By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
A Moon Salutation, Lunar Flow, or Chandra Namaskar, is basically the opposite of a Sun Salutation. Where the Sun Salutation brings heat and energy into the body, the Moon Salutation brings calm and relaxation. The Lunar Flow provides a counter balance to the Sun Salutation and is often done at the end of an evening Yoga asana session. Moon Salutations are often practiced at night – when you want to unwind after a long day.
A Lunar Flow honors the feminine energy within the body, as opposed to the masculine nature of a Sun Salutation. Both men and women can perform Moon Salutations and Sun Salutations, of course. They help shift the energy within the body, providing balance and calm to the mind and body. They can help uncover inner qualities – such as wisdom, creativity, and intelligence. Chandra Namaskar can open up the path toward inner calm and provide balance to the mind and body.
Although Moon Salutations can be practiced throughout the month, some Yoga practitioners believe that practicing them under a full moon can be particularly powerful. However, in some traditions, Yoga is not practiced during a full or new moon, keeping these as sacred days of rest.
There are several variations of Chandra Namaskar. It is a series of flowing poses, where the body moves fluidly with each deep inhale and exhale. For the following variation, begin in Mountain pose, then transition to a Crescent Moon side bend, then Goddess pose, Star pose, Triangle pose, Head to Knee pose, Lunge, Squat, Lunge on the opposite side, Head to Knee with the opposite leg, and complete the series by performing the poses in the reverse order, until you are back to Mountain pose.
Remember to breathe deeply, and slowly, with each new pose. This sets a much slower pace than most flowing asana sequences. Focus on your breath, while bringing inner calm and peace into the mind and body. You may repeat the Moon Salutation, as many times as you want; but if you intend on sleeping, four rounds should be the maximum, and it may be useful to practice stage-by-stage relaxation after you have finished your asana session.
If you prefer a more calming option for the start of the day, you might even try Moon Salutations in the morning. This is not a traditional approach, but it is up to each individual to decide when they feel a Moon Salutation would benefit them the most. Yoga instructors, teaching a group of students, who want to release stress, will probably benefit the class most by performing the Moon Salutation after warming up and at the beginning of an evening asana session, to send students away feeling calm and centered.
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