You’ve likely heard of sun salutations (surya namaskar) before and how they can be an effective tool to warm up and energise your full body. But what about their counterpart: moon salutations (chandra namaskar)?
Moon salutations are not as popular as sun salutations but they're equally important. In yogic philosophy, it's believed that there are opposing energies within everyone - masculine and feminine, or solar and lunar. These energies need to be well balanced in order for a person to thrive.
There are many practices that are intended to balance these channels within us. When we need more energy, sun salutations and vigorous practices can help to stimulate our solar, masculine energy. When we need calming, practices like yin and restorative yoga stimulate our feminine, lunar energy.
When should you practice a moon salutation?
Unlike sun salutations, which are heating and stimulating, moon salutations are calming and quietening. They're best used in gentle and nurturing practices that are focused on grounding and relaxation.
Moon salutations are highly effective at calming the mind, drawing awareness inward, and grounding you to the present moment. They can be utilised during any soothing practice, but they might be most helpful during the evening. They can help you to wind down for the night.
Moon salutations are also perfect for helping you to connect to the cycles of the moon. For example, you might choose to practice moon salutations during a New Moon or Full Moon as part of a lunar ceremony.
Ultimately, there’s no 'official' right or wrong time to practice moon salutations, but they are best utilised to create calm. Moon salutations are the 'yin' to the 'yang' of sun salutations. They are great counterparts and work well to stimulate the opposing energies within us.
How to practice moon salutations
Follow this step-by-step guide to walk you through each posture in a moon salutation sequence.
1. Mountain pose
Start standing tall facing the long edge of your mat with your feet together and your palms pressing together at your heart.
2. Upward Salute
As you inhale, sweep both arms overhead and interlace your fingers.
3. Standing crescent moon
As you exhale, lengthen both sides of your waistline as you lean your torso toward the left. Inhale and rise back up to centre. Exhale and lengthen both sides of your waistline as you lean your torso toward the right.
4. Upward salute
Inhale and rise back up to centre.
5. Goddess pose
Exhale and step your left foot out wide, turn your toes out slightly, and bend both knees deeply to sink low into a squat. Open your arms out wide and bend your elbows into a cactus shape.
6. Star pose
Inhale and straighten your knees and stretch your arms out wide into a T shape.
7. Triangle pose
Exhale and point your left toes toward the back of your mat. Lengthen both sides of your waistline as you lean your torso forward and then release your left hand onto a block, your shin, or the floor. Inhale, sweep your right arm up and spiral your torso open toward the sky.
8. Pyramid pose
Exhale and turn your torso toward your left leg and release its weight down. Rest your hands on blocks or the floor framing out your front foot. Turn your hips slightly to face toward the short edge of your mat.
9. Runner’s lunge
Inhale and pivot on your right toes to rise to the ball of your foot. Exhale and bend your left knee deeply as you expand your chest forward.
10. Side lunge
Inhale as you pivot your body to face toward the right side of your mat. Walk your hands toward the right and exhale to bend your left knee deeply as you sink low into a left-leaning squat. Straighten your right leg and flex your right toes toward the sky.
11. Garland pose
Inhale, bend your right knee deeply and draw your right heel toward the middle of your mat to centre your torso in a low yogi squat. Exhale, sink your hips low and bring your palms to meet in front of your heart.
12. Side lunge
Inhale, release your hands to the floor and lean your torso toward the right side of your mat. Exhale, extend your left leg out long and flex your left toes toward the sky.
13. Runner’s lunge
Inhale, turn your torso toward the right side of your mat and frame out your right foot with your hands. Exhale, pivot onto the ball of your left foot and turn your hips to face the short edge of your mat as you bend your right knee deeply and expand your chest forward.
14. Pyramid pose
Inhale, walk your left foot in slightly and release your left heel to the floor. Exhale, surrender the weight of your torso forward and down over your right leg, resting your hands onto blocks or the floor.
15. Triangle pose
Inhale, open your back hip to face toward the long edge of your mat and reach your left arm toward the sky. With your right hand on a block, your shin, or the floor, exhale and spiral your chest open.
16. Star pose
Inhale, draw your torso upright and open your arms out wide into a T shape.
17. Goddess pose
Exhale, bend your knees deeply and sink low into a squat. Bend your elbows into a cactus shape.
18. Upward salute
Inhale, straighten your legs and draw your feet together. Reach your arms up overhead and interlace your fingers.
19. Standing crescent moon
Exhale, lengthen both sides of your waistline as you lean your torso toward the right. Inhale and rise back up to centre. Exhale and lengthen both sides of your waistline as you lean your torso toward the left.
20. Upward salute
Inhale and rise back up to centre.
21. Mountain pose
Exhale, release your palms to meet in front of your heart.
About Leah Sugerman
Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveller. An eternally grateful student, she writes about and teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on finding the balance between strength and surrender. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings both online and internationally. Connect with Leah and follow her teachings and travels on Instagram, Facebook, and LeahSugerman.com.