Chandra Namaskar: Celebrating the Fullness of the Moon

by Maria DiCamillo

In yoga, we celebrate the Sun and the Moon – the masculine and the feminine – the power and the strength and the release and letting go – and we bring these opposite forces together to achieve an empowering, reflective, and creative balance.

Yogis tend to gravitate towards practices of fiery, strength-building intensity.  Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutations, is literally translated as “bow to the sun”; and as we raise our arms up, bow down, lengthen forward, and jump back, we begin to embody solar energy. We stretch, strengthen, and heat our whole being from the inside out. However, during the days we are feeling depleted, overstimulated, and overheated, and during the energy of the full moon, it’s encouraging to know that the Sun Salutations have a cooling and soothing alternative sequence known as Chandra Namaskar or Moon Salutations. Chandra Namaskar is a quieting sequence that invites us to cultivate the moon’s nurturing lunar energy.

Throughout the ages, the full moon has been seen as bringing healing, mysticism, growth, inspiration, and insight to many different cultures.  At this time of year, it brings with it the promise of abundance, fulfillment, gratitude, and the spirit and vibrant energy of the Spring season. In particular, the Full Flower Moon (which will reach its peak on May 26th) symbolizes all the flowers that are bursting into bloom during May.

This month, blossoming Mother Nature gives us the May Full Supermoon in the sign of Sagittarius.  As this full moon coincides with its closest approach to the Earth, it will appear brighter and larger, and we invite you to celebrate the moon’s energy by practicing cooling Moon Salutations – Chandra Namaskar.

With Moon Salutations, the intention, pace, and quality of the movements are the direct opposite of the fiery sun salutations. So instead of moving quickly, jumping into and out of poses, move slowly, mindfully, smoothly, elegantly, and fluidly – like moving through water. When flowing in and out of each pose, allow several slow breaths to relax and rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul and feel the essence of each posture. To support this intention, set the mood by practicing at night, lighting candles, playing soothing music, dimming the lights, or going outside and facing the moon. In this sequence, we begin to explore and discover our own unique, graceful rhythms, though you may consider including some of the poses demonstrated below to your Moon Salutations sequence.

1. Standing Half Moon

2. Pyramid

3. Funky Goddess

As you complete the Funky Goddess pose, move slowly and deliberately through your shoulders and back, shifting the weight of your upper body back and forth.

4. Lunar Skandasana

Just like with the Funky Goddess pose, move slowly and guide your hips from side to side. As your bodyweight shifts to your left side, lean into and bend the left knee while straightening the right, then vice versa.

5. Crescent Moon Lunge

6. Star Gazer

7. Star

Just like the moon, we too have transitions or phases in our own lives. The New Moon is a time for setting new intentions, and the Full Moon centers upon completion. Just like the Full Moon, the practice of yoga teaches us to let go and make space for opportunity, growth, or something fresh and new to awaken and bloom into our lives.  Therefore, “if the moon can renew itself each month, so can we.”

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