From balancing on one leg to keeping the spine extended and top leg lifted — there’s a lot going on in Half Moon Pose.
And while the nuances of aligning such a complex pose are endless, there are a few common misalignments that I see in just about every class that are worth addressing and can be simply solved with a little more mindfulness and integration.
Here are some common misalignments:
1. Turned In Foot
For multiple reason, like most balancing poses the standing foot in Half Moon Pose tends to turn in as you step up into the pose, making it nearly impossible to align the standing leg.
Rather than attempting to straighten your founding foot once you're balancing on it, set up the foundation of the pose before transitioning into it. Concentrate on pressing down through all four corners of your right foot, particularly the mound of your big right toe, as well as keeping the four corners of your right knee facing directly forward over your right ankle as you step up into Half Moon Pose.
2. Bottom Hand Too Close
More often than not, students place the bottom hand way to close to the founding foot, creating a short side body and preventing full extension in the pose.
To prevent this, the common instruction in most yoga classes is to place your fingertips about three feet in front of your pinkie toe. Basically you want your fingertips directly under your shoulder — the distance of your side body away from your bottom foot.
Your side body is the length from your hip creases to your armpits. Therefore if you’re taller (or have a longer torso), the further out your fingertips need to go; if you’re shorter, the closer you place your fingertips to your pinkie toe.
3. Locking the Standing Knee
With the majority of your weight on your bottom leg, it’s easy to lock out your standing leg, hyperextending your knee joint.
With your bottom foot straight forward, slightly bend your standing knee. Press down strongly through the mound of your big toe and engage the muscles of your leg, particularly your quadriceps (the muscles above your knee cap). Moving slowly to notice when you lose the muscle engagement, keep the very top of your calf moving forward and your thigh engaged as your re-straighten the leg.
4. Swinging the Hip Out
Another common misalignment is for the right hip to swing out bringing the outer edge of your right thigh bone forward, which can feel like a pinching in the front hip flexors or side waist.
To realign the standing leg in Half Moon Pose, bend the standing knee an inch and press the knee open to the right toward your right pinkie toe. With the right knee still bent, pull the outer edge of your standing leg and hip back to re-straighten the leg.
5. Banana Back
Lastly the top leg likes to turn off and drift slightly behind the torso, creating what’s called a “banana back.”
Bring the toes of your lifted leg closer to the wall your facing and the top leg back in line with the top hip. Gaze down the front of your torso to see your left toes (if you can’t then the leg is still drifting too far back). Then lengthen your tailbone down toward the standing foot and press out your top heel.
Half Moon Pose inevitably appears in almost every yoga class (especially flow classes). Move knowing the common misalignments and how to re-align them methodically set up your pose — even if that means entering the balancing posture more slowly behind the rest of your class.
Remember, Half Moon Pose is meant to feel expansive in all directions: down the bottom leg, out the top leg, across the collarbones and out both arms. In the case that you don’t feel radiant in the pose (and aren’t sure what to do), try placing a block under your bottom hand and lifting higher up away from the floor.
Photo cred: Nir Livni Photography