The Sanskrit word for chandra means ‘moon’, and namaskara translates to ‘salutation.’ Therefore the practice of Chandra Namaskara is commonly known as ‘salutations to the moon.’
Just as the moon has no light of its own but reflects the light of the sun, Chandra Namaskara reflects that of Surya Namaskara or the Sun Salutation. Where the Sun Salutation brings heat and energy into the body, the Moon Salutation promotes cooling, creativity and calmness.
Chandra Namaskara is a series of fourteen physical postures. It adopts the same 12 poses of Surya Namaskar with the addition of the Half moon pose (ardha chandrasana). This pose significantly changes the sequence by promoting balance, concentration and slower breathing.
The alternating backward and forward folding postures bend and flex the spinal column through its maximum range, giving a profound stretch to the whole body. It is a powerful sequence which also massages the internal organs and regulates all the body systems, especially the reproductive, circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems. The transition from posture to posture is facilitated with a specific breathing pattern. The inhalation is used to lift, open and extend, the exhalation to fold forward, soften and release. The breath is also held in and out for particular asanas to increases introversion and relaxation.
One round of Chandra Namaskara consists of two sequences, the first leading with the right foot in positions 4 and 10, the second leading with the left. The hands are kept in one place from positions 3 to 12, and co-ordinated with the movements with the breath.
Once familiarized with the physical postures and breathing technique, one can deepen the practice by focusing on different aspects. Each posture relates to a specific trigger point and psychic centre within the body. Concentration on these locations develops a more subtle inner awareness. Specialised mantras associated with each position may also be used. These mantras are a combination of syllables and sounds, and through their vibration have a powerful effect on the body and mind.
Chandra Namaskara is to be followed by Corpse Pose (Shavasana). This relaxation period is very important as it allows the body time to adjust and absorb the benefits of the practice.
Moon salutations engage all the muscles, lubricate the joints and regulate the various systems. The relaxation period following the practice returns the body to a balanced, harmonious state.
As with all yoga practices, it is important to always listen to the body, honour it’s needs and practice safely. Discontinue Chandra Namaskara immediately if any discomfort or sickness is felt. It is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, coronary artery diseases, hernia, or those who have had a stroke. Consulting with an experienced yoga teacher or a medical expert is advised for people with back conditions, as these may be better managed through an alternative asana program.
Positions 15 – 28
This completes half a round. In the second half, the positions are repeated practicing to the left side. This changes the equestrian pose. In position 18, instead of stretching the right foot back, stretch the left foot back and in position 24, instead of bringing the left foot between the hands first, bring the right foot between the hands first.