Half Moon Pose For Beginners | How To Adjust The Pose To Stretch Your Hamstrings and Shoulders, Even If You Can’t Touch The Floor

HALF MOON

half moon pose
Half Moon Pose For Beginners | How To Adjust The Pose To Stretch Your Hamstrings and Shoulders, Even If You Can't Touch The Floor 24
half moon
Half Moon Pose For Beginners | How To Adjust The Pose To Stretch Your Hamstrings and Shoulders, Even If You Can't Touch The Floor 25

Purpose

Here are some of the reasons why Half Moon is good for you:

  • Builds strength and stability in legs.
  • Strengthens core.
  • mproves balance.
  • Strengthens glutes.
  • Stretches legs and groin.
  • Improves focus and concentration

Pose Guide

To do Half Moon correctly, here are the steps:

  • Begin standing in the centre of your mat facing the short edge with your toes touching and your heels about an inch apart.
  • Lengthen your spine and engage your core as you inhale.
  • As you exhale, hinge forward at the hips bringing your hands to the ground beneath your shoulders. It is okay to bend your knees if you need assistance getting your hands to the ground.
  • Continue to lengthen your spine and engage your core as you bring your chest forward, flattening your back to parallel it to the ground. If you have shorter arms, your back will be flat but may not be perfectly parallel to the floor.
  • Press your feet into the ground, keeping the weight evenly distributed between the toes, balls and heels of your feet.
  • Squeeze your legs together to activate them, creating a strong foundation for the pose.
  • Shift your weight into your right foot and begin to lift your left leg behind you until it is level with your hips. 
  • Keeping your core engaged, twist your hips to stack the left hip directly over the right hip.
  • Shift your weight into your right hand and lift your left arm out to the side and up to the sky, twisting your shoulders so that your left shoulder is stacked directly over your right shoulder. Your torso, the front of your left leg, and the inside of your left arm will be facing the long edge of your mat.
  • Turn your head to look up at your raised hand.
  • Balancing on your right leg, continue to lift the left leg to hip height while lengthening it. Keep your hips squared to the outside, with the left hip stacked on top of the right hip.
  • Continue to lengthen your spine, engage your core, and press through your standing foot as you reach your raised hand and foot away from their respective shoulder and hip.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Practical Tips

Do This, Not That! Common mistakes beginners make:

1. Twisting the upper shoulder forward: 

It’s common to see the upper shoulder rolling forward in Half Moon, especially for those who have difficulty balancing. Twisting the upper shoulder forward can temporarily feel more stable, but it takes the entire pose out of alignment, which means you will have to work much harder to balance. This also creates more opportunities for injury to the upper back. Stack the top shoulder directly over the bottom shoulder to keep the pose properly aligned. If you have trouble balancing, refer to the section above for modification options.

2. Letting the hips twist out of alignment: 

It’s also common to let the top hip roll forward or backwards in Half Moon. Again, this takes the pose out of alignment, making the bodywork much harder to support the pose. You also risk pinching the low back or aggravating sciatic issues if the hips twist out of alignment. To do this pose correctly, stack the upper hip directly over the lower hip. Actively engaging the core can provide additional support.

3. Turning in the standing foot: 

The standing foot can sometimes turn toward the midline during standing balancing poses like Half Moon. This skews the alignment of the standing leg, destabilizing the foundation of the pose. It’s important to plant the standing foot in the proper position from the beginning before giving it the full weight of the pose. It’s not only difficult but can be dangerous to try to realign it once you’re balancing on your leg. Continue to actively press your foot into the ground on all sides as you progress through the pose. This will help you keep your foot where it needs to be for a safe and strong foundation for Half Moon.

4. Having the grounded hand too close to the grounded foot: 

Some beginners place their grounded hand too close to the grounded foot in Half Moon. This is a mistake for a couple of reasons. When the foundation is too narrow, the spine gets compressed, and you can open up your back to pain and injury. It also makes balancing extremely difficult when the hand is too close to the foot. Place your standing foot under your hip and your grounded hand directly under your shoulder for best results.

5. Locking the standing knee:

 Beginners often make the mistake of locking the knee of the standing leg when practicing Half Moon. Locking the knee puts unnecessary strain on the joint, cheats the muscles of the legs out of the strength-building benefits of the pose, and decreases stability in the leg so that balancing is much more difficult. Instead of locking the standing knee, keep some softness in the knee by bending it just a little.

6. Rounding the back: 

Rounding the back is another common mistake in Half Moon. Rounding the back is often an indication that the core is not being engaged. This can lead to injury and discomfort, particularly in the low back. To prevent rounding in the back, consistently engage your core and lengthen your spine. Engage your legs and your glutes for additional support. 

7. Dropping the raised leg: 

Some beginners tend to let the raised leg droop down toward the floor instead of keeping it parallel to the ground. This puts a lot of unnecessary stress on the hip joint and means that the torso will have to work even harder to keep the pose together. If the core has any weakness, this extra work gets put on the back, which can open the back up for possible injury. Keeping the raised leg active and elevated to line up with the hips and is parallel to the ground more evenly distributes the work needed to sustain Half Moon pose successfully. Stretching the raised heel away from the hip can also help keep that raised leg engaged and aligned.

8. Resting on the front hand: 

Some beginners dump too much weight into the front hand, forcing the hips and shoulders out of alignment and making it more challenging to open the chest. Instead, use your core and try to use your fingertips to balance. To raise the ground:

  • Place a block on the floor and use your fingertips to balance on the block.
  • If you cannot balance with your fingertips, raise the block to its highest setting and try to balance with your thumb while the rest of your fingertips aim toward the floor.
  • For more modifications, see the section below. 

Props and Modifications

You should consider a modification if you experience the following:

  • Weakness in the legs and glutes.
  • Overly tight hamstrings.
  • Tight or restrictive shoulders.
  • Difficulty maintaining balance.

1. Weakness in the legs and glutes: 

If you have weakness in the legs and glutes, it can feel challenging to support the full expression of this pose. You can make it a little easier by decreasing the hinge at the hips. This will alleviate some of the strength required from the standing leg. One way to do this is to elevate your grounded hand on a block. Place the block in front of, and just to the inside of, the standing foot. Your grounded hand will rest lightly on the block for support without taking too much of the weight of the pose. Continue to engage your core and activate your arms and legs, as instructed above, to do the main work of holding the pose in balance.

half moon
Half Moon Pose For Beginners | How To Adjust The Pose To Stretch Your Hamstrings and Shoulders, Even If You Can't Touch The Floor 26

Alternatively, you can place your grounded hand (or forearm) on the seat of a folding chair to provide additional support in the pose. This allows you to build strength in the standing leg more safely and stably.

half moon
Half Moon Pose For Beginners | How To Adjust The Pose To Stretch Your Hamstrings and Shoulders, Even If You Can't Touch The Floor 27

A third alternative is to practice Half Moon with your raised foot flat against a wall. You can do this with your grounded hand on the floor, on a block or a folding chair as in the modifications above. Giving the back foot the support of the wall means you can utilize the strength in that leg even more fully to help share the burden of the standing leg.

For those with weak legs and glutes, you can perform this pose so that the grounded leg rests on the knee instead of the foot. To do this, begin the pose on all fours instead of standing. The rest of the pose is essentially the same; you will just keep your grounded leg on the knee with the toes directly behind the knee and the knee directly beneath your hip. It is important to press into the ground with the back foot and shin to avoid putting too much pressure directly on the knee joint. Feel free to place a folded blanket or other cushions under the knee for comfort. 

half moon
Half Moon Pose For Beginners | How To Adjust The Pose To Stretch Your Hamstrings and Shoulders, Even If You Can't Touch The Floor 28

2. Overly tight hamstrings:

If your hamstrings are tight, it can be helpful to bend your standing knee to take some of the stretches out of the hamstring. 

half moon
Half Moon Pose For Beginners | How To Adjust The Pose To Stretch Your Hamstrings and Shoulders, Even If You Can't Touch The Floor 29

Use a block under your grounded hand (same side as a standing leg) to help keep the chest open and decrease the intensity of the fold in the hips. This helps release the tension on the standing leg hamstrings, making the pose more accessible without losing any of the benefits. To do this, place a block in front of and just to the outside of your standing foot. Rest your grounded hand lightly on the block as you raise your other hand to the sky. Continue with the rest of the pose as instructed above. 

You can modify this pose onto a bent leg for really tight hamstrings instead of a standing leg. Begin the pose on all fours. The rest of the pose is essentially the same; just keep your grounded leg on a bent knee. Position your toes directly behind your knee and your knee beneath your hip. It is important to press into the ground with your back foot and shin to avoid putting too much pressure directly on the knee joint. Please feel free to place a folded blanket or other cushions under the knee for comfort. 

3. Tight or restrictive shoulders:

If your shoulders are extra tight or have limited mobility, it can be helpful to place your raised hand on your hip instead of bringing it up to the sky. The elbow will be lifted toward the sky, staying in line with the rest of the torso to keep the pose balanced.

half moon
Half Moon Pose For Beginners | How To Adjust The Pose To Stretch Your Hamstrings and Shoulders, Even If You Can't Touch The Floor 30

4. Difficulty maintaining balance:

Half Moon can be a challenging pose for finding balance and stability. If you’re having difficulty keeping your balance while navigating all the other pose components, you can try practicing this pose against a wall for additional support. To do this, begin the pose with the long edge of your mat lined up against the edge of the wall. Start with your right shoulder about an inch away from the wall as you prepare to build the pose from the instructions above. As you find yourself more fully in the pose, you will have the wall directly behind you to keep you from falling backwards. It’s important to keep activating the pose and not just rest against the wall. It’s only through practicing with full engagement that you will build the strength that will allow you to practice the pose with ease and comfort.

Sometimes, the simplest way to improve balance in Half Moon is to keep the gaze down toward the ground. 

Another option is to place the hand or forearm of your grounded arm on the seat of a folding chair. This can give you more stability as you hold the pose. 

Pointers

Answers To Commonly Questions:

  • When is Half Moon contraindicated?
  • What do I do if I can’t reach my hand to the ground in Half Moon?
  • Is it wrong for my raised leg to be lower than my hip?
  • How much distance should be between my grounded hand and foot?
  • Do I have to turn my head up to the sky in Half Moon?
  • What’s the most important thing to try first? This pose has many things to focus on at the same time. For beginners, what should the progression be? Should they bend their leg to keep the back leg straight? Should they try and get the hamstring to stretch and then work on balance?

1. When is Half Moon contraindicated?

  • Acute foot, knee or hip injury.
  • Acute hand, wrist or shoulder injury.
  • Vertigo, inner ear issues, or other impairments to balance.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Osteoporosis and other bone density diseases.
  • Pregnancy – especially in the third trimester.

2. What do I do if I can’t reach my hand to the ground in Half Moon?

  • There are several reasons why you may not be able to reach your hand to the ground in Half Moon. You may have shorter arms, longer legs, or your hamstrings may be overly tight. It is perfectly fine to modify this pose in a way that provides some support for your grounded hand if it’s not directly on the ground. Look to the modifications section to find an option that works for you.

3. Is it wrong for my raised leg to be lower than my hip?

  • Letting the raised leg drop down below the hip is problematic for a couple of reasons. Primarily, it can place additional and unnecessary strain on the hip joint and the lower back and core to sustain the extra weight of the drooping leg. Additionally, it is most often an indication that the leg is not engaged. This means you’re missing out on the strengthening benefits of the pose as well as making balance exponentially more challenging. Engage the entire leg, lengthening it out through your heel and drawing it in at your hip joint (to connect the leg to the torso) to provide the strength needed to lift the leg into alignment with the hip. If you cannot lift the leg so that it is parallel with the ground, modify the pose with some props for support. (See the modifications section above.)

4. How much distance should be between my grounded hand and foot?

  • The distance between the grounded hand and foot will vary depending on the size and shape of your body. It is essentially the distance of your torso. Your standing foot should be directly beneath your hip, and your grounded hand should be directly beneath your shoulder. This allows you to lengthen your spine and activate your core for maximum safety and support in the pose.

5. Do I have to turn my head up to the sky in Half Moon?

  • The fullest expression of Half Moon has the head-turning to look up at the raised hand. However, if you have a stiff neck or are prone to balance issues, you can keep your head and gaze turned toward the ground.

6. What’s the most important thing to try first? 

  • This pose has many things to focus on at the same time. For beginners, what should the progression be? Should they bend their leg to keep the back leg straight? Should they try and get the hamstring to stretch and then work on balance? There is no one right approach to this or any pose when deciding what to focus on first. Pay attention to your body. As many beginners do, modifying the pose with a bent standing leg or block support at the grounded hand might make the most sense if you have tight hamstrings. This can allow you to focus on perfecting the other aspects of the pose that are a little less challenging. You don’t have to do it all perfectly on your first attempts. Employ the modifications listed above to help provide some support and stability while developing the strength, flexibility and balance to perform the full pose unassisted.

 

Additional Resources for beginners

Beginner Yoga Workouts

Yoga For Beginners Guide

Yoga For Back Pain

Bonus. Go Deeper With Yoga Blocks

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