Friday, April 29, 2011
Asana Analysis: Half Moon Pose/Ardha Chandrasana
This is one of my favorite poses. It requires strength, flexibility, and balance. It effects your energy and your perspective. It makes you feel like you are flying. Yet, it’s accessible to almost anyone.
Muscles Stretched: The hamstrings and adductors of the standing leg. Pectoralis major and minor, obliques.
Muscles Strengthened: Gastrocnemius, anterior tibialis, posterior tibialis, peroneals and the small, intrinsic muscles of the foot on the standing leg. Quadriceps of both legs. Gluteus medius of flying leg. Transverse abdominis, obliques, lateral neck muscles (upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, scalenes).
Points of Body Awareness:
*Is the standing leg strong? The foot should be in neutral position, with the arch slightly lifted. The quadriceps are draw the kneecap up.
*Is the flying leg also strong? The kneecap and toes point strait ahead. Try to lift the leg high enough that it is at least parallel to the floor. Reach through the bottom of the heel.
*Is the spine long? Try to avoid side-bending toward the floor. Simultaneously lengthen through the crown of the head and the root of the tailbone.
*Where is you gaze or drishti? Fix the gaze, first down on the floor, then toward the center of the room. Maintain equal length on both sides of the neck.
*The top shoulder blade rolls back so it is in line with the bottom shoulder blade. The top of the pelvic girdle may be slightly forward.
*Are your bandhas engaged? Lift the pelvic floor (mula bandha) and draw the navel in toward the spine (uddiyana bandha).
*Take 5-10 slow, deep breaths.
*Enjoy the feeling of flying!
If the hamstrings or adductors are tight, instead of reaching all the way to the floor, use a block or even the seat of a chair to place the lower hand on. The chair can also be used to keep the head level with the heart for those who need to avoid inversion.
Until your balance feels steady, keep the gaze down, on the floor. Keep the top hand on your hip. If balance is poor or if the standing leg is weak, do the pose against a wall. The buttock of the standing leg and both shoulder blades should contact the wall. A wall can be used even if there is no limitation in strength or balance. A wall can help give tactile cues for ‘opening’ through the hips and shoulders.
Reach up and look up past the top hand. This is more challenging, both for balance and for strength and ROM of the neck. Hold the pose with little to no weight through the lower hand. This will require a great deal of core strength.
Half Moon Pose may be useful for patients working on strength and proprioception of the lower leg, e.g. those with recurrent ankle sprains. It is useful for core strengthening and is a posture that can instill confidence and joy on the road to recovery for patients with a variety of ailments and injuries, provided the appropriate modifications are used.
Last week, I wrote about depression among physical therapy patients. Half Moon may be a useful therapeutic exercise for those who display depressive symptoms. It is stimulating and energetic for those who have symptoms dominated by lethargy and hopelessness (excess tamas). And it requires a lot of concentration and focus, which may benefit those with more anxiety-based symptoms such as irritability and restlessness (excess rajas).
Precautions for this pose include neck pain and/or weakness, SIJ problems, groin or hamstring strains, impairments of balance, any conditions that are aggravated by head-below-heart position (htn, glaucoma, etc.).
Watch this video for a good demonstration of how to get into Ardha Chandrasana:
Photos from Karma Kids Yoga and About.com.