Throughout the month, I find that a mindful nod to the moon in my yoga practice can be nourishing, and often shines a subtle light on what’s going on in my life as well as in my body. Below are 8 yoga poses to help open yourself up to receiving all the varied gifts that the moon has to offer. You can perform these poses as a sequence, or on their own as part of your own practice. Just be sure to warm up your spine with a few Sun Salutations before you begin, and always check with your doctor first if you have any health concerns.
New Moon: Child’s Pose
The new moon brings the darkest night of the cycle, and is a great time to rest and reflect. Here in Child’s Pose, there is no need for further action, just allow your body to rest and reflect.
Sit back on your heels with your big toes touching, knees together or apart–whichever is most comfortable for you–and let your forehead come to the floor or rest on a yoga block. Relax your arms alongside your body, or reach arms out in front of you, resting them on your mat. Allow yourself to pause here and take five deep breaths.
Waxing Crescent: High Crescent Lunge
It’s nice to actually visualize and think of a crescent moon when you’re in this pose. Remember that the crescent moon can be either waxing or waning, either building up and growing to the full moon or winding down to the new moon. In this pose, decide if you’d like to focus on building your strength, or calming down and taking it as a chance to reflect inward.
From Child’s Pose, tuck your toes under and send hips back, coming into Downward Facing Dog. Exhale and step your right foot forward, between both hands, aligning your knee over the heel. Left leg stays strong with knee lifted, or lowered to the ground (for a modification if needed). Inhale as you raise arms overhead and lift your torso upright. Lengthen your tailbone toward the ground and reach back through your left heel. Stay here for 3-4 breaths, and then on an exhale release the torso to the right thigh, place hands back onto your mat, and with another exhale, step your right foot back to return to Down Dog. Hold for a few breaths and repeat with the left leg for the same amount of time.
Half Moon Waxing: Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
While in Pyramid pose, focus on the “waxing” or growing of strength in your legs. Root down through both feet and feel the strength of your core supporting your upper body as you hold your torso parallel to the ground.
Starting in Mountain Pose, Tadasana, step the right foot forward about 3 to 4 feet. Rest hands on hips and turn your left foot out slightly before aligning your right heel with the left heel. Hips squared to the front of your mat, lift through the sides of your chest, and on an exhalation, extend your torso over your right leg and place your hands on the floor. If the ground seems too far away, you can rest both hands on blocks. For a heart-opening shoulder stretch, bring hands together in Reverse Prayer. If this causes discomfort in your elbows or wrists, simply hold your elbows behind your back. Hold your torso and head parallel to the ground for a few breaths. If you have the flexibility, bring your torso closer to the top of your front thigh, but make sure not to round forward from the waist to do so. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then come back to standing and repeat on the left side.
Waxing Gibbous Moon: Half Moon to Half Moon Bow (Ardha Chandra Chapasana)
As the light builds in the night sky with the growing moon, so does our creative energy. Half Moon pose cultivates confidence, strength, and balance. Enjoy taking up space in this pose as you cultivate the courage to try something new.
Start in Mountain Pose, Tadasana, and then take a big step back with your left foot, turning your left toes out slightly while keeping your right toes pointing forward. Lift your arms up to a “T’ with palms facing down and shoulders relaxed. Place left hand at your waist, and start to hinge forward at the waist, bending the right knee and gradually shifting your weight into your right leg as you lift your left foot off the floor. Allow your right hand to reach towards the ground or a block as you extend your left arm towards the ceiling. Keep your gaze down, find a spot to focus on that isn’t moving. Flex your left foot strongly, and raise your left leg in line with left hip or parallel to the ground. Your left toes should be pointing away from you. Breathe comfortably for at least five breaths.
If you’d like to challenge yourself further from Half Moon, reach back for the top of your left foot with your left hand. Draw the heel closer to the left sitting bone for a nice quad stretch. Keep spinning your chest, opening your heart to let the moonlight pour in as you enjoy this Half Moon Bow. Breathe for 3 breaths and release the foot back to Half Moon.
Exhale, looking down towards your right foot, then lower your left hand to your waist, smoothly lowering the left foot back to the ground. Root down through your feet and inhale as you rise up to standing. Turn on your heels to face the other direction and repeat on the opposite side.
Full Moon: Upward Bow (Wheel) Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
The Full Moon represents a time to harvest…time to pick the fruits of the seeds you’ve planted. It can also shine a light on hidden emotions. There’s a reason why werewolves and strange occurrences are historically associated with the full moon: our repressed natures can bubble to the surface during this time. Upward Bow pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) opens the chest and throat, encouraging anything stuck to come loose.
Start by lying on your back in the center of your mat, knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Soles of the feet resting on the ground, and arms by your side. Reach the arms overhead, and then bend your elbows, placing your palms on the floor on either side of your head. Fingers pointing towards your feet, and creases of the wrists parallel to the top of your mat. Elbows point up to the ceiling.
Inhale as you root down evenly through all four corners of the feet, and press down through the base of each finger. Exhale, press the hands strongly into the ground as you bring the crown of your head to the mat. Pause here. Inhale, drawing the forearms and upper arms parallel to each other. Draw the knees in line with your hips. On your exhale, press the hands into the ground again as you press the hips all the way up towards the ceiling, lifting your head off the ground.
Root down through the feet and hands as you lift through the legs and forearms. Spin the inner thighs down to the ground, as you lengthen the tailbone toward your knees. Broaden across your collarbones, and lengthen the sides of your neck as you relax the throat and allow the head to hang freely. Pause here for 3 breathes.
On an inhale, slowly start to bend the elbows as you lower down the ground, one vertebrae at a time. Exhale as you release the arms alongside your body and allow your knees to rest together.
Waning Gibbous Moon: Wild Thing
As the pinnacle of the Full Moon shifts to waning, it often feels as if a fever has broken. Continue to bask in everything that came up for you previously, and enjoy the ecstatic heart opener of Wild Thing. Allow yourself to take up space in this big movement and express yourself fully.
From Down Dog, come into Side Plank (Vasisthasana) on your right side. Step your left foot behind you, keeping the right leg straight, and lifting your hips up away from the floor. Lengthen the tailbone and use your legs to keep lifting your hips toward the ceiling.
Reach your head back, and lift your right side body. Extend your left arm overhead and curve into a joyful backbend. Have fun in your wild thing, holding for 2 to 3 breaths. Then release, place left hand down to the ground and step back to Down Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Half-Moon Waning: Side Lunges (Skandasana)
As the moon lights up less of the sky, this is a perfect time to be quiet, enjoy stillness, and be physically closer to the ground. It’s a perfect time to set intentions for the new cycle that will soon be waxing, and to ground down and rebalance. These side lunges are great for working your hamstrings, core and hips, and also keep us close to the ground for stability and rebalancing.
Begin in a Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana), facing the side of your mat. Slowly bend your left knee into a half squat as you keep your right leg extended and straight. Flex your right foot and reach your toes towards the ceiling, keeping your heel on the floor.
Hands can stay on the ground, or for a bit of a challenge you can bring hands to prayer in front of your chest, or try extending arms towards the sky. Hold on this side for five breaths. Slowly bring hands to the ground in front of your chest and release, returning to your Wide-Legged Forward Fold. Pause here for a breath or two before repeating on the other side.
Waning Crescent Moon: Easy Seated Pose (Sukhasana)
Sukhasana, or easy seated pose, is a perfect place to revisit your intentions for the full moon. What is it that you need to let go of? What is it that you would like to bring forth?
Sit comfortably with legs crossed, sitting on a blanket if you need the support. There should be a comfortable gap between your feet and pelvis. Hands resting in prayer at your chest or relaxed on your knees. Palms can face up or down. Breathe deeply for at least 10 breaths, finding release and restoration with every exhale.
Zoe Welch, Fabletics Master