Practice: Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana

PARIVRTTA ARDHA CHANDRASANA PHOTO 1

 Parivrtta = ‘Revolved’    Ardha = ‘Half’    Chandra = ‘Moon’    Asana = ‘Posture’ or ‘Seat’ 

Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana or ‘revolved half moon pose’, is a challenging combination of twisting and balancing, which also requires a lot of core strength and focus. Balancing really requires us to be totally present and self-aware, and is also useful for teaching us not to take ourselves too seriously if we wobble or fall….

Perhaps the most important thing to cultivate before practicing the pose though, is self belief. One of Yoga’s central texts – the Bhagavad Gita – explores self doubt, and how this is really our biggest obstacle on the path to enlightenment (or atleast the journey towards generally feeling happier from day to day!) There are so many books and practices based on building self-belief and positive thinking.  As Henry Ford so rightly said; ‘whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right’.

We know by now that our thoughts essentially create our experience and our own perception of the universe. Thoughts have the ability to trigger the fight-or–flight response in the body and cause serious damage long-term, but they also have the ability to create an abundant and joyful life.

As a daily practice: Watch your thoughts. Without judging or getting ‘caught up’ (yes, easier said than done, I know), observe the way you think in each moment. Is it helpful or harmful to your health and happiness?

Chances are a lot of the thoughts we have are self-deprecating and fearful, but knowing how powerful these thoughts are – what would you choose to think if you knew it could help you feel stronger, more powerful and more at peace?

The practice of observing our thoughts can lead us face-to-face with parts of ourselves we fear the most…. but realising that a lot of the time it is our thoughts that hold us back and not our physical ability, life circumstances, financial situation, relationship status, or any of these external aspects we often blame our sense of self-worth on is a huge step towards exactly what the yoga sutras tell us Yoga is: chitta vrtti nirodaha: stilling the fluctuations of the mind….

As you move towards the posture, notice what thoughts enter the mind; and practice adding more ‘yes I can’ when things get challenging.

Having the ability to really focus on what the feet are doing in this asana will help maintain the balance of steadiness and ease, or sthira and suka we strive for in each posture.

The standing foot needs to be strong and grounded, yet not rigid or stiff. Balancing can cause us to clench the toes and muscles surrounding the ankle, which means the muscles become tense and ‘hard’, and the foot stops communicating so much with the rest of the body. So many issues in the body stem from locked or rigid muscles, nerves and joints in the feet, which then travel through the body and cause problems further up (physically, energetically and emotionally).

Something you can do for your feet as a daily ritual, is to roll a tennis ball firmly underneath the sole of the foot. This helps to ‘wake up’ the fascia on the bottom of the foot, which connects through the whole of the body. Because so much connective tissue starts at the feet, rolling the foot out each day is likely to make a physical difference to how the rest of the muscles feel in the body. Forward folds can feel a lot easier, and tension around the hips is also likely to begin softening, especially if your tension is caused by stiffness due to running or sports activities.

The lifted foot needs to be very active and alive. The ability to feel expansive in the posture stems from pressing very firmly out through the back heel, opening the chest and collarbones as much as possible, and reaching through the crown of the head. If you think about expanding from the inside-out, and reach through all these ‘corners’ of the body, parivrtta ardha chandrasana becomes more spacious, rather than a compressed twist.

To prepare the body:

Twists become more accessible with space in the spine and sides of the body. So begin in adho mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), focussing on lengthening the spine. If the knees need to be bent so the spine feels fully lengthened, bend the legs for as long as is needed.

From there, walk forwards to uttanasana, and then slowly lift the body up into Tadasana (mountain pose).

Move through a few rounds of surya namaskar A to warm and enliven the body, and focus in particular on opening the chest and collarbones in your bhujangasana (cobra).

After 3-5 rounds, return to Tadasana, and step the legs apart to practice virabhadrasana 2, and trikonasana, with the focus on openness and space in the front and sides of the body, and strength in the legs. Practice this to both sides of the body, and then return to Tadasana.

From Tadasana, again step the feet wide for parivrtta prasarita padottanasana. Focussing on twisting from your core and opening the chest.

Step back to Tadasana and practice twisting a little deeper in parivrtta trikonasana, which is very useful when feeling the actions of the feet when in our ‘peak’ posture. Remember to use a block if needed, as this will help the spine twist more evenly, without directing too much pressure into the sacroiliac joints of the pelvis.

Practice to both sides of the body, and then make your way back to Tadasana.

HOW TO:

There are a number of ways to enter into parivrtta ardha chandrasana, this week we practiced it as a transition from virabhadrasana 3 (warrior 3) with the [right] foot as the standing foot. (click here for guidance on virabhadrasana 3).

  • From Virabhadrasana 3 – with the back thigh internally rotating and the toes facing the ground – exhale and bring both hands to the floor underneath the shoulders.
  • This is a good time to practice the action of the back heel; focus on pressing very firmly out through that back foot, while simultaneously reaching the crown of the head forwards. Imagine you’re pressing the back foot into a wall; and if you don’t mind foot marks on your walls, then it’s very useful to actually practice this against a wall.
  • Keeping the [left] hand on the floor or on a block, take a breath in, and then exhale as you begin to twist – from your core – to the [right].
  • Reach the [right] arm up, just as you would for parivrtta trikonasana.
  • Now think about expanding from your core, out through the feet, hands and head. Use the breath to bring you into the posture, rather than twisting the neck; exhaling to deepen the twist.
  • Remember: a deep twist is not necessarily a healthy twist. When we actively pull ourselves into a twist, we force a lot of the pressure into one particular part of the spine, and if we continue to do this over time then we end up hurting the body rather than helping it….
  • Notice: Are you holding your breath? Gripping the standing toes? Gritting the jaw or frowning? Relax the face, and the nervous system and therefore the body will also relax, making the asana much more accessible and the breath more full.
  • Continue to explore the posture for 5-10 breaths, or however long feels right.
  • To transition out, bring the [right] hand back underneath the shoulders, and take a large step back with the top foot.
  • Exhale to bring the back knee down to the floor, and rest in a low lunge with the hands on the floor.
  • Take a moment to become aware of how the posture felt in all aspects, and then move towards conterposing this side of the body before going on to the other side, as it is a very asymmetrical balance that often shows how asymmetrical our bodies actually are.

To counterpose this asana:

From your low lunge, practice ardha hanumanasana (half splits pose) to lengthen the hamstrings, and then wrap the front thigh over the back thigh to move towards gomukhasana to open the muscles of the outer hips, which have no doubt been working very hard…..

From there, practice Baddha Konasana, and then lie down to practice a gentle bridge pose. 

Your practice is not defined by the amount of postures you do – but rather, the amount of awareness you bring to them….

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