The next time you’re feeling stuck, stagnant, or a little bit stiff, reach up and bend to the side for a crescent moon pose. This yogic stretch is so simple to do, but it makes all the difference when it comes to how you feel.
Crescent moon pose, also called urdhva hastasana, is a standing yoga pose that involves reaching up and leaning to one side, says Zapporah Turner, a certified yoga teacher and instructor at CorePower Yoga in San Francisco. “In crescent moon, you’ll really be focusing on stretching through your lower half while opening and extending your upper half,” she tells Bustle. It’s also a great spinal stretch that delivers a boost in circulation.
As you bend to one side — and essentially turn yourself into a crescent moon shape — you’ll get a stretch in the side of your body along with an activation in your obliques. You’ll feel a deep lengthening sensation in your arms and shoulders, says Turner, as well as through your quads, outer hip, and hip flexors. Meanwhile, as you push down through your feet, you’ll notice a grounding sensation. If you like, you can even add a small backbend to stretch your chest and open your heart chakra for an extra boost of energy.
According to Turner, the crescent moon is one of the foundational poses in yoga. “This pose is like mountain pose in its activation, except for the leaning from one side to the other, which emphasizes a deeper side stretch,” she says. Do it at your desk, while traveling, or whenever you need to reset. Here’s what to know about crescent moon pose, including how to give it a try.
How To Do Crescent Moon Pose
Here, Turner explains how to lean into crescent moon pose.
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
- Plant your feet firmly, gripping the floor with your toes.
- Stand up straight and roll your shoulders back so that they’re stacked over your hips in one long line.
- Extend your arms straight up towards the sky.
- Press your palms together or interlace your fingers, leaving your pointer fingers out.
- Exhale and reach both hands towards the right, slightly compressing the right side of your body.
- Feel a stretch in your left side muscles, like your obliques, outer hip, and quadricep.
- Hold for at least two breaths.
- Inhale and return to center.
- Repeat on the other side by stretching up and over to the left.
How To Modify Crescent Moon Pose
To make this pose easier on the arms, it’s OK to lean to the side without reaching up. Instead, Turner suggests holding your hands at your heart or placing them on your hips as you use your core to bend your upper body. “These modifications will alleviate any straining or challenge caused by the deep stretch happening in the top half of the body,” she says.
In your lower half, feel free to keep a slight bend in your knees or come down onto your mat either by kneeling or sitting with your legs crossed in front of you and both glutes firmly planted on the ground. “Just be sure to switch the legs that you cross when bending right and left,” Turner adds. When reaching to the right, cross your right leg on top, and vice versa.
You can also do crescent moon in a chair, which will come in handy at work. “Keep your feet on the ground to make sure you’re stretching evenly through both hips,” Turner says. The point is to find the same sensation on each side of your body that you would when standing.
To add a bit more to your crescent moon pose, incorporate a backbend for a balance challenge. “You can spin your chest further open towards the front of the room and lean slightly back to find more heart opening,” she says. “A cue that helps with this is to imagine a string is pulling your heart to the ceiling.”
It might also feel nice to look in the direction you’re leaning for a more dynamic, intense stretch, or to look up at the ceiling as another way to challenge your stability, Turner says. You can also use the bottom hand to grab your top wrist and gently pull on it as you bend for a deeper stretch.
Common Crescent Moon Mistakes To Avoid
Because crescent moon looks like such a simple pose, it’s easy to glide through the motion without paying much attention to the muscles you’re stretching, says Turner. Instead of rushing, try to move slowly as you focus on your breath.
Alignment is also key. Check to make sure that your body is stacked from your ankles to your shoulders so you can stretch safely and make the most of the move. Without good posture, Turner says you won’t feel much of a stretch.
As a final touch to ensure you’re fully grounded and to activate all your muscles, imagine that your energy is pushing down towards your feet, Turner says. This will root you to your mat so you can lean to one side and reap all the benefits of the pose.