I am absolutely hooked on Bikram because I truly believe that this style of hot yoga has the power to transform your body and your life, from the inside out. Of course a regular, dedicated practice over time bears the greatest results, but you can feel a difference even after your first couple of classes. The list of benefits starts with improved muscular strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. Above and beyond that, after a few sweaty sessions, you’ll begin to look forward to:
- glowing skin
- greater mental clarity
- relief from chronic pain, injury
- bolstered immune system
- deeper sleep
- reduced stress
- lubricated, flexible joints
- improved posture
- stronger heart
- greater stamina
- expanded, unyielding lungs
For those who enjoy a good sweat, they may also enjoy the way their body feels after a nice heated stretch. A few of my friends who have started with bikram also have been able to work through tightness, strains, and pains with a regular hot yoga practice. In addition to the super long list of physical benefits, each individual pose has it’s own unique list of added benefits. This week I’m going to shine a little light on ardha-chandrasana with pada-hastasana (say that three times fast!), or half moon pose with hands to feet.
Ardha-Chandrasana with Pada-Hastasana (Half Moon Pose with hands to feet) opens shoulder joints, abdominal obesity, stimulates the pituitary, alleviates anxiety. Half moon pose strengthens every muscle in the body's core, especially in the abdomen, and flexes and strengthens the latissimus dorsi, oblique, deltoid and trapezius muscles.
The moon has a rich symbolic significance in yoga mythology. In hatha yoga, for example, the sun and the moon represent the two polar energies of the human body. In fact, the word hatha itself is often divided into its two constituent syllables, "ha" and "tha", which are then esoterically interpreted as signifying the solar and lunar energies respectively.
If you want to rock the half moon pose at your next hot yoga class, check out these tips from a Jacob B, a Bikram Yoga Vancouver expert:
- Lock your arms! Fully engage your arm muscles during the setup, before you start the posture. Not having to engage each muscle one by one, as it is needed, makes things much easier and you will feel stronger.
- Lift your entire body up to the ceiling! Continue to lift up while you bend to the side. This will help to create the space between the vertebrae that’s needed to reach maximum depth. Focusing on LIFTING throughout the posture will stop the chest collapsing and promote proper alignment.
- During the backbend, think about distributing the bend evenly over the entire spine. Imagine your spine as a perfect arch; do not hinge over at one spot. Work on the flexibility of your least-flexible vertebrae.
- LIFT through the entire backbend. Imagine there is a bar up near your shoulders that you need to bend over top of.
- In the third part of the pose, really glue your body to your legs! This is the most important part of the posture. Like the dialogue says, you want “no room for light or air between the upper body and the legs.” This should be taken literally.
- Work hard to get your elbows as close as possible to each other behind the calf muscles. This promotes proper alignment and has a major impact on how you do the rest of the posture.
- Instead of just pushing the knees back, think about lifting the hips up toward the ceiling. This will help you distribute the stretch throughout your lower spine, hips and hamstrings. If you’re only thinking about pushing the knees back, the stretch will be focused on the backs of the knees. This could potentially result in over-stretching the hamstrings.
- Try to move your face further and further down the shins. This combined with lifting the hips will really help stretch out the lower spine!
Benefits of Half Moon Pose:
- It increases the flexibility of the spine comprehensively, from coccyx to neck; promotes proper kidney function; and helps to cure enlargement of the liver and spleen.
- Opens your hips and chest
- Strengthens your legs, ankles, abdomen, buttocks and spine
- Stretches your groins, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and spine
- Half Moon also firms and trims the waistline, hips, abdomen, buttocks and thighs.
- Builds coordination and balance
- Therapeutic for anxiety, fatigue, menstrual pain, back pain, fertility, sciatica, osteoporosis, indigestion, gastritis and constipation
Get creative and take some time for yourself at work, at home, or on your daily grind. Try a half moon pose at the office, or at the park. Remember what’s important: balancing a busy schedule in the city can be stressful, so remember to breathe: inhale, exhale, repeat.
Are you finding great spaces and places to half moon/hands to feet in ? If so, we want to share your story with our community on facebook, twitter, and instagram.