Ardha chandrasana in Vietnam

Ardha chandrasana in Vietnam

The pose: Ardha Chandrasana – The half moon pose

This pose is one of my favorites. While it is challenging due to the fact it involves balance, it is considered a beginner to intermediate posture for a healthy practitioner.

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The most common, (but easy to fix), mistake I see in classes is this; the back leg is not lifted high enough, soon enough, and the knee is almost never straight. Why is this? I am guessing that people feel that if they proceed with caution they will be more likely to find success. Balance poses can be scary or at the very least, humbling to an ego attached to results. Students appear to be so fixated on their fingertips on the floor, and so worried about falling, that they neglect to energize the back leg. What is this actually doing? Making the balance more difficult! The energy of a bent back leg and relaxed and wavering foot has died. This is making your lifted leg feel heavier and your supporting leg less stable. It’s even likely that this is putting more strain and stress on your back.image

This is one of the many quirky things that pop up in our asana practice that are worthwhile examining off the mat. Why is it that when we are faced with something challenging or that could possibly result in even a minor blunder, that we insist on holding back our power? Why are we afraid to utilize our strengths and potential? Honestly, when has half-assing anything worked out well for you? I digress…
What to do instead; lift your back leg up in alignment with your top hip. Make sure that your toes point straight to the space in front of you. Flex your top foot VIGOROUSLY, as if you were trying to put a footprint on the wall. I often say, “Make a leg that is fit to stand on”.

Making rice noddles in the village

Making rice noddles in the village

I will usually have students prepare for ardha chandrasana by doing sputa utthita hasta padangustasana, (supine hand to big toe pose), in the warm up to open the hips and hamstrings, and have them transition into half moon from utthita parsvakonasana, (side angle pose), so that their hips are already familiar with the external rotation. To move into the pose, aim your fingertips, (or block), about one foot in front of your supporting pinky toe. I myself did this pose for years with my fingertips on the floor, because with my flexibility I could, but one day I used a block under my hand, lifting my torso just enough to allow for subtle adjustments in length, rotation, and breathing. This is still how I choose to practice this pose. Props are your friend, people!

Speaking of props, lets address the obvious…

The Travel: Hoi An, Vietnam. This is our adorable bicycle tour guide performing ardha chandrasana on top of a water buffalo! This was one of my favorite cities in all of Vietnam. Far from the traffic, pollution, and cacophony of some of the more crowded cities, Hoi An is set amongst waterways and used to serve as a major port. This is both a culinary mecca and the best place in Vietnam to have clothes custom made. Choosing silk as your fabric? Some shopkeepers will take you upstairs and visit the silkworms hard and work as well as show you the process of harvesting and working with delicate strands. Another fun fact about Hoi An; the garbage trucks play the songs that our ice cream trucks play! No joke.
This cycling tour however, brought us out of the town and into the countryside where we got to experience another level of culture and scenery. Considered a ‘responsible tourism’ company, the focus of this off the beaten path trek was to participate in the local lifestyle and economy in a way that would be beneficially to the inhabitants.

Floating lanterns down the river with wishes for the upcoming year

Floating lanterns down the river with wishes for the upcoming year

imageOur first stop was to check out this water buffalo. They are used as natural aerators for the rice patties, and of course, sometimes yoga mats! One of our other stops included a duck farm; think the furthest thing imaginable from a factory far. A farmer was attempting to herd the ducks as we rode up, (I’ve taken it upon myself to replace the idiom ‘herding cats’ to ‘herding ducks’ as believe it must be similar in ridiculousness), what instead happened can only be described as a duck waterfall over a shallow hill. It was about as adorable as you’re imagining.
Next stop was to the home of Mr. Doa. He lost his foot in the Cambodian war and long struggled to make a living. He dabbled in incense making until he wised up and started distilling his own rice wine. We blind taste tested 3 samples of this wine that were 30, 40, or 80 percent alcohol. My friends who got the 80 percent had runny noses, watery eyes, and stayed of booze for the rest of the day. Mr. Doa wife made us snacks, his 6 year old daughter showed off her latest artwork, and his 8 little piglets licked our toes!

Lastly we rode off to the humble home of a family that supplies most of the residents of Hoi An with rice noodles. We were all offered to take a chance making our own, yes it’s harder than you think, and then we had lunch with the family. The idea of exchanges like this one is that a weary and increasingly frugal group of backpackers can have a delicious authentic meal for around $3-4, which to the family is more than they make in about a week. Win win.

I cannot sing enough praises about Vietnam, Hoi An, and tours and tour guides like this yogi here. If you are thinking of traveling that way, ask me for more tips!

Namaste

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