Moon Salutation - Chandra Namaskar - and the Year of the Supermoon - Breathing Space

1.7.12The full moon has long captured the human imagination and features pominantly in many cultural traditions. The gravitational moon governs our tides, and many believe, our moods.

In yoga, the energetic effects of the full moon and new moon has significance and, in the Ashtanga tradition, marks days of total rest from practice. The Ashtanga Yoga Center of Carlesbad, Ca.1 offers the following explaination:

Like all things of a watery nature (human beings are about 70% water), we are affected by the phases of the moon. The phases of the moon are determined by the moon’s relative position to the sun. Full moons occur when they are in opposition and new moons when they are in conjunction. Both sun and moon exert a gravitational pull on the earth. Their relative positions create different energetic experiences that can be compared to the breath cycle.

The full moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation when the force of prana is greatest. This is an expansive, upward moving force that makes us feel energetic and emotional, but not well grounded. The Upanishads state that the main prana lives in the head. During the full moon we tend to be more headstrong.

The new moon energy corresponds to the end of exhalation when the force of apana is greatest. Apana is a contracting, downward moving force that makes us feel calm and grounded, but dense and disinclined towards physical exertion.

Most other yoga traditions do not forbid practice, but many adjust their sequences to honor the need for more grounding during heady full-moon days and go with it on already-grounding new moons. For years, Jen taught twice weekly early morning practices and offered moon salutations whenever full-moons coincided with class.

Moon Salutation

This moon saltuation is a variation of a sequence created by a group of senior female teachers at the Kripalu Center in the late 1980s which Jen found in a no-longer-posted graphic by Laura Cornell.

After a basic warm up, turn to face the long side of your yoga mat to practice the following sequence:


  • Mountain pose – stand with your feet parallel under your hips, arms at your sides or palms together;
  • Side bend (both directions) – lift your arms overhead, palms together, crescent to one side and then the other;
  • Goddess – step your left foot out to the left, turn both toes toward the corners of your mat, and bend your knees, keeping your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes, bend your elbows and point your fingers toward the ceiling;
  • Star pose – shift your weight into yoru toes to turn your heels out and bring your feet to parallel as you straighten your legs and extend your arms out to your sides;
  • Triangle (L) – turn your left toes to the left and bring your left hand to your shin or the floor, extend your right arm toward the ceiling;
  • Side Angle Pose (L) * – bend your right knee and bring your knee over your ankle with your elbow on your thigh or hand on the floor, extended your right arm straight over your ear, palm facing the floor;
  • Lunge (L) – bring both hands down to either side of your left foot and turn your back heel up to bring both your hips parallell to the floor;
  • Runners squat switch to other side * – bring both hands inside left knee and turn your right toes up and heel down, walk your hands over to your right as you bend your right leg and straighten your left leg with toes pointing up, heel down;
  • Lunge (R) – walk both hands to either side of your right foot turn your toes down bringing your hips parallel to the floor;
  • Side Angle Pose (R) * – place your left heel down with your left foot parallel to the back of your mat, bring your right elbow to your knee or the floor outside your foot, sweep your left arm over your ear, palm facing down;
  • Triangle (R) – Straighten your right arm and bring your right hand to the floor or shin, left hand reaching straight over head;
  • Star – stand up, arms and legs outstretched;
  • Goddess – shift your heels toward the middle to point your toes toward the corners of the mat and bend your knees, bend your elbows and point your fingers toward the ceiling;
  • Side bend (both directions) – step your feet together, lift your arms overhead, palms together, crescent to one side and then the other;
  • Mountain pose – bring your palms down to your heart and then arms down to your sides.

Repeat the sequence, turning to the right to begin and ending on the left.

* Great places to add additional and alternative poses such as

  • Revolved parsvakonasana
  • Ardha chandrasana – half moon
  • Warriors – Virabhadrasana I, II, or III
  • Wide angle forward bend – Prasritta Paddatonasana

2014 is the Year of the Supermoon

A supermoon is a full moon that occurs within 90% of its closest approach to the earth. Supermoons appear much larger than other full moons and provide very dramatic images at moonrise.

According to the definition of supermoon coined by Richard Nolle over 30 years ago, and popularized only in the past few years, the year 2014 has a total of five supermoons. They are the two new moons of January, and the full moons of July, August and September. January 1, 2014 is the first supermoon of the year, and January 30 is the second. Expect large tides around both dates. We won’t have a single calendar month with two supermoons again until January 2018. –
Moon through the trees photo by flickr user J. Star | Moon salutation graphic by Breathing Space Family Yoga with illustrations by Charlotte Bradley used by permission. | Supermoon over the Jefferson Memorial by flickr user katieharbath | Supermoon over Washington Monmument by flickr user NASA HQ Photo

1 I actually found almost this exact text on a number of websites, so if you know the original source, I’d love to hear from you.

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