Ardha-Chandrasana or Half Moon pose is the first of the 26 postures in the Bikram series. Teachers will often say that this posture determines the fate of your entire 90 minute practice. This posture warms up your spine and activates the central nervous system, which certainly affects your performance in the other 25 postures that follow.
The scientific origins of Half Moon go back to the beginning of Hatha Yoga time. The word Hatha (meaning any series of postures), comes from combining the two Sanskrit terms. “Ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon. When the two components of the word are placed together, “hatha” means “forceful”, implying that powerful work must be done to purify the body. Yoga means to yoke, or to join two things together, hence hatha yoga is meant to join together sun (masculine, active) energy with the moon (feminine, receptive) energy, thus producing balance and greater power in an individual. The sun is represented in the right side of the body and the moon in the left. This is also why almost all yoga postures are done from right to left (sun to moon or masculine to feminine). Have we lost you yet with all this yoga jargon?
So, back to Half Moon Pose. This idea of sun and moon is very evident in the Half Moon posture. First you bend to the right, moving circulation from right to left (ha to tha). Then you bend to the left, reversing the circulation. In the beginning you are struggling just for good form. Over time, as the body improves, you will be able to deepen the posture and therefore move even more blood circulation to each side of the body. Eventually, in the future, the side you are bending will only have about 4 inches distance from your shoulder blade/scapula to the hipbone.
This lateral bending is all in preparation for the amazing Half Moon backbend that takes place next. To do a good backbend, start by dropping your head back as far as it goes. Truly, look at the floor behind you and use your eyes to guide you deeper into the posture. When you are all the way back, contract your hip muscles and push them forward towards to mirror and you will find yourself even more rooted and further deepening your backbend. Keep your arms and elbows straight and keep reaching back….and breathe! Don’t be afraid if your back hurts or you feel weird. This is normal to experience.
Good luck with your bending!