My introduction to yoga came through local gym Precision Fitness. I took my first yoga class there the same week I had my first date with my husband, whom I met at that gym. (We also live next door to it… I’d say the gym was a star-crossed place!) Bala Vinyasa Yoga teacher Lynda Waterhouse was teaching there at the time and one evening she had us clear the big wall of its spin bikes and make use of its sturdy support for Half Moon balancing pose.
I distinctly remember that moment and how grateful I was for the wall’s companionship. At the time, I didn’t like the pose because, well… I wasn’t good at it. (I am sometimes affected by that pesky age-old human foible of liking what I’m already proficient at.) The wall provided me the opportunity to warm my chilly disposition toward the pose.
Eight years later, when it’s Ardha Chandrasana time, I actually feel excited to take flight and feel the lightness of lifting buoyantly away from the ground. It’s not that I’ve gotten “good” at the pose, it’s just that I’ve learned to understand it more. Try these alignment awarenesses on and see if they help unlock the mystery of fine-tuned balance in your body.
- Keep the toes of your standing foot tracking forward; avoid the temptation to swivel them in, which causes the knee and hip to sink inwards and can cause more damage than benefit in your hip joint.
- Let your toes be soft, but also let them come to your aid naturally when you need them most.
- Connect the ball mound of your big toe and your outer heel to the earth firmly. The tendency is to roll too far to the pinkie-toe edge of the foot causing the infamous wiggles-and-wobbles that accompany the territory of balance poses. Counteract this tendency with firm pressure downward from your big toe ball mound.
- Create external rotation in your standing leg so your kneecap faces forward, the same direction as your ankle and toes. This turning forward and lifting up of your quadriceps will naturally draw the outer hip of the standing leg more deeply into socket, creating a solid foundation.
- Keep your standing knee unlocked by resisting your shinbone slightly forward. Unlocking the knee gives you greater access to the strength of your leg, rather than sitting in the joint.
- Experience the action of drawing the outer hip of your standing leg back away from the same-side armpit in One Legged Downward Facing Dog. For example, from DD, lift your left leg away from the ground and, keeping it straight, spin the hip open like you do in Warrior 2. This action usually collapses the right side of the waist and hip. Curl the right hip away from your head, and press the inner thigh of the right leg mildly to the left to help re-center your pelvis. These actions will help keep your lower back and Sacroiliac joints clearer and less crunched.
- Activate the toes of your raised foot, flexing the foot as if you were standing on it and energetically lift the whole outer line of the leg upward, as if you had a cloud floating underneath the leg helping to keep you light.
- Connect your shoulder blades toward each other, spread your top fingers and keep the bottom hand light and active by cupping the palm and pressing only the fingertips down. Try to pull up on the bottom hand and arm, as if you were sucking energy from the ground up through the arm.
- Balancing on one leg is certainly more precarious than being grounded on both feet, as in Warrior 2 and Triangle. Both those standing postures are akin to Half Moon, so transfer the stabilizing work you do in your core of drawing your front ribs in to firm the abdominals and lengthening your tailbone away from your head to take the pitch out of your low back to your foray into floating.
- Stay in the side plane of your body. Keep the majority of your body, minus your standing leg, facing the long side of your mat. Try not to turn your hip or chest toward the floor or ceiling.
- Aid tight hamstrings by raising the ground up to you with any height block. It is more worthwhile to bring length to your muscles, spine and alignment than it is to reach the floor at all costs with your standing hand.
- Place your entire back-body, or just your raised foot, on a wall to get familiar with the actions of the pose, without having to concentrate too hard on balancing.
- Eventually you can practice going into the pose without the bottom hand touching the floor (this is not “traditional,” just fun) or practice peeling up the standing fingertips one at a time to test the waters of balance, poise and stability. Or, for the full monty, bring your hands to your heart and then extend them overhead parallel to the ground keeping your arms and hands energetic as if you were holding a box between them.
Courtesy of Bala Vinyasa Yoga, by Hanna Riley.