoulders will start to come up out of the body as they become more flexible. The more you pull your arm up and to the side, the more length you create in the spine.
- To keep your spine long and flat throughout the posture, execute the following 3 adjustments simultaneously:
- Keep the weight on your heels and your thigh muscles contracted;
- Suck your stomach/abdomen in and up;
- Squeeze gluts and push your hips forward
- Use your eyes: Look up and back as much as possible. Your spine really “starts” in your eyes (nerves in your eyes are connected to the brain and to the central nervous system that runs through your spine). When you initiate the motion of moving backwards with your eyes, this helps your spine bend backwards. Your body will always follow your eyes.
- Breathe. You have to breathe in order to bend without force. The more you control your breathing (always through the nose), the more control you have over your backbend.