Ardha Chandra Chapasana, or 'Sugar Cane' pose, is a standing balancing with an asymmetrical backbend. This variation of Half Moon Pose opens the psoas and hips, and lengthens the spine with a gentle twist. The key to finding more ease in this challenging posture lies in properly warming up the body, and of course having a consistent practice. After flowing through a few rounds of Sun Salutations, I like to deepen my warm-up with the following poses before moving into Chapasana.
1. Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog
1. Come onto all fours, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Tuck your toes and straighten your legs, coming into Downward Facing Dog.
2. Step both feet together so that your big toes are touching. Shift your weight into your hands and your left foot, and with an inhale raise your right leg up to the ceiling. Try to keep your hips squared, and your shoulders parallel with the ground. Your ears should be in line with your arms, as you reach the crown of your head toward the ground.
3. Hold for five breaths, then lower your right leg down, and repeat on the opposite side.
1. Begin in Tadasana, with your hands on your hips. Exhale and lengthen the front of your torso as you bend forward at the hips.
2. Press your heels down toward the floor as you reach your sit bones upward. Spin the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Don't lock your knees.
3. Keep your hips aligned over our ankles as you shift the weight of your body to the balls of your feet. With each inhale lift and lengthen your torso.
4. Hold the pose for 10 breaths. To exit, place your hands on your hips and return to Tadasana with a straight spine.
3. Extended Side Angle Pose
1. Begin in Warrior II pose, with left knee bent. Lower the left elbow down to the left knee. Inhale the right arm up towards the ceiling and then exhale the arm over the right ear, creating a straight line with the right side of your body.
2. Make sure the left knee stays bent directly over the left ankle. Slowly sink the hips down towards the floor, and actively reach the right hand in the opposite direction of the right foot.
3. Hold for five breaths. To release, inhale reach the right fingers up and back into Warrior II. Repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.
4. Runner's Stretch (Ardha Hanumanasana )
1. From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower your left knee down onto your the ground, and un-tuck the top of the left foot.
2. Align your left hip over your left knee. Flex your right foot, pushing you heel away from you and reaching your toes back toward you. Straighten your right leg as much as you comfortably can.
3. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Keeping your hips square, slowly begin to fold over your right leg while reaching your chest forward.
4. Hold for 6 breaths. To exit, tuck the left toes under, place the palms on the floor, and step back into Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.
5. Ardha Chandra Chapasana
1. From Warrior II pose, exhale and bring the left hand down in front of your left foot. If you can't comfortably reach the floor, place a block under the hand.
2. Bring your right hand to your right hip, and begin to open your chest. Slowly shift your weight into your left foot as you keep the toes spread wide.
3. With an inhale, lift the right leg up so that the inner thigh and inner arch of the foot are parallel with the floor. Find your stability here.
4. Open your right hip so it's stacked on top of your left, and open your torso toward your right. Bend your right knee, and take a hold of your right foot with your right hand.
5. Ground down through your left leg. Feel your ribcage expand as it lifts toward the sky. Kick your foot into your hand so that your heel moves away from your seat while lifting your chest forward and up. Once you find balance here, turn your gaze toward the sky.
6. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths. Slowly release and repeat on the other side.