How to Do Moon Salutation Sequence in Yoga (Chandra Namaskar)

Sun Salutation is one of the most famous sequences in the yoga world… But have you heard of Moon Salutation?

Moon Salutation, or Chandra Namaskar, is a more calming and soothing sequence that can be performed in the evening.

While it still functions to become more supple, the Moon Salutation sequence is more suitable for decompressing at the end of the day.

Sun Salutation vs. Moon Salutation

Sun salutation vs moon salutation

Many aspects of yoga revolve around the concept of opposites. Yin and yang, stretching and contracting, rising and falling.

In a sense, Surya and Chandra Namaskar represent the opposing forces of nature. Sun Salutations are designed to be practiced in the early morning, while Moon Salutations are better suited for the evening.

Sun Salutations aim to awaken and energize the body, while Moon Salutations soothe and relieve tension. In yoga classes, Moon Salutation usually accompanies a slower, less physically demanding session, while Surya Namaskar is more common in strong dynamic styles like Ashtanga or Vinyasa Flow.

On the other hand, Moon Salutation and Sun Salutation share many similarities:

  • Both include a set sequence of poses to achieve a particular goal.
  • Both sequences have a “flowing” quality, where one pose transitions seamlessly into the next.
  • Breath plays an important part in Chandra Namaskar, just as it does in Surya Namaskar: each movement is synchronized with an inhale, or an exhale.
  • To honor the cyclical movement of the Sun and the Moon, both sequences are performed in a “loop”, starting and ending with the same pose.
  • Finally, both sequences have been subject to interpretation, which resulted in multiple variations.

Step-by-step Instructions For Moon Salutation

Moon Salutation takes many forms, depending on the teacher, the setting, or the intention of the session. Depending on the variation, Moon Salutation can include upwards of 13 poses.

The following sequence is a simple, beginner-friendly variation of Chandra Namaskar.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Calm, grounding breaths to establish on your mat

Stand facing the long edge of your yoga mat. Focus on the grounding contact between your feet and the floor. Lengthen through the crown of your head and gently pull your shoulders back. Bring your palms together at the heart center or keep your arms by your sides, with your palms facing forward.

Beginners’ Tip: To provoke gentle engagement in different muscle groups, lift your toes off the ground and bring them back down. Repeat this a few times, aiming to maintain engagement after the toes lower back to the mat.

Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) – Side Bends

Inhale/Exhale

As you breathe in, raise your arms overhead. Interlace your fingers and turn the palms to face the sky. On the exhale, lean to your right, stretching the entire left side of the body. Come back to Upward Salute on the inhale, and lean to your left as you breathe out. Inhale and lift back to Urdhva Hastasana.

Beginners’ Tip: Avoid tilting your hips while you lean in the opposite direction. To help you stay in control, draw in the lower belly and slightly engage your glutes. If you are feeling quite stiff in the body, you may repeat the side bends a few times at the start of the first Moon Salutation.

Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)

Exhale

Step your feet wide and turn your toes outwards. On the exhale, sink your hips into a squat. Aim for a 90-degree bend in the knees, positioning the thighs parallel to the ground. Shape your arms into the “cactus” position, mirroring the legs. Open your chest forward. Open your palms, stretching the fingers apart.

Beginners’ Tip: In other squatting positions (such as Chair Pose or Garland Pose), the practitioner is encouraged to lean forward to maintain balance. However, in the Goddess squat, you try to keep your torso upright, with the shoulders sitting above the hips. If possible, check your position in the mirror.

Star Pose (Utthita Tadasana)

Inhale

Straighten your legs and lengthen upwards through the spine. Stretch your arms wide, reaching out through the fingertips. Try to broaden your chest, allowing yourself to inhale fully.

Beginners’ Tip: If you struggle to stop your feet from slipping apart, turn your toes slightly inwards. You can also step your feet a touch closer to one another.

Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) – Right Side

Exhale

Rotate through your right foot so that the toes face the short edge of your mat. Turn the left foot slightly inwards. As you breathe out, bend sideways towards the right leg. Press your right hand against the inside of your right foot or ankle. Raise your left arm to the sky, forming a long straight line with two arms. Bring your gaze up to the fingertips of the left hand.

Beginners’ Tip: You can maintain a slight bend in the right knee if your hamstrings feel too tight. You can also help yourself by resting your right hand on a block.

Intense Side Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana) – Right Side

Inhale/Exhale

As you breathe in, turn to your right leg and bring your left arm down. Square your hips to the short edge of your mat. As you exhale, fully embrace the fold towards your leg.

Beginners’ Tip: The literal translation of the Sanskrit name of this pose is “intense Western stretch”. This reflects the sensation it invokes in the hamstrings of the front leg and groin. If those are areas you struggle with, you can maintain a micro bend in the front knee. Additionally, you can rest your palms on a pair of blocks to make the asana less intense.

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) – Right Side

Inhale

Bend your front knee and frame your right foot with your hands. Step your left foot further back and lower the knee to the mat. Untuck the toes on the back foot and sink the hips forward. Lift the torso and raise your arms overhead. Inhale as you gently arch through your back and lift the gaze.

Beginners’ Tip: To keep your knees safe, ensure that the front knee is aligned above the ankle. To cushion the back knee, you may take a moment to fold the edge of your mat or grab a blanket. Avoid hinging through your lower back. Instead, aim to have an even curve through the entire spine. If you’re experiencing any neck problems, keep your gaze straight ahead with the cervical spine in the neutral position.

Side Squat (Skandasana) – Right Side

Exhale

Walk your hands to the inner side of your right leg. Keep your right knee facing forward as you rotate your hips and torso to face the long edge of the mat. Allow your left hip to open, flex your ankle and point the toes to the sky. Bring your palms together at the heart center and open your chest. Sink through the hips and lengthen through the spine.

Beginners’ Tip: This is quite a tricky pose, especially for a novice. If keeping your right heel on the floor is difficult due to reduced ankle mobility, you may lift to the ball of your foot. If that affects your balance, you can place a block or a rolled-up blanket under the heel for support. Alternatively, you can improve your balance by keeping your fingertips on the mat.

Side Squat (Skandasana) – Left Side

Exhale

Now it’s time to retrace your steps, repeating the same sequence of poses on the other side of the body… and backward! Bring your hands to the floor. Lift the hips a little and shift your weight towards the left foot. Ground through your left foot, with the hip and knee open towards the short edge of the mat. Engage your right ankle and point the toes to the sky. Lift your palms to your heart to invoke balance.

Beginners’ Tip: With any asymmetrical sequence in yoga, there is a high chance that the pose will feel entirely different depending on the side of the body. It’s normal to have a difference in flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. Be prepared that Skandasana may feel easier on one side, and modify accordingly.

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) – Left Side

Inhale

Turn towards your left knee. Square your hips to the short edge of the mat and bring your right knee to the floor with the toes untucked. Position the front knee over the ankle and sink your hips forward. Lift up and take your hands up into a salute. Gently arch through your back and lift your gaze.

Beginners’ Tip: Once again, ensure your knees and spine are protected. Keep your neck neutral and your gaze directed forward if you have a history of neck problems.

Intense Side Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana) – Left Side

Inhale/Exhale

Place your fingertips back on the mat, framing your left foot. Tuck your toes under and bring the back knee closer. Lift the back knee and begin to straighten your left leg. Keep your hips square to the front of your mat. Breathe out and soften through the upper body, bending towards the front leg.

Beginners’ Tip: Apply the same modifications where necessary – bend the front knee or add a pair of blocks.

Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) – Left Side

Exhale

Keep your left foot facing forward but turn your right foot slightly outward. Press your left foot against the inside of your left foot or ankle. Start turning your hips, chest, and shoulders in the direction of the long edge of the mat. Lift your right arm to the sky and follow your right hand with your gaze. Keep your spine parallel to the ground, lengthening through the crown of your head.

Beginners’ Tip: You can maintain a slight bend in the front knee if your hamstrings feel too tight. You can also help yourself by resting your left hand on a block.

Star Pose (Utthita Tadasana)

Inhale

Use the top arm as leverage to lift yourself as you inhale. Spread your arms, lengthening through the fingertips. Turn both feet outwards, taking on the “star” shape again.

Beginners’ Tip: Remember, you have the option to have your feet turned slightly inwards to stop them from sliding wider apart.

Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)

Exhale

As you breathe out, sink your hips down and bring your thighs parallel to the floor. With your knees bent at 90 degrees, position them above your ankles. Bend your elbows and open your palms. Broaden your chest and collarbones.

Beginners’ Tip: Remember to check your position – shoulders over hips.

Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) – Side Bends

Inhale/Exhale

Step your feet together. Inhale and raise your arms. Interlace your fingers and turn the palms to face the sky. Repeat the side-bending sequence, along with the breaths.

Beginners’ Tip: Don’t be tempted to relax your body quite yet. Keep your core zipped and your glutes active.

If you’re carrying on with another round of Chandra Namaskar, move on to Goddess Pose and repeat the sequence.

If this is the last (or only) round of Chandra Namaskar, finish with Mountain Pose.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Exhale, followed by free breaths

Lower your arms into prayer position. Perform another body scan and focus on any changes that occurred in the body as a result of Moon Salutations.

Beginners’ Tip: Shake it out! After your last round of Moon Salutations, give your limbs a good shake to further release tension or stress from the body.

Breathing in Moon Salutation

Although a specific breath is assigned to each pose, some transitions may take longer. If you struggle to keep up, take extra breaths while transitioning between poses. That way, you don’t have to rush. Instead, you can focus on your form and physical sensations.

It’s recommended to breathe through the nose. Nasal breaths can help you enter the state of moving meditation and encourage healthy blood circulation and lung capacity.

Common Mistakes

The main purpose of Moon Salutations is to help you unwind and relax at the end of the day. Therefore, avoid straining yourself while you perform the asanas. Try to strike a balance: tap into the benefits of each pose while holding yourself back from pushing too far. Remember that there is no shame in modifying the pose or using props, even if you can perform the full extension of the pose.

Safety Precautions

Consult your physician if you have any injury, chronic illness, or temporary condition that may affect your practice. If you are cleared to do yoga, let your teacher know about the possible need for modification. Furthermore, keep a close connection with yourself and avoid anything that brings you pain or severe discomfort. If you are pregnant, err on the side of caution, modifying or swapping asanas if needed.

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