Half Moon Tips
First posture of the Bikram Yoga series, Half Moon! Let’s start as we mean to go on, by rocking out an awesome posture. This does not mean you need to go to the full extent of the posture, it’s all about going to your personal edge.
Even if your personal edge is only 1% of the posture,
doing that 1% with the correct alignment, will give you 100% of the benefits.
We are trying to change our bodies with the yoga, not changing the yoga because of our bodies. So let’s get that alignment down…
Stand with your feet together, making sure one foot is not further forward. We all have a dominant side and this can sometimes throw off our alignment in class. Stretch you arms up over your head sideways and interlock your fingers, releasing your index fingers. Hold your palms together with a nice tight grip, while stretching and straightening your arms, locking out your elbows and pressing the arms against your ears. Be mindful not to raise your shoulders up. We can carry a lot of our tension in our shoulders and they can almost automatically rise up with the arms. Therefore, to keep them down we often need to pinch our shoulder blades slightly together and down.
With this position your goal is: arms straight and against your ears, chin up, throat visible in the mirror and fingers interlaced. Depending on your strength, shoulder flexibility, muscle definition, this may not immediately be achievable. But keep stretching up, keep trying and you will be amazed how quickly you progress.
At the same time, engage the muscles in your legs, buttocks and stomach, standing straight. To engage your thighs and buttocks: squeeze your glutes together, pulling your kneecaps up and squeeze your thighs together. To engage your core, concentrate on your abdomen. Feel like you are pulling your bellybutton inwards, toward your spine and drawing up from your pelvic floor.
KEEP BREATHING IN AND OUT THROUGH YOUR NOSE, THROUGHOUT THE POSTURE. NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH. REMEMBER: ALWAYS KEEP BREATHING! YOUR BREATH IS THE KEY, USE IT!
So, we are all set up and ready to go…
First we are going to warm up our spine and see how it feels today.
Every day is different so take your warm up gently. Lift your torso directly up. Be mindful not to hunch those shoulders back up to your ears. Lengthen your torso, all the while keeping everything engaged. Now bend your body left and right, from the waist. Feel that lovely stretching feeling down the outside arc of your body. Once you have stretched equally on both sides, return to your centre ready for the Half Moon fun to really begin.
So, we are standing arms stretched up against our ears, weight in our heels, chin up, shoulders down, legs, buttocks, core all engaged, focusing on one point directly in front of you (we would recommend your own eyes in the mirror, if they are available). Now stretch up, lengthening the torso, and, without bending you arms or legs, arc your body from the waist to the right. It is of extreme importance to never risk alignment for depth. Depth will come with patience and correct alignment. We are cheating ourselves, if we go for depth first. So, keep your body facing forward. If you notice your upper body is twisting backwards, you will need to realign your shoulders by bringing the left one forward and the right one back, to get two shoulders in one line. The whole time, keep your arms straight, elbows locked, chin up parallel to the floor, eyes locked on the same point. Feel like your right arm is pulling your left arm up and over.
Simultaneously, push your hips directly to the left in a straight line. You should feel a wonderful stretch down
the left side arc of your body. Your hips should stay straight on to the mirror. You may find that your left hip has moved back a touch, in which case you will want to push it forward to realign yourself. Do not push your hips too far forward or you will be back bending in your lower back, there should never be a feeling of compression in your lumbar vertebrae, in Half Moon. Plant your left heel down. This will help you align your hips.
You will have heard your teachers say, many times, ‘imagine that you are sandwiched between two panes of glass’. Whether you are coming down a millimetre or a foot, you need to make sure you are not bending forward or backwards. Your shoulders should be above your hips and neither should be out of alignment, putting unnecessary pressure on your lower back. If you do not feel, or look like, you are coming down in this straight position, back off the posture. Take yourself to a position where you are in alignment and work from there. Remember do not sacrifice form for depth – EVER!
Don’t give up, you will get there! This posture is involving virtually every joint, muscle & tendon of the arms, neck, torso, hips & legs. For something that looks so simple, there is a lot going on. That is why practise makes perfect! Although there’s no such thing. The trick to moving forward is to find where your personal edge of the posture lies and, once you get there, hold it, breathing in and out of your nose, for the duration of the posture. Do not come out.
You can do it!
You never know, next class the edge might be deeper!
So, we have moved right, now time to move left. So come back up to centre. Reset yourself. Check everything is still engaged. Breathe in, lift up and arc yourself over to the left. Repeating everything we have already discussed. However, this time you will be feeling a lovely stretch down your right hand side, you will be planting your right heel into the ground, moving your hips out to the right and feel like your left arm is pulling your right arm up and over to the left.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, when we say rest, we mean stand still, arms by your side. Do not play with your costume, do not wipe your sweat. This can be more difficult than the posture itself! However, this stillness is an integral part of the posture: allowing your breath to return to normal and blood to flush back to every muscle that is asking for it. This fresh blood brings with it lovely fresh oxygen to feed and fuel your muscles for what is coming next. After all Hatha Yoga is translated as ha meaning “sun” and tha meaning “moon.” This refers to the balance of masculine aspects: active, hot, sun and feminine aspects: receptive, cool, moon. Conserve your energy: you are going to need it!
If you have any questions about this or any posture, you can always speak to your teacher before or after class.