When I was a child, my mum used to sing a little folk song with me. Perhaps you know it. The beginning lyrics were, “I see the moon and the moon sees me. The moon sees the one that I long to see…”
On a clear night, under the light of a full moon, that little childhood ditty will often come to mind. Of course, as a child, I thought that the one in the song was a special someone somewhere else in the world.
Years later, I often think of the one in the tune as the oneness within, between, and all around us—the OneSelf, One World often hidden from view in darkness, but visible from above by the light of the moon. From the moon's perspective, I imagine that we are all one marvelous, luminous whole.
This is the one I recall when I practice Chandra Namaskar each evening before I sleep.
The Moon Salutation, also known as Chandra Namaskar, is a centering sequence of yoga poses representing the phases of the moon. A potent counterbalance to the popular, energizing Sun Salutation, the Moon Salutation is a reflective, quieting practice designed to calm the body, soothe the mind, and induce better rest. It's more like a slow dance than a boogie.
There are many variations of Moon Salutation, but the sequence below, comprised of nine poses, is the one I practice most. This is an especially helpful sequence to practice in the evening before bed.
1. Standing Mountain Pose - Tadasana
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Press your palms together in prayer position. Rest your thumbs on your sternum and take a few deep breaths. Remember to breathe through your nose and ease into each pose with the breath.
2. Side Bend/Half Moon - Parsva Tadasana
Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the side and skyward. Press your palms together overhead or interlace your fingers with your index fingers pointing skyward. Exhaling, bend your upper torso to the right in a gentle arc. Keep your feet firmly planted and your thighs engaged. Inhaling, come back to center. Exhale, bend to the left, and then, inhale, come back to center. Exhale as you release your arms.
3. Goddess Squat - Utkata Konasana
Inhaling, step your feet wide apart and turn your toes out slightly. Exhaling, bend your knees directly over your heels, lowering your hips into a squat. Extend your arms out to your sides at shoulder-height, and then, bend your elbows and point your fingertips skyward, so that your upper arms and forearms form 90-degree angles. To deepen the pose, come onto your toes. Gentlemen (and a few of you Ladies) who may be less comfortable accessing your inner goddess, feel free to consider this as "horse stance" as it's known in martial arts.
4. Star Pose
Inhaling, straighten your legs, keeping your feet wide apart. Extend your arms shoulder-height with palms facing forward, fingers spread wide, stretching in opposite directions.
5. Extended Triangle Pose - Utthita Trikonasana
Rotate your right (front) foot 90 degrees so your front foot’s toes point to the top of the mat. Turn your left toes in slightly. Exhaling, extend your right hand in the same direction that your right foot is pointed. Shift your left hip back, and then fold sideways at the hip (think John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever). Rest your right hand on the outside of your shin or ankle and extend your left hand straight up toward the sky.
6. Pyramid Pose - Parsvottanasana
Inhaling, lower your left hand and turn your upper torso to the right until it is in line with your right leg. Exhaling, fold your torso over your right leg. Rest both hands on your lower leg, foot, or the floor, and press down through the heel of your back foot.
7. Low Crescent Lunge - Anjaneyasana
Inhaling, bend your right knee and place your fingertips on the mat in front of you. Exhaling, step your left foot to the back of the mat, keeping your right foot at the front of the mat and your right knee over the heel of your right foot. Lower your left knee to the floor and slide your leg back a few inches. Un-tuck your left foot’s toes and rest the top of your foot on the floor. Keep your fingertips on the mat and gaze between your hands or bring your hands into prayer resting at your sternum. If this feels comfortable, raise your hands overhead gazing skyward and gently arc back.
8. Low Side Lunge
Inhaling, place both hands to the inside of your right foot on the floor. Rotate your right foot and leg to face forward, keeping your knee bent. Exhaling, turn your left toes forward, keeping your left leg extended and your palms on the floor. If that is too deep of a squat for you, rest your hands on your right thigh, instead.
9. Garland Pose - Malasana
Inhaling, step your right foot in toward your left and lower your tailbone, coming into a low squat. Bring your upper arms to the inside of your knees. Press your elbows against the inside of your knees and bring your palms together in prayer position. Hug the earth with you toes, and exhale fully. Keep your feet as wide apart as needed to feel steady.
10. Low Side Lunge
Inhale, place your hands on the floor to the inside of your left foot. Extend your right foot out to the right. Exhale as you slide your torso toward your left foot. If helpful, rest your hands on your left thigh instead of on the floor.
11. Low Crescent Lunge - Anjaneyasana
Inhaling, turn your left toes to point to the back of your mat. Rotate your right leg inward and bring your right knee to the floor, pressing through the top of your right foot and keeping your left knee over the heel of your left foot. Exhaling, place your fingertips on the mat in front of you. Keep your fingertips on the mat and gaze between your hands or bring your hands into prayer resting at your sternum. If this feels comfortable, raise your hands overhead gazing skyward and gently arc back.
12. Pyramid Pose - Parsvottanasana
Inhaling, straighten both legs. Exhale and fold your torso over your left leg, resting both hands on your lower leg, foot, or the floor. Press down through the heel of your back foot.
13. Extended Triangle Pose - Utthita Trikonasana
Inhaling, extend your right hand straight up to the sky, opening your torso to the right. Rest your left hand on the outside of your left shin or ankle. Exhale fully.
14. Star Pose
Inhaling, raise your torso with your arms extended and palms facing forward. Keep your feet wide apart, arms extending out to the side, shoulder-height, fingers spread wide as you reach in opposite directions.
15. Goddess Squat - Utkata Konasana
Exhaling, bend your knees directly over your heels, lowering your hips into a squat. Extend your arms out to your sides at shoulder-height, and then, bend your elbows and point your fingertips skyward. To deepen the pose, come onto your toes.
16. Side Bend/Half Moon - Urdhva Hastasana
Inhaling, straighten your legs. Turn your toes forward and step your left foot next to your right. At the same time, sweep your arms out to the side and skyward, pressing palms together or interlacing your fingers and pointing your index fingers skyward. Exhaling, bend your upper torso to the right in a gentle arc, keeping your feet firmly planted and your thighs engaged. Inhale and come back to center. Exhaling, bend to the left, and then inhaling, come back to center. Exhale as you release your arms.
17. Standing Mountain Pose - Tadasana
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bring your palms together in prayer position, and take several deep breaths. Hug the earth with your toes and give thanks.
May you see your oneself and our one world by the light of your inner moon. May you rest in bright, lucid, shimmering wholeness.
Let's be luminous... if you would like to explore this further, please arrange for a private or group Moon Salutation & Candlelight Meditation session.