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Exploring Moon Salutations (Chandra Namaskar)

At the core of Yoga lies a deep-rooted connection to the celestial bodies that govern our world – the sun and the moon. This connection isn't merely symbolic; it's an integral part of the practice, guiding us toward alignment with the cosmic rhythm.

 

Hatha Yoga: The Balancing Act

 

Hatha Yoga, the cornerstone of modern postural yoga, offers a pathway to harmonize the solar and lunar energies within us. The very name 'Hatha' reflects this balance, with 'Ha' representing the sun and 'Tha' symbolizing the moon. This ancient practice acknowledges the dynamic interplay between the masculine and feminine energies, mirroring the dance of the cosmos.

 

Sun and Moon: The Yin and Yang

 

The sun, with its radiance and vitality, embodies masculine energy in Hatha Yoga. It symbolizes action, energy, and dynamism. On the other hand, the moon, serene and luminous, epitomizes the feminine energy. It represents receptivity, intuition, and tranquility. Together, they form a symbiotic relationship, each complementing the other in the journey towards holistic well-being.

 

Beyond Sun Salutations: Introducing Moon Salutations

 

While Sun Salutations, or Surya Namaskar, are widely practiced and celebrated, their lunar counterpart, Moon Salutations (Chandra Namaskar), often remain in the shadows. Developed in the late 1980s by a group of visionary female teachers at the Kripalu Yoga Center, Moon Salutations offer a refreshing perspective on the practice.

 

According to Megha Nancy Buttenheim, one of the co-creators of Moon Salutations, the inspiration behind their creation stemmed from a desire to honor the feminine energy in yoga. She explains, "Sun Salutations come from the masculine historical tradition of yoga, but we wanted to make it more accessible to the scores of women who were getting more and more interested in the practice. While the Sun Salutation raises prana, we wanted the Moon Salute to recognize the downward flow of energy."

 

Exploring the Lunar Flow

 

Moon Salutations follow a gentle, introspective sequence, inviting practitioners to cultivate receptivity and inner awareness. Unlike the invigorating and outwardly directed Sun Salutations, Moon Salutations emphasize a downward flow of energy, fostering a sense of grounding and calmness.

 

If you're ready to explore the soothing rhythm of Moon Salutations, here's a step-by-step guide to get you started.


Note: I love using foam blocks under my hands throughout this sequence and often pick them up and take them with me as I move from one asana to the next. (See photo below.) And, while you may eventually want to play with synching your breath as indicated below, remember that we're aligning with the rhythm of nature in Chandra Namaskar. And nature doesn't rush. So, linger in each pose for as many breaths as you like!


Photo of Karin Weinstein doing Moon Salutations with yoga blocks
Moon Salutations with yoga blocks

Classical Moon Salutation

(Created by Megha Nancy Buttenheim, Deva Parnell, Patricia (Niti) Seip Martin, and Bhumi Harriet Russell)

  1. Facing the long edge of your yoga mat, stand in passive phase of Mountain pose, hands in Anjali mudra (prayer position).

  2. Half Moon pose: Bring arms out wide, then reach overhead. Interlace your fingers and point your index fingers toward the sky. Curve first to the right side, then to the left side. Return to center.

  3. Step right leg to the right, with feet turnout out. Simultaneously bend your knees as much as feels comfortable and bend elbows about 90° in Goddess pose.

  4. Move into Five-Pointed Star: Straighten your legs and expand outward from your navel, reaching arms out to the sides at about shoulder level.

  5. Enter into Triangle: Right foot turns out to the right, pivot on your left heel to indent your foot to a comfortable and supportive angle. Hinge (at your hips) to the right and lower your right hand down to the right leg to rest on your leg or a block. Reach your left hand toward the sky.

  6. Keeping both legs and spine elongated, pivot your torso over the right leg, coming into the Standing Runner’s Stretch, bringing your head downward toward the right knee. Hands can rest either on the floor, blocks, right foot, shin, or thigh.

  7. Bend right knee, coming down into Runner’s Stretch, with the gaze forward. Back knee can be touching the floor or up off the ground.

  8. Pivot on your feet to face the long edge of your mat again coming into Side Squat. Toes of extended left leg can point upward toward the sky. Look forward. Sitting bones press down, crown presses up. Use blocks for support under hands or to sit on!

  9. Repeat on the other side. Bring hands to floor in front of you and extend your right leg out to the side, entering Side Squat on the other side. Press your left foot, hands, and right heel into the ground. Press crown of head up.

  10. Pivot to on your feet to face left, entering Runner’s Stretch with left leg forward. Right leg extended back. Right knee can be lifted or resting on the ground.

  11. Slowly straighten both legs, folding your torso over your left thigh, entering Standing Runner’s Stretch. Hands can rest either on the floor, blocks, right foot, shin, or thigh.

  12. Slowly pivot again to face the long edge of your mat, sweeping the right arm up toward the sky, lower arm touching the left leg or resting on a block, entering Triangle.

  13. Return to Five-Pointed Star by lifting up of out of Triangle, toes turning arms extended at shoulder level.

  14. Simultaneously bend your knees as much as comfortable and bend elbows about 90° in Goddess pose again.

  15. Return to Mountain pose by bringing legs together, arms overhead.

  16. Half Moon pose to left side first, then to the right side.

  17. Return to Mountain pose, circling arms from overhead back down to Anjali mudra, pressing palms together in front of the heart. Repeat as many times as you wish alternating the direction you start in.

 

Embrace the Cosmic Dance

 

Incorporating Moon Salutations into your yoga practice can deepen your connection to the lunar rhythms and invite a sense of balance and harmony. Just as the sun and the moon coexist in perfect equilibrium, may we too find balance within ourselves and in lives.

 

If you're eager to explore further, here are some resources to guide you:

 

Let's continue to honor the celestial dance within and without, embracing the interplay of light and shadow, action and stillness, sun and moon, in our journey toward wholeness. Join me for a class!

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