With any balancing yoga posture , it's helpful to build from the ground up. A sturdy foundation combined with a fixed gaze, deep breath and muscle awareness cultivates a strong and steady pose like Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana). Whether or not you're new to the pose, using a block will allow your chest to lift with more ease as you build up enough strength over time.
Here is a guide to finding balance in Half Moon.
Part I: Preparation
a. Is my shoulder stacked directly over my wrist?
Set your bottom hand on a block at its highest level, directly under your shoulder so all your joints (wrist, elbow, shoulder) are stacked in a straight line. This allows you to build a steady base through the arm.
b. Is there a slight micro bend in my knee?
Position your back leg such that the foot is directed forward and knee is forward. Be sure to avoid hyperextending, or locking your knee. Many students will do this to try to avoid falling, but it's not healthy for your joints. Instead, have the slightest bit of bend in your knee so the quadriceps muscle is engaged.
c. Am I shifting my weight off my back foot?
Push down into the block with your arm and press down into the floor with your standing foot. Shift your weight forward so your back foot begins to lift.
Part II: Engagement + Awareness
d. Am I flexing through my back heel?
As you lift the back leg, turn your foot out to the side so you begin to externally rotate your hip. Keep your back foot flexed so you can energetically push back through that heel.
e. Is my chest rotating upward?
Rotate your chest toward the sky by turning your ribcage and twisting with the muscles of the abdomen — the obliques.
f. Am I reaching forward with the crown of my head?
Protect your neck by moving with the big muscles of your torso and shoulders. Align your head so the crown is extending forward.
Part III: Extend, Balance + Soar
g. Is my back leg in line with my hip?
As you lift the left leg and turn the hip open, feel for the position of the leg. You can't really see your leg in the air so you'll need to develop that yogic "sixth sense" of feeling for where it is. Move your left leg so it's as high as your hip, but not moving behind you.
h. Am I reaching my fingers toward the sky?
Lift your left arm to the sky and feel for where it is in relation to your bottom arm. Stack your arms in a long line.
i. Is my gaze soft and focused?
Add a soft drishti gaze to the floor, turning your head upward if you'd like to challenge your balance further. Commit to pressing down into the floor. Strongly push back through your heel as you feel the twist in your torso. Feel the sense of freedom in your body as you look to the sky and soar.
Photo Credit: Ben Reese, graphic design by mbg creative