BREAK IT DOWN: ARDHA CHANDRASANA

If you're anything like us, half-moon is one of those poses that feels right on some days, and so, so very wrong on others. We asked the sublime Elaine O'Brien for a few bits of advice on how to get that ardha just so.

Words: Elaine O'Brien  // Images: Jill Futter

The practice of ardha chandrasana (half-moon pose) bears a lot of potential for experience. It's a big, broad, expressive posture that can give access to expansion as well as frustration. There's potential for weightlessness and potential for falling over. When I was new to the pose, I was so fixated on maintaining my balance that I lost sight of the inherent spaciousness of the posture. While it took a few years, the balance became accessible when I loosened my grip and connected to ardha chandrasana's vast heart­ opening. Here are some tips for getting spacious in one of my favorite balancing poses:

• Be supple. Resist gripping in your standing leg. When we harden the supporting leg, stagnation builds in the foot and ankle and the pose lacks fluidity. Let your standing leg soften. Bend your knee a little. See how you can observe the subtle shifting of weight in your supporting leg so there is equanimity throughout your posture.

Don't be afraid to extend. Reach in every direction. That includes the heel of your lifted leg, the arms, the crown of your head, all of it. Imagine that your body is a suspension bridge. There is an appropriate amount of tension necessary to maintain the structure of the pose and if you are slack in your lifted leg (usually from placing too much effort in your supporting leg) then you're missing half the posture! Take weight out of your standing leg and hip by reaching with the rest of your body.

Keep your gaze steady. Usually when we're asked to balance on one foot our gaze goes haywire. Let your eyes soften, but allow them to focus on a specific point. The lifted arm or your standing foot are both great places to rest your eyes.

Mind your transitions. How you arrive can inform the stability and ease of the posture. Place your supporting foot nicely and be unhurried as you explore your arrival in the pose. Think of it as a luxurious stroll, not a rush hour commute. Do the same for your exit out of the pose.

Most of all, don't covet the balance! Tipping over is a vital aspect of exploring ardha chandrasana. It's fertile ground for discovering how your body can acclimate to the circumstances of the pose. Let yourself fall and uncover your own subtle techniques for staying rooted as you expand.


ABOUT ELAINE O'BRIEN

Born in Virginia and adopted by New York, Elaine spent much of her life avoiding yoga. It wasn’t until 2006, after a major life shift, that Elaine finally took a vinyasa class at a small Brooklyn studio. It wasn’t long before she was practicing every day, and in 2008 Elaine received her 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certification from Laughing Lotus Yoga Center. Elaine’s practice draws from her creative background in theater and dance, with a focus on breath centered awareness. Powerful sequencing, precise alignment, and classical yoga philosophy are consistently present in her teaching. A strong personal practice as well as close attention to her students keeps her instruction both relevant and purposeful. With patience and humor, it is Elaine’s intention to strengthen the body, inspire the mind, and enable a sense of clarity. When Elaine isn't teaching yoga, she's re-aligning bodies at Bodyfix Method, where she is an alignment specialist and a partner.