Chandra Namaskar: An Introduction to Moon Salutations

Moon Salutation- Chandra Namaskar

This is a cooling series of poses. Like a sun salutation, each movement is coordinated with your breath. Inhale to extend, exhale to bend. Unlike vigorous sun salutations which are heating and stimulating, moon salutations are cooling and quieting. 

We practice moon salutations to calm the mind and draw awareness inward. 

Moon salutations are a nice practice when energy or temperatures are high and calming is required. 

Moon salutations can also be beneficial for pregnant women and women in menstruation. Moon salutations may not be recommended if you struggle with sciatica, back problems, or if triangle pose is an uncomfortable posture for you. 

Before we introduce moon salutations, consider what we know about the moon.

  • The ocean and sea are kneaded by the moon. The moon soothes, bringing dew it soothes the fiery excesses of the sun. 

  • The moon reflects, transforms the light, remains dark on one side, is discriminating in what it illuminates and what is concealed in shadow. 

  • The moon is associated with the divine feminine and with the menstrual cycle. 

A few personal notes…

For me, moon salutations are like a beautiful piece of jewelry- not something for ever day use, but once in a while, when I have the time to take special care, I carefully pull out the special piece and allow myself to sparkle.

I prefer to practice moon salutations in my home practice. Because moon salutations are a bit complicated, I feel more comfortable practicing moon salutations in the comfort of my own home. Lastly, it takes me a while to get through a moon salutation. I like to breathe and embody each posture. I take my tiiiiiime and move slowly and with intention. It’s a beautiful thing to practice at home in a dimly lit room with some candles, or out on my deck at dusk in the summer. Because this is a slower, yin-based practice, I like to reserve time for reflection and journaling before or after this practice.

*If you are already familiar with this flow, skip to the end of to find another ritual and a writing exercise.

Let’s Begin

When practicing Moon Salutations (Chandra Namaskar), rather than moving quickly as in sun salutations, move slowly as if through water or honey. 

As always, move with the breath. 

We begin on the left, which is associated with feminine energy, and move through one full salutation and then repeat the sequence on the right. 

Rather than facing the front of your yoga mat, we stand in the middle of the mat. 

Inhale, Mountain with Arms Overhead (Utthita Tadasana)  Engage your glutes and hamstrings. Wiggle your toes and ground down into the mat. Inhale and extend from your pelvis up through the crown of your head while keeping your chest lifted and open. Stay here for several breaths, notice how you feel, then release.

Inhale, Mountain with Arms Overhead (Utthita Tadasana)

Engage your glutes and hamstrings. Wiggle your toes and ground down into the mat. Inhale and extend from your pelvis up through the crown of your head while keeping your chest lifted and open. Stay here for several breaths, notice how you feel, then release.

Exhale, Half Moon to the left (Chandrasana Left)  Stay here for a few breaths, stretch and reach through the side body. Lengthen with each inhale. Then inhale and come back into Mountain pose with arms overhead.

Exhale, Half Moon to the left (Chandrasana Left)

Stay here for a few breaths, stretch and reach through the side body. Lengthen with each inhale. Then inhale and come back into Mountain pose with arms overhead.

Goddess (Utkata Konasana)  Exhale into your Goddess Squat. Engage and lift the thighs, notice your feet gripping the mat, and lift the chest. Tuck your tailbone in, soften the shoulders, and gaze forward or softly close the eyes. This fierce pose strengthens and stretches. It also relaxes the pelvic floor and can be beneficial for pregnant women.

Goddess (Utkata Konasana)

Exhale into your Goddess Squat. Engage and lift the thighs, notice your feet gripping the mat, and lift the chest. Tuck your tailbone in, soften the shoulders, and gaze forward or softly close the eyes. This fierce pose strengthens and stretches. It also relaxes the pelvic floor and can be beneficial for pregnant women.

Five Pointed Star  Inhale, step wide with arms at the side. Breathe into this powerful posture.

Five Pointed Star

Inhale, step wide with arms at the side. Breathe into this powerful posture.

Triangle Pose Left (Trikonasana)  Turn right foot in slightly and left foot directly out to the side. Align your left heel with the arch of your right foot. Keep legs engaged while inhaling to extend the spine and then exhaling and bending to bring left hand to left ankle and reaching right arm up to the sky. You may use a block under the left hand. Turn your head to look up at your hand. Hold for several breaths before engaging your legs toward one another to lift up and out of the pose.

Triangle Pose Left (Trikonasana)

Turn right foot in slightly and left foot directly out to the side. Align your left heel with the arch of your right foot. Keep legs engaged while inhaling to extend the spine and then exhaling and bending to bring left hand to left ankle and reaching right arm up to the sky. You may use a block under the left hand. Turn your head to look up at your hand. Hold for several breaths before engaging your legs toward one another to lift up and out of the pose.

Pyramid (Parsvottanasana)  Shorten your stance (possibly even more than Joella in this photo, depending on your body), both toes point to the left hand side of the mat. Inhale to lengthen and then exhale to fold over the leg. A block can be useful under the hands in this posture.

Pyramid (Parsvottanasana)

Shorten your stance (possibly even more than Joella in this photo, depending on your body), both toes point to the left hand side of the mat. Inhale to lengthen and then exhale to fold over the leg. A block can be useful under the hands in this posture.

Low Crescent Lunge  Lower into a low crescent lunge, tenting the fingers alongside the foot for support.

Low Crescent Lunge

Lower into a low crescent lunge, tenting the fingers alongside the foot for support.

Low Crescent Lunge - Optional Extension  Inhale and lift the arms overhead. If it feels good, try finding a slight back bend.

Low Crescent Lunge - Optional Extension

Inhale and lift the arms overhead. If it feels good, try finding a slight back bend.

Half-Squat (Ardha Malasana)  Exhale down to your low crescent lunge and slowly make your way into half-squat. Placing a block under the bum can make this pose a bit more accessible. Avoid drooping or slumping in the pose, remain lifted and engaged.

Half-Squat (Ardha Malasana)

Exhale down to your low crescent lunge and slowly make your way into half-squat. Placing a block under the bum can make this pose a bit more accessible. Avoid drooping or slumping in the pose, remain lifted and engaged.

Yogi Squat (Malasana)  Breathe into your malasana. A block under the bum can also be supportive in this posture. If you don’t have a block, again avoid sinking into the position and rather remain lifted and engaged.  Are you starting to feel like a happy little yogi like Joella?

Yogi Squat (Malasana)

Breathe into your malasana. A block under the bum can also be supportive in this posture. If you don’t have a block, again avoid sinking into the position and rather remain lifted and engaged.

Are you starting to feel like a happy little yogi like Joella?

Half-Squat (Ardha Malasana)  Shift into your half squat to the right. Breathe, you know where we are going now!

Half-Squat (Ardha Malasana)

Shift into your half squat to the right. Breathe, you know where we are going now!

Low Crescent Lunge  Breathe into your low crescent lunge on the right hand side.

Low Crescent Lunge

Breathe into your low crescent lunge on the right hand side.

Low Crescent Lunge with Arm Extension  Inhale reach up and find a slight back bend.

Low Crescent Lunge with Arm Extension

Inhale reach up and find a slight back bend.

Pyramid (Parsvottanasana)  Inhale into Pyramid to prepare to move into triangle. (In this photo, Joella’s back toe should be pointing toward the top of her mat. (-: )

Pyramid (Parsvottanasana)

Inhale into Pyramid to prepare to move into triangle. (In this photo, Joella’s back toe should be pointing toward the top of her mat. (-: )

Triangle Pose Right (Trikonasana)  Align your right heel with the arch of your left foot. Keep legs engaged, inhale and reach up through your fingertips and gaze up at the sky. *Option to use a block under the right hand.

Triangle Pose Right (Trikonasana)

Align your right heel with the arch of your left foot. Keep legs engaged, inhale and reach up through your fingertips and gaze up at the sky. *Option to use a block under the right hand.

Goddess  Exhale into Goddess. Enjoy the fierceness of the posture. This pose strengthens the entire lower body while opening the hips and chest. Goddess pose energizes the entire body and improves focus and balance. (I like to sometimes take a break in Goddess to pretend I’m at a yoga rave or a seaweed dance party).

Goddess

Exhale into Goddess. Enjoy the fierceness of the posture. This pose strengthens the entire lower body while opening the hips and chest. Goddess pose energizes the entire body and improves focus and balance. (I like to sometimes take a break in Goddess to pretend I’m at a yoga rave or a seaweed dance party).

Five Pointed Star  Inhale, step wide with arms at the side. Breathe and enjoy this powerful posture. Option to upturn the hands and the gaze upward.

Five Pointed Star

Inhale, step wide with arms at the side. Breathe and enjoy this powerful posture. Option to upturn the hands and the gaze upward.

Exhale, Half Moon to the rightt (Chandrasana Left)  Stay here for a few breaths, stretch and reach through the side body. Lengthen with each inhale. Then inhale and come back into Mountain pose with arms overhead.

Exhale, Half Moon to the rightt (Chandrasana Left)

Stay here for a few breaths, stretch and reach through the side body. Lengthen with each inhale. Then inhale and come back into Mountain pose with arms overhead.

You made it through a full moon salutation! now repeat starting on the right side. Move through 1-3 cycles, or until you feel complete. Cool down with a nice long savasana, ahhhhh.

You made it through a full moon salutation! now repeat starting on the right side. Move through 1-3 cycles, or until you feel complete. Cool down with a nice long savasana, ahhhhh.

Some other practices related to the lunar cycle that we love:

You may wish to supplement your moon salutations with this practice. Friend and shaman Sarah Seidelmann offers a ritual to celebrate the lunar cycle that we enjoy here: How to Make a Visual Prayer to Leverage the Power of a New Moon, Full Moon, or Eclipse.

Another practice we love is setting a sankalpa during the new moon. Bryana wrote a helpful blog on setting a sankalpa you can read here.

We also love this Moon Deck. We were taught that it’s best not to buy your own Oracle Cards, that they should find their way to you. (We occasionally cheat this system by giving them to each other as gifts!)

Opportunties for Further Exploration

I learned about Moon Salutations during my 200 RYT through The House of the Gathering Yoga School in Duluth. One of our lead teachers, Erika Fryklepak, led the session on moon salutations. It was one of my favorite sessions from the entire RYT. Erika is passionate about moon salutations, a wonderful and gentle yoga instructor, and someone I’m fortunate to call a mentor and friend.

Erika teaches gentle Hatha at the Gneson Community Center on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-7:35pm. (The address is 6356 Howard Gnesen Rd, Duluth, MN 55803). Luckily for us, her Tuesday sessions in October will be leading up to, and deepening wisdom of, moon salutations. (I will be at as many as I can attend! Hope to see some of you there!)

Joella also frequently teaches special full moon flows and sound baths at her studio in Duluth (JEM Yoga & Massage).

Writing Exercise to conclude your practice:

Write a list of words you associate with the sun and the moon. A starting point is provided below. Once your list is complete, write a few sentences or a short poem using words from your lists.

Sun 

  • Energetic

  • Fiery excess

  • Masculine

  • Sheer speldnor

  • Illustrious prestige

  • Yang energy

  • Nourishes, feeds, scorches

  • Burns

  • Dominant

  • Heavenly warrior

  • Royalty

  • The center

Moon

  • Soothing

  • Enchanting

  • Dewy coolness

  • Feminine

  • Yin energy

  • Conception, pregnancy, birth, seasons, reaping

  • Quiet

  • Inner awareness

  • awe/wonder/stillness

  • Less experienced than sun because we are often asleep

  • Selective in revealments and concealments

Photography: Jack Pine + Thyme

References

Martin Kirk, Brooke Boon, and Daniel DiTuro. 2006. Hatha Yoga Illustrated.

Turabian (6th ed.) Ronnberg, Ami, and Kathleen Martin. 2010.The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images.

House of the Gathering Yoga School

Duluth, MN

https://www.houseofthegatheringduluth.com/

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