We've been having a look at half moon pose or ardha chandrasana recently. Despite appearing relatively simple there's quite a lot going on in this posture: balance to stand on one leg; hip strength to lift the top leg; core strength to keep your torso lifted; flexibility to be able to turn your top toes out and reach the floor with your bottom hand.... the list goes on. My regular students know that I'm very keen on using props if they can help you get more from a pose, and this is one of those postures that a block can often really help with.
To get into half moon pose start with your legs in a warrior 2 stance (if you're not sure what that looks like, have a look here). If that, or any of the following steps don't work for your body: back off. If not, and if your right leg is in front (which it is for me in the photos above):
- step your left foot towards your right to shorten your stride
- take your left hand on to your left hip, and your right fingertips to the floor a decent step in front of your right little toe
- shift your weight on to your front (ie right) leg, so much that your back leg can lift
- keep your standing leg bent a little as you stack your left hip on top of your right. Lift your top leg and turn it out so that your toes are pointing out to the side rather than to the floor
- turn your chest up to the ceiling and draw your top shoulder back
- straighten your bottom leg
- lift your top arm straight up, with palm facing the same way as your chest
- depending on how it feels on your neck: look down to the floor, out to the side or up towards your top hand.
In the top photo above I'm demoing a (perhaps slightly exaggerated - but not much!) version of this posture that people can find themselves in when they first give it a try. Notice how in an effort to get my bottom hand to the floor I've had to turn my chest and top shoulder down to the floor. This in turn makes it difficult to stack my top hip on top of my bottom hip, and therefore also to lift my top leg. In the bottom photo above, I'm using a block to bring the floor a little towards me. It's helped me keep my chest from turning down to the floor, and therefore also to stack my hips on top of each other and get more lift in my back leg.
I'm not sure why some people don't like to use props. Maybe they think it means they aren't as good at yoga, or as the other people in the room who aren't using a block? I use them all the time, and am happy to use anything to hand that'll help me get more from my yoga practice. Why struggle without a prop if one can transform the effect a posture has on your body? Anyway, that's just my personal view. You can judge for yourself from the photos whether you think my half moon pose looks like it feels better with or without a little extra lift under my bottom hand!