Half Moon Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
Perform Utthita Trikonasana to the right side, with your left hand resting on the left hip. Inhale, bend your right knee, and slide your left foot about 6 to 12 inches forward along the floor. At the same time, reach your right hand forward, beyond the little-toe side of the right foot, at least 12 inches.
Exhale, press your right hand and right heel firmly into the floor, and straighten your right leg, simultaneously lifting the left leg parallel (or a little above parallel) to the floor. Extend actively through the left heel to keep the raised leg strong. Be careful not to lock (and so hyperextend) the standing knee: make sure the kneecap is aligned straight forward and isn’t turned inward.
Rotate your upper torso to the left, but keep the left hip moving slightly forward. Most beginners should keep the left hand on the left hip and the head in a neutral position, gazing forward.
Bear the body’s weight mostly on the standing leg. Press the lower hand lightly to the floor, using it to intelligently regulate your balance. Lift the inner ankle of the standing foot strongly upward, as if drawing energy from the floor into the standing groin. Press the sacrum and scapulas firmly against the back torso, and lengthen the coccyx toward the raised heel.
Stay in this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then lower the raised leg to the floor with an exhalation, and return to Trikonasana. Then perform the pose to the left for the same length of time.
Contraindications and Cautions
If you have any neck problems, don’t turn your head to look upward; continue looking straight ahead and keep both sides of the neck evenly long.
- Headache or migraine
- Low blood pressure
Modifications and Props
Balance is always tricky in this pose for beginners. A wall is a useful prop, which you can use in one of two ways. Stand with your back to the wall, one leg’s length away from the wall. Exhale and bend forward into a standing forward bend, then inhale and raise your left leg parallel to the floor and press the left sole against the wall. Start with your toes turned toward the floor. Exhale again and rotate your torso to the left; at the same time, turn the left leg and foot until the inner foot is parallel to the floor. Rest your left hand on the left hip. The pressure of the raised heel against the wall will help you maintain your balance. You can also perform the pose with your back to, and leaning against, the wall.
Deepen the Pose
Advanced students can raise the top arm, with an inhalation, perpendicular to the floor. Firm the top scapula against the back. Imagine there’s a wall in front of you, and press the top hand actively into this pretend wall. Then, if your balance is steady, try slowly rotating the head to gaze up at the raised hand.
- Menstrual pain
Many beginning students have difficulty touching the floor with their lower hand, even when resting it on the fingertips. These students should support their hand on a block. Start with the block at its highest height and, if your balance is steady and comfortable, lower it down first to its middle height, then finally if possible to its lowest height.
- Strengthens the abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks, and spine
- Stretches the groins, hamstrings and calves, shoulders, chest, and spine
- Improves coordination and sense of balance
- Helps relieve stress
- Improves digestion
A partner can play the role of a “living wall.” Have him stand behind you as you perform the pose (on the right side). He should angle himself to face slightly toward your head, with his left hip toward your buttocks. Have him brace your outer right buttock with his left hip, and reach across with his left hand to support your left hip. Make sure he doesn’t pull this hip up toward the ceiling; let it release toward the floor as you rotate your upper torso to the right. He can also use his right hand to help lengthen your right (underside) ribs.
To increase the challenge of this pose, raise the lower hand away from the floor and rest it on the standing thigh. Balance solely on the standing leg for 15 to 30 seconds.