I have been going to an evening candlelight yoga class pretty consistently every Tuesday. I look forward to it throughout my busy days, and it is a nice way to buffer the beginning and end of the week. It sets my intentions for my week and allows me to feel refreshed. Last night was no exception.
Our teacher led us through our typical warm ups of sun salutations, then we practiced our inversions. Nothing too out of the ordinary there, but then we went through two rounds of moon salutations.
I knew moon salutations, or chandra namaskara, were a thing, but I’ve never practiced them before. And I’m hooked. We moved through each pose slowly, taking our time to really breath in to the position and focus on our alignment. There were a few spots that I was confused and unsure if I was doing it right, but by the last round I felt pretty confident. I especially loved goddess pose – it was so empowering! I left the class feeling warm, happy, and calm. It was a nice little change, especially since the wind was howling and I typically go through my days feeling stressed. (This is bad, I know. I’m working on it!) I thought it would be fun to break down this beautiful cycle of poses for you. In each pose, take a few deep breaths.
Start in tadasana, or mountain pose, at the top of your mat. I like to close my eyes when I breathe in this pose, as it allows me to focus on my breath and clear my mind for what I’m about to do on my mat.
Side Bend/Half Moon
From here, raise your arms to the sky as you inhale. As you exhale,grab your left wrist with your right hand and lean slightly to your right side. Focus on the stretch in your left side ribs. Inhale to center, then switch wrists (grab your right wrist with your left hand). Exhale, lean slightly to your left to feel the side stretch on your right. Inhale to center, bringing your hands down to prayer if desired.
Inhale, then step your legs wide, facing one side of your mat. Your toes and your knees should be facing the same direction. Exhale as you squat and raise your arms over your legs. Your forearms can come up in to cactus arms, spreading your fingers wide. One thing my teacher said last night that really clicked for me in this pose is to imagine your back up against a wall, so your spine is straight, your lower belly is engaged, and your shoulders are down away from your face. Try lifting your toes off your mat in this pose; your feet should be firmly grounded.
When you’re ready, inhale to straighten your legs and extend your arms into star pose. Spread out your fingers as you reach for the ceiling.
From star pose, pivot your right foot so it is parallel to the back edge of your mat (like in warrior 2). Rotate your left foot as needed so your toes are facing the other edge of your mat. Keeping your legs straight, extend your arms out to the side, as in warrior 2. Inhale as you shift your hips back towards your right leg and reach your torso forward with your left arm. Exhale, and fold over your left leg in to triangle pose. Use a block as needed and keep a small bend in your left knee, just enough to keep it from locking. Raise your right hand to face the ceiling, making sure your shoulders are stacked.
Inhale, and lower your right arm to the floor or block beside your left foot. As you’re lowering your arm, twist your torso to be over your left leg. Lower your hands to either side of your left leg, using blocks if needed. Your back should be straight here; if you find yourself rounding your back, adjust your spine.
Low Crescent Lunge
As you inhale, bend your right knee to the ground while also bring your hands to either side of your left leg.. Place a blanket under your knee if you have knee discomfort. Place the top of your right foot on to your mat, inhale, and lower your arms over your head, fingertips spread. If you want, bring your hips forward for a slight back bend.
Low Side Lunge
Place your hands on the inside of your left foot as you inhale. Straighten your right knee and extend your right leg out, keeping your foot on it’s heel. Keep your left knee bent. Place a block under your hips if this is too difficult. (Honestly – I had difficulty with this one last night. I think I didn’t really get it right until the final, final round. It felt unnatural, so I shall work on it. Sitting on a block helps with the intense stretch this causes, though.)
Inhale as you straighten your legs, keeping your hands in the center of your body on the ground. Heel-toe your feet in as much as needed, and drop in to a yogi squat. I like to place my elbows in by my knees and bring my hands to prayer, but do whatever variation works best for you.
Now, we’re going to repeat…
Low Side Lunge
Place both hands on the floor and straighten your legs. Heel-toe them out a bit so your legs are wider. On your exhale, bend your right knee as you slide your left leg out on the heel of your foot. Place a block to relieve your hips if needed here.
Low Crescent Lunge
Straighten your right leg and rotate your right foot so it is parallel to the edge of your mat. If you need to, heel toe your feet in a bit. From here, pivot your right foot, left foot, and torso to face the edge of your mat. (It will be the opposite edge from the one you were just facing.) Drop your left knee down (using a blanket for discomfort if needed) and raise your arms over head. If you did so before, bring your hips forward for a small back bend.
Exhale, and lower both hands down to the left side of your right foot. Straighten both legs. Your left foot will come slightly parallel to the back edge of your mat, toes facing towards the left corner of the front of your mat. Your torso will be over your left leg, ensuring that your spine is straight. Place your hands on either side your right leg, using blocks as needed.
Extended Triangle Pose
As you inhale, raise your left arm to the ceiling, spreading your fingers. Your fingers will stay on the ground, your ankle, or a block.
Engage your core to raise your torso as you inhale. Your arms will reach towards the ceiling, fingers spread, keeping your feet wide apart and as parallel to the mat as possible.
Exhale as you bend your knees to come in to a squat, lowering your arms to 90 degrees. Feel rooted here through your feet.
Side Bend/Half Moon
Inhale, and straighten your legs. Step your left foot to meet your right at the top of your mat. On your next inhale, raise your arms to the ceiling. Grab your right wrist with your left hand, exhale, and bend to the left, feeling a stretch in your right side. Inhale to come to center. Switch hands – grab your left wrist with your right hand, exhale, then stretch to your left. Inhale to come to center. Lower your hands to prayer, then end in mountain pose.
Repeat as needed.
Our teacher ended the class with pigeon pose on each side, a few happy baby rocks, and then savasana. I thought pigeon was a nice touch after a few rounds of this salutation, as it slightly opens your hips, but end your flow however you feel comfortable.
When do you like to practice moon salutations?
Read about my experience doing 108 Sun Salutations on January 1st.