Chandra Namaskar: How to Practice Moon Salutations

Most yoga students are familiar with Sun Salutations, but what about their lesser known counterpart, the Moon Salutations? Known as Chandra Namaskar in Sanskrit, the Moon Salutations have a cooling, relaxing effect on the body and mind. 

The name of this sequence, translating as “salutations to Lord Moon,” has its origins in ancient India, where the moon was revered as a deity. The word chandra literally means “bright, shining, or glittering.” Lord Chandra, the God of the moon, was believed to ride his chariot (the moon) across the sky every night, pulled by ten white horses or an antelope. He was also associated with the night, plants, and fertility.

In Vedic astrology, the moon represents the brain and mind, emotions, sensitivity, softness, and imagination. It embodies the feminine creative energy of the universe. To this day, many people believe the moon has a great influence on how we think or feel. 

To honor the power of the moon, you can practice Chandra Namaskar. The sequence contains fourteen postures that relate to the fourteen lunar phases. It combines the postural practice with pranayama, mantra, and awareness techniques. As a result, Moon Salutations are not only beneficial for your physical body, but also for your mind and soul. They help you release and expand — two major cosmic themes of the full moon.

When to Practice Chandra Namaskar

Moon Salutations are best practiced in the evening or at night, especially when the moon is visible. Like all yoga postures, Chandra Namaskar should only be performed on an empty stomach. If practicing at night, you should wait at least three to four hours after your last meal.

You can also practice Moon Salutations at dawn at the time of the full moon. While the Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition advises practitioners to abstain from yoga during the full moon, other lineages have no such rules. On the contrary, practicing yoga during the full moon is said to help practitioners release what no longer serves them and plant seeds of intention for the new moon to come. To honor the rhythms of nature, you may opt for a gentler sequence — such as a slow Chandra Namaskar.

How to Practice Chandra Namaskar

The Moon Salutation has the same sequence as the Sun Salutation, except for one extra posture. This added pose, called Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon, helps develop balance and concentration. It also changes the breathing pattern in the sequence, prolonging the inhalation and exhalation. Therefore, it is recommended to first learn the Sun Salutation. Once you’re familiar with the sequence, you can return to this practice. 

As the sequences are so similar, you might be wondering how they can have such opposing effects: While Chandra Namaskar is cooling and activates the lunar energy, Surya Namaskar is heating and activates the solar energy within. 

You might be surprised to learn that it’s not necessarily the specific movements that give the sequence its specific effects, it is the intention with which you practice. So, when doing the Moon Salutations, try to slow down and soften. Avoid excessive strength or intensity, and instead focus on the subtle movements. Allow the practice to bring out the lunar qualities of calmness, surrender, and reflection. You’ll soon notice how your energy and mood can change depending on your intention.

To support this process, you can also do a quick visualization at the beginning of your practice: Focus on the space between your eyebrows. Within this space, visualize the full moon shining in a clear night sky. It shines brightly upon the ocean. See the reflection of the cool moonlight dancing on the waves. Observe the sensations and feelings this image creates in your body. 

Chandra Namaskar Sequence

Many different sequences are known as Chandra Namaskar. In this article, you will find the steps of the classical Moon Salutation, along with the breathing pattern, mantras to chant, and chakras to focus on.

#1 Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

Begin in a standing position with your feet firmly rooted into the earth, big toes touching and heels slightly apart. Gently tilt your tailbone down, lengthen your spine, and roll your shoulders back. Bring the hands together in front of your chest and gaze down to your fingertips to cultivate humility and awareness of the heart center. 

Breath: Normal
Chakra: Anahata Chakra
Mantra: Om Kameshvaryai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who fulfills desires.

#2 Hasta Utthanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

Inhale and lift your arms up overhead. Your gaze follows your fingers. Gently arch your back, lean the pelvis forward, and keep pressing the heels to the earth. Only bend back as much as feels comfortable for you. Be especially mindful of your lower back. Focus on the opening in your upper body — the stretch of your belly and the expansion of the lungs.

Breath: Inhale
Chakra: 
Vishuddhi Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Bhagamalinyai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who wears the garland of prosperity.

#3 Padahastasana (Hand to Foot Pose)

Exhale and bend forward, diving down through the midline. Rest your hands or fingertips on the floor or your shins. While you’re in the forward bend, emphasize the lengthening of your spine. If your back rounds, bend your knees slightly to release the hamstrings and lengthen your spine. Focus on the sensations in your back body and the pelvic region.

Breath: Exhalation
Chakra: 
Svadhisthana Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Nityaklinnayai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who is ever compassionate.

#4 Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose)

Slowly breathe in and step your left foot back, lowering the knee to the ground. At the same time, bend your right knee, keeping the foot in the same position. Frame your front foot with your hands. Arch your back and look up toward your eyebrow center.

Breath: Inhalation
Chakra: 
Ajna Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Bherundayai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who is ferocious.

#5 Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Continue the inhalation and reach both arms above your head, keeping them shoulder-width apart. Arch your back and look up, lifting your chin toward the ceiling. If you are quite flexible, your body will create a gentle curve from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your left toes — resembling the crescent moon. Hold this shape for a moment while retaining the breath inside. Then, slowly begin to exhale as you lower your arms to the ground, framing your front foot.

Breath: Inhalation / Exhalation
Chakra: Vishuddhi Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Vahnivasinyai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who resides in fire.

#6 Parvatasana (Mountain Pose)

Continue the exhalation as you step the left foot back beside the right foot. At the same time, lift your tailbone up to the sky and lower your head between the arms. If you feel tension or your back rounds, keep both knees bent. Again, this will allow you to lengthen your spine. With practice, you may be able to straighten the legs and bring your heels down to the floor. Concentrate on your throat center. Before moving into the next pose, hold your breath at the end of the exhalation. 

Breath: Exhalation
Chakra: Vidhuddhi Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Vajreshvaryai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who possesses vajra, the thunderbolt, and is adorned with diamond ornaments.

#7 Ashtanga Namaskar (Salute with Eight Parts)

Hold your breath at the end of the exhalation. First, drop your knees to the floor. Next, lower your chest in between your hands, keeping the elbows close to the body. Finally, touch your chin to the ground. Continue gazing forward. Keep your toes tucked under and your hips and abdomen raised up. This pose is usually performed while holding your breath. If the breath retention strains your lungs, you may breathe normally. 

Breath: External Retention
Chakra: Manipura Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Dutyai Namaha 
Meaning: Salutations to one whose messenger is Shiva.

#8 Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Inhale and slide your chest forward. You can keep a bend in the elbows and hug them toward your body. For a more challenging backbend, you can straighten the arms. Bend your head back and look up toward the eyebrow center. Drop your shoulders down, away from the ears, and firm the shoulder blades against your back. Continue to lift through your chest while pressing your legs and the tops of your feet into the mat.

Breath: Inhalation
Chakra: 
Svadhisthana Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Tvaritayai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who is swift.

#9 Parvatasana (Mountain Pose)

From now on, you will repeat the poses from the beginning of the sequence — in opposite order. Therefore the instructions will be shorter. Focus on the same chakras as before, but be aware that the mantras keep changing.

Exhale and tuck your toes. Alternatively, you can roll over the feet. Send your hips up and back into Parvatasana. Send your chest toward your thighs and lengthen through your arms and shoulders. Stay grounded in your hands by spreading your fingers wide and pressing your knuckles into the mat.

Breath: Exhalation
Chakra: 
Vishuddhi Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Kulasundaryai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who is virtuous, respectable, and charming.

#10 Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose)

Inhale slowly while stepping your right foot between the hands, bending the knee. Simultaneously, lower the left knee to the floor and push your pelvis forward. Arch your back and look up toward your eyebrow center.

Breath: Inhalation
Chakra: 
Ajna Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Nityayai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who is eternal.

#11 Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Keep breathing in as you reach both arms above your head. Arch your back and look up, recreating the shape of the crescent moon. Hold this pose for a moment while retaining the breath inside. Then, slowly begin to exhale as you lower your arms to the ground, framing your front foot.

Breath: Inhalation / Exhalation
Chakra: 
Svadhisthana Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Nilapatakinyai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who is adorned with a blue flag.

#12 Padahastasana (Hand to Foot Pose)

Continue the exhalation. Step the right foot forward to meet your left foot. Fold forward, bringing the forehead as close to the knees as possible without straining. Remember that you can bend or straighten your legs depending on your flexibility.

Breath: Exhalation
Chakra: 
Svadhisthana Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Vijayayai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who is ever victorious.

#13 Hasta Utthanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

Breathe in to lift up into Hasta Utthanasana. Keep the spine straight and engage your core muscles as you dive upwards. Reach your arms overhead, bend back as much as feels comfortable, and look toward your hands. 

Breath: Inhalation
Chakra: 
Vishuddhi Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Sarvamangalayai Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to one who is the source of all good fortunes.

#14 Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

Exhale and lower your arms down in front of your chest, bringing the hands together in prayer pose. Then release your arms down by your sides, relax your body, and focus on your breathing until it returns to normal.

Breath: Exhalation
Chakra: Anahata Chakra
Mantra: 
Om Jvalamalinyai Namaha
Meaning: Salutation to one who is fenced with instant flames.

In order to complete one full round, you need to do the same sequence again — on the other side. When stepping back into Ashwa Sanchalanasana (the fourth pose), take your right foot back instead of the left. And when coming forward into Ashwa Sanchalanasana (the tenth pose), step the left foot between your hands.

At the end of your practice, take a few minutes of rest in Savasana. This final relaxation allows your heartbeat and respiration to slow down, your muscles to relax, and your body and mind to integrate the effects of the practice. 

Benefits of Chandra Namaskar

Chandra Namaskar is a great practice with many benefits. Physically, it loosens up stiff muscles and joints. In addition, it tones and massages the internal organs which may improve digestion and help to detoxify the body. The practice builds flexibility, strength, endurance, and the coordination of body and mind. It balances all systems of the body, such as the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, and endocrine systems. 

On a more subtle level, Chandra Namaskar soothes the mind, develops creativity, and cultivates internal balance. It regulates ida nadi, the lunar energy channel. On the opposite hand, practicing Sun Salutations regulates pingala nadi, the solar energy channel. When the solar and lunar energies are balanced, life force energy (prana) flows into the central energy channel and rises upward, leading to an expansion of consciousness. This is one of the main goals of Hatha Yoga. In fact, many people believe that ha stands for the sun, whereas tha represents the moon. 

Hopefully, you understand the difference between the Sun and Moon Salutations and why both of them are important for us to practice. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment. We would love to hear from you!

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