An Anatomic Case for The Moon Salutation: Chandra Namaskar
(Scroll to the bottom of this page or click here for a free PDF of this sequence).
Moon salutations are the yin to the yang of sun salutes. Vinyasa yoga, which often involves many sun salutations, can become overly repetitive with chaturangas, upward facing dog poses, and down dog poses.
Energetically, sun salutes are considered masculine, or solar (heating).
Anatomically, most of the poses and transitions of sun salutations occur in the front-to-back (sagittal) plane. Our bodies need much more diversification in movement (including making sure we begin as many sequences on the left side of the body as the right).
This “Moon Salutation” steeps your body in sidebends, lateral hip strengthening, and deep, functional “goddess” squats. It was developed in the 1980s by the women of the Kripalu center (including some of my own teachers), who yearned for a lunar practice that would support and enhance their wellbeing no matter the time of month or time of day.
Like the sun salutation, a moon salutation or “chandra namaskar” is cyclical, beginning and ending in the same place. It mirrors itself. But we start on the left. It’s also a great practice if you are avoiding inversions or want a rhythmic flow without placing weight on the hands.
Start in Upward Facing Hands Pose
Catch your right wrist with your left hand and lean to the left. Your hips will move to the right. Aim to stay grounded evenly through both feet.
Facing the long edge of your yoga mat, step the feet wide, toes pointing about 60 degrees out, aim your knees over your middle toes, drop your hips, float the arms into cactus shape and spread your fingers.
Straighten both legs, turn toes to the left (back toes will not turn as much). Reach long to the left and lower your left hand lightly down to the shin.
Side Angle pose
From triangle pose, bend your front knee, sliding the back foot further away, rooting down through the outer foot. Front hand can land lightly on the floor, on a block inside your front leg, or elbow to knee.
From side angle, transition to a simple lunge. Instead of transitioning through “a vinyasa”, set both of your hands to the inside of the front foot, and… Malasana
…step your back foot up to a deep yogi squat known as Garland Pose, or Malasana. This is a position that humans take all over the world every day, but if you spend time in chairs or high heels, it can be tricky. Try it anyway, but keep your hips at knee height if it bothers your knees.
5 Pointed Star
Rise to standing from your deep squat, and bring your feet and hands wide, again facing the long edge of your mat.
Move through the same sequence on your right side, ending again in Malasana or Uttanasana, a simple forward hanging fold. Repeat as many times as you wish.
Love this sequence? Go here to get a downloadable PDF of the Moon Salutation that you can keep next to your mat: http://sacredsourceyoga.com/freebie-moon-salutations-giveaway/
Love Yoga Anatomy? check out Dr. Ariele Foster’s anatomy site: YogaAnatomyAcademy.com for blog posts, audio recordings and information on our Online Yoga Anatomy Mentorship.