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Moon Salutations: Cultivating Lunar Nectar (and Tapping into Your Softer Side)
Moon Salutations: A Dose of Moon-Shine
If you have been doing yoga for a fair amount of time, then I’m sure you are familiar with the Surya Namaskar, but do you know about it’s planetary opposite the Chandra Namaskar? Similar to the sun salutations, these moon salutations are done in a juicy, back-bending, spine-stretching sequence that creates and completes a cycle. These postures tone the legs, thighs, hamstrings and arms. It’s also a mighty hip opener and strengthens your core and back.
Why Practice Moon Salutations?
By practicing this powerful (yet little known) practice we can tap into the cooling, soothing energy of the moon and bring it into our bodies, providing equilibrium in an intense, fast-paced world. These moon salutation yoga poses have documented benefits, such as providing mental clarity and strengthening the back. By channeling the lunar energy you also receive benefits to all the visceral organs.
Drawing on the power of the moon, moon salutations are best practiced at night when the moon is visible, and on an empty stomach. However they can be practiced in the late afternoon or any time in the evening.
In the tradition of Ashtanga, it is advised that yoga is not practiced during the full moon or the new moon because on these days there is an overabundance of prana (life force energy) on the former, and an overabundance of apana (life force of elimination) on the latter, both of which will cause an imbalance.
The 500-year-old Tantric text Shiva Samhita views the moon as the source of immortality. And according to the yogic texts, by paying homage to the moon-god through moon salutations, we nurture the divine feminine.
Many women find this practice to be especially rejuvenating while on their moon cycle or period and when the moon is turning the tides of Mother Earth. Given that many of the moon salutation yoga poses tighten the pelvic floor that’s not a surprise. Each of these poses soothes, stimulates and tones the reproductive organs giving relief to menstrual cramps and even preventing future cramps.
These fertile poses are also highly beneficial to women in menopause. Where the sun salutations turn up the heat and rev up the body, the moon salutations calm and provide nourishment to the nervous system. Also women who are pregnant will find practicing this series can be especially meditative and allow for an inward turning.
As you move from one pose into the next, be aware of your respiration and make sure that your breath is in sync with your motions. Begin the breath before you begin the movement, and end the movement before you end the breath. Always breathe through the nose and into the diaphragm, inhaling to extend, and exhaling to bend.
It is very demanding to practice moon salutation poses concerted with your breath like this, but by giving into these demands, your body will be thankful for the cleansing and blood-oxygenating benefits. If breathing seems too intense, ease up and slow down. It’s always best to go with your own flow and not someone else’s standard. Discord between the movements and your breathing will prevent a soothing, celestial experience.
Unlike, the solar counterpart, these moon salutation poses are to be done slowly, and with great ease. Remember, the moon is the yin to the yang of the sun.
There are as many variations on the moon salutation as there are sun salutations. Here are some of the most important asanas from the series to help you pacify stress.
1. Tadasana/ Mountain Pose:
Stand with your feet apart and rooted to the ground, and with your palms pressed together in Anjali mudra or prayer position while your thumbs rest on the sternum. Lift your crown to the moon, close your eyes and visualize the moon at the point between your eyebrows, where the Ajna chakra lies. Then slowly let your focus radiate to the rest of the body. Take in a few deep, purifying breaths and begin.
2. Urdhva Hastasana/ Half Moon Pose:
Breathe out while extending the arms out and staying rooted to the earth. Draw up through the legs, heart, and your crown. With your breath, push your heart out and belly upward.
Move your arms wide and place your hands on the sacrum, jutting the torso forward. Slacken your jaw and palate as if you were about to receive drops of lunar nectar. Move between this pose and the next pose (Uttanasana) 3 times.
3. Lunar Uttanasana / Lunar Standing Forward Fold:
Fold forward from the hips descending to the ground. Keep your knees and neck loose while relaxing the chest into the thighs.
Place the palm of your hands upward facing the sky while allowing stress to release through the spine.
4. Somachandrasana I / Nectar of the Moon Flowing Vinyasa I:
This asana is a little tricky so go slow. While still in the previous asana, inhale and take your right arm overhead while turning both feet clockwise. Your front foot will stop at a right angle and your back foot into a side plank with the calf touching the ground.
5. Somachandrasana II:
Still remaining in the previous position, exhale and bring your right arm down and back reaching towards your rear foot. Keep your chest and heart open, shoulders steady and legs activated.
Move between Somachandrasana I and II 2 more times.
6. Transition to Sahaja Ardha Malasana:
Breathe out and turn your body counterclockwise until your feet are open wide and parallel to each other.
Lower your right arm, placing the palm down on the ground so that your right leg is between your arms.
7. Sahaja Ardha Malasana / Spontaneous Flowing Half Squat Pose:
Inhale, bend your left knee making a right angle. Extend your right leg and arm while keeping the spine long. Exhale and bring energy into your legs and pelvic region. Inhale, and shift your body to the other side while holding the same energy and awareness. Being fluid, shift back and forth 2 more times.
8. Svananada / Bliss-Filled Downward Dog Pose:
Breathe out and move into Down Dog. Move your feet as if you are a pedaling a bicycle feeling the free movement in your hips and spine.
Keep the jaws and neck loose and enjoy the bliss!
9. Three-Legged Downward Dog Pose:
Pause your pedaling and inhale. Take your right leg up and extend reaching the sky.
Exhale, and lower it back to the ground.
Inhale and extend the left leg upwards.
Breathe out and move into a high lunge.
10. Lunar Uttanasana:
Bend over with knees loose and feet apart. Hang your arms down facing the earth.
Keep the palms up facing the sky.
11. Standing Anahatasana:
Stand up, placing your hands on the sacrum. Lean back making the shape of a crescent moon with your body. Draw energy up from the roots of your feet and up to your heart and through your crown. Surrender to the energetic pulls of the moon.
Now you have all the steps for a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual. This moon salutations sequence will replenish energy lost during the day’s activities while cultivating soma, or lunar nectar.
These asanas are very beneficial and create serenity in our pumped up lives, but there are some contraindications to include hernia, high blood pressure, sciatica, fever and heart disease. Please consult with your doctor if there are any health issues before undertaking this practice.
Supriya Venkatesan is a freelance writer based in Princeton, NJ. She has written for Forbes, The Washington Post, TIME, Huffington Post, and elsewhere. She holds a MS in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and a BA in Media & Communications from Maharishi University. When not wiring articles, or writing for her memoir based on her military deployment to Iraq, you can find her engrossed in meditation or chasing her toddler. You can learn more about her at www.supriya.ink or follow her on Facebook where she posts inspirational articles.