For as long as history can recount, cultures throughout the world have revered the cyclical patterns of nature, honouring the turning of seasons, the rising and setting sun, and the phases of the moon. Whilst we’re all affected one way or another by the patterns of weather on a day to day basis and the amount of sunlight we’re exposed to, the moon also has its own power that waxes and wanes throughout the month.
The fiery dynamism of the sun has been honoured for thousands of years not only by the Eastern sun salutations and mantras, but also by the Egyptians and ancient Mesopotamian cultures who linked it to a sense of masculinity and energy. We find wholeness by embracing opposites, so when the sun sets, the moon is there to be honoured too. In a contrast to the yang energy of the sun, the moon brings a sense of coolness, calmness, and essence of yin. The full moon in particular is a bright and powerful reminder to welcome in both the primordial masculine and feminine energies, and engage with the full spectrum of light and dark.
Whilst you may be familiar with Surya Namaskar or the sun salutations – traditionally practiced with the rising sun – the moon salutations or Chandra Namaskar are essentially the lunar or feminine counterpart, encompassing a more watery, fluid quality instead of the dynamic fire of the sun salutes. The word Chandra means ‘moon’, but it also refers to the lunar deity Chandra Deva, who was originally a female deity, said to govern plants and nature, and represent the reflective and luminescent nature of the mind. Namaskar refers to ‘saluting’, and can be thought of as a greeting or gesture of respect.
The moon salutations are a way to not only welcome in the cool darkness of the night, but also offer a reminder to reflect upon our own phases and cycles. Practicing a moon salutation is a way to acknowledge and respect that just as the full moon moves through constant change, so too do our minds and bodies. No matter whether you identify as a man or a woman, we all have a balance of masculine fire and feminine water qualities within us, and certain movements can evoke each of these qualities.
The moon salutations include open, graceful and sweeping movements, focusing on opening the hips and encouraging a sense of almost meditative dance. In a world full of fast movement, the ‘instant – ness’ of everything feeling quite staccato and abrupt sometimes, and it can be incredibly nourishing and balancing to lose yourself in a slow and meandering practice to help the mind and body transition from busy day to blissful night. Whether you practice regularly or are just starting out, explore the moon salutations and discover how they can help you slow down and reconnect to night time nature. Switch off the screens and reclaim your evening!
Try this Moon Salutation sequence at home:
- Urdhva Hastasana / Upward Salute: On an inhale extend your arms up to the sky, taking Kali Mudra with the hands by interlacing your fingers, index fingers pointing up. Exhale and send your upper torso and arms to the right to take a side stretch. Inhale and come back to center. Exhale and bend to the left. Inhale to come back to center. Exhale as you release your arms.
- Goddess Pose: Exhale, step the feet wide apart, toes pointing slightly out. Bend the knees and squat down, be conscious of keeping the knees in line with the ankles and the pelvis neutral. Take Cactus arms by bending the elbows to a 90-degree angle.
- Trikonasana / Triangle Pose: Inhale straighten the legs, turn both feet to the right. Extend both arms out parallel to the floor. Exhale, reach long over the right leg. Lower the right hand to ankle or a brick and extend the left arm to the sky. Inhale and rotate the chest to the sky.
- Parsvottonasana / Pyramid Pose: Exhale, take your left hand down towards the floor, so that both hands are resting on a brick or the mat. Bring the back foot forward slightly to make your stance shorter and work towards turning both hips towards the front of the mat. Inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to fold forwards over the right leg. Keeping the front leg straight or taking a small microbend.
- Low Lunge over right foot: Inhale, step the left foot back and bend the right knee so you come into a lunge position with the left knee on the ground. Extend the arms in Kali Mudra and send the heart to the sky, exploring a small backbend.
- Skandasana / Wide legged squat over right leg: Exhale, bring both hands to the floor either side of the front foot. Turn to face the side of the mat on the ball of the right foot. Keep the left leg extended and point the toes to the ceiling, flexing the foot. If your balance allows it bring your hands together in Anjuli Mudra (prayer position) or keep your fingertips resting on the floor or two bricks (see image above).
- Skandasana / Wide legged squat over left leg: Swap sides by moving though the middle with the hands and taking Skandasana on the opposite side.
- Low lunge over left foot: Right leg steps further back, both hands framing the left foot. Extend the arms up and take Kali Mudra, opening the heart to the sky.
- Parsvottonasana / Pyramid Pose: On an exhale, right foot steps in a little, left leg straightens, level the hips and come into Parvsottonasana. Inhale to lenghthen and exhale to fold over the left leg.
- Trikonasana/ Triangle Pose: Inhale, right foot readjusts and right arm extends upwards, rotate your chest to the sky. Exhale.
- Goddess Pose: Straighten the legs and the arms out parallel. Turn feet to point outwards and come to face the side of the mat. Exhale, bend the knees and sink into Goddess pose squat.
- Urdhva Hastasana / Upward Salute: Inhale, step the feet back in together, extend the arms up towards the sky, taking Kali Mudra with the hands. Exhale bend to the left for a side stretch. Inhale come to centre and exhale come to the right for a side stretch.
Hands come down to heart centre In Anjuli Mudra and repeat as many times as desired.