If you find yourself waking up groggy, fatigued, or just plain exhausted, a nighttime yoga routine could revolutionize your sleep cycles and energy levels. This moon salutation sequence draws on ancient traditions to calm your nervous system and prepare for deeper, more restorative rest.
Anyone who has attended a Hatha or Vinyasa yoga class is likely familiar with the classic sun salutation sequence. While these flowing morning sequences draw on the energy and heat of the sun, moon salutations aim to cool and calm the body with nighttime lunar energy.
Both flows have been practiced for over 2,500 years by yogis and meditators seeking a closer connection to themselves and the universe.
Here is everything you need to know about moon salutations and how to use them to improve your sleep, reduce anxiety, and calm your body.
- 1 What is a Moon Salutation in yoga?
- 2 What are the benefits of Moon Salutation?
- 3 What is the Moon Salutation Sequence? 9 Simple Yoga Poses
- 3.1 Standing Mountain Pose (Tadasana) or Prayer Pose (Paranamasana)
- 3.2 Standing Half Moon (Urdvha Hastasana)
- 3.3 Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)
- 3.4 Five Pointed Star Pose (Utthita Tadasana)
- 3.5 Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
- 3.6 Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
- 3.7 Low Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
- 3.8 Low Side Lunge
- 3.9 Garland Pose (Malasana)
- 3.10 Side Lunge (Left Side)
- 3.11 Low Lunge (Left Side)
- 3.12 Pyramid Pose (Left Side)
- 3.13 Triangle Pose (Left Side)
- 3.14 Star Pose
- 3.15 Goddess Pose
- 3.16 Standing Half Crescent Moon
- 3.17 Mountain Pose
- 4 When to Practice Moon Salutations
What is a Moon Salutation in yoga?
A moon salutation (Chandra Namaskar) is an ancient yoga sequence designed to quiet the mind and calm the body while drawing on the feminine energy of the moon. It includes low-impact asanas that activate the parasympathetic nervous system (for rest and digestion) and open the hips. Moon salutations impart soothing and restorative yin energy that helps balance the fiery, warming yang energy of sun salutations.
Chandra Namaskar includes 9 poses that are repeated in a cyclical nature. This standing sequence builds up to a Goddess Pose and then repeats each posture on the other side. The result is a cooling, stress-relieving, and hip-opening yoga experience that draws your mind inward for silence and peacefulness.
What is the difference between Sun Salutation and Moon Salutation?
The moon salutation sequence is the physical and energetic opposite of a sun salutation. While sun salutations (Surya Namaskar) are typically practiced in the morning to generate warmth and movement, moon salutations (Chandra Namaskar) are often practiced at the end of a yoga class or in the evening to help the body cool off and slow down.
The sun salutation is vigorous, energizing, and fast moving. On the other hand, the moon salutation is receptive, relaxing, and meditative. Traditional yogis used these mutually beneficial sequences to create a complimentary yoga practice for both morning and evening. Sun salutations are often a cardio workout while moon salutations don’t tend to elevate the heart rate.
In regards to actual poses, both sequences include familiar poses like Mountain Pose or Prayer Pose, Low Lunge, and Standing Half Moon. Moon salutations have more hip openers like Goddess Pose and Side Lunge, while sun salutations have more “power poses” like Plank Pose and Chaturanga.
Both sequences are forms of Vinyasa flows that aim to sync movement with Pranayama breathing. Salutations typically coordinate upward movements with inhales and downward or deepening motions on exhales. They also both share a cyclical nature that begins and ends in Prayer Position (Pranamasana).
What are the benefits of Moon Salutation?
Whether you practice the moon salutation flow as part of your daily routine or as a cool-down to your studio practice few times per week, this restorative sequence can have some profound benefits:
- Reduce stress
- Calm anxiety
- Relieve back pain and sciatic nerve pain
- Channel more creativity
- Balance yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) energies
- Stretch tight hip flexors
- Improve the quality of sleep
- Unwind from a long day
- Full body stretch
- Improve breathing
- Promote inner peace and meditation
Chandra Namaskar stretches and strengthens your spine, hamstrings, hip flexors, arms, and core while helping you quiet your mind from outside stressors. In order to reap the most benefits of moon salutations, it’s best to practice at least once per day, ideally in the evening.
What is the Moon Salutation Sequence? 9 Simple Yoga Poses
The moon salutation flow is a cyclical sequence. It moves through 9 different asanas (poses), building up to a central pose and then continuing back down to the first posture.
Standing Mountain Pose (Tadasana) or Prayer Pose (Paranamasana)
Begin in a standing position with your feet hip width apart in the center of your mat. Keep your spine straight, and gaze forward. Bring your palms to a prayer position in front of your heart chakra and rest your thumbs on your sternum. Take a few rounds of inhales and exhales.
Standing Half Moon (Urdvha Hastasana)
Inhale and bring your arms straight out to the sides and then overhead. Interlock your fingers and release the index fingers to point upwards. On an exhale, bend to the left and create an arched half moon shape. Keep your glutes activated and feel an elongated stretch through your right side body.
On an inhale, come back to the center and then exhale to bend right. Be careful keep your core engaged and avoid crunching into the side of the body.
Inhale back to the center and bring your palms down to Namaste position.
Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)
Inhale and step your left foot wide to the side of the mat. Turn both toes outward and exhale as you bend your knees into a right angle. Lower your hips into a squat, being sure that your knees don’t extend over your toes.
On an inhale, bring your arms straight out to your sides at shoulder height with palms facing forward. On an exhale, bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle and feel your shoulders slide down your back, opening the chest. Touch your forefingers and thumbs together in the Gyana mudra.
On each exhale, deepen your squat to feel a deeper stretch in the hips. Hold for a few breaths.
Goddess Pose is known to stimulate your root chakra and externally rotate your hips for deeper relaxation.
Five Pointed Star Pose (Utthita Tadasana)
Inhale and push into the ground as you straighten your knees, keeping your feet wide apart. Straighten your arms once again at shoulder height with your palms facing upward and spread your fingers wide, feeling energy radiate outward through your fingertips. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
From Star Pose, inhale as you rotate your right foot out to the side to the top of the mat. Slightly rotate your back foot inward about 5-15 degrees. Adjust your stance wider as needed.
On an exhale, reach your right hand forward and shift your right hip backward. Then, hinge at the hip and rest your right hand on your shin or ankle, extending your left hand straight upward.
Try to keep your body in a perfect plane, with everything aligned as if there is a wall on each side. The hips should be aligned toward the side of your mat. Inhale and turn your gaze toward the sky as you engage your core, flex your legs, and hold for a few breaths.
Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
As you keep your right leg forward, take an inhale and bring your upper body back to an upright position with your hands above your head. Clasp the fingers together and, on an exhale, bend forward with your legs straight.
Fold over the right leg with your core engaged and rest your forehead as close to your right knee as possible. Rest your torso atop your thigh.
Try to keep your spine as straight as possible, releasing your hands to brace against the floor as needed. Hold for 3-5 breaths, focusing on slow, intentional inhales and exhales.
Low Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
On an inhale, lift your arms up above your head and bend the right leg as you drop your left knee to the mat and squat down into a low lunge.
Allow the left leg to straighten behind you and let your left shin rest on the floor. Be sure that your right knee is aligned at a right angle above your ankle.
On each inhale, reach upward and back as if in a crescent moon backbend. On each exhale, sink the hips lower and feel a deep release of tension.
Low Side Lunge
From your low lunge, rotate your left leg and torso to face forward along the long side of your mat. Exhale and extend your left leg outward to the left side while keeping your right knee bent. Keep your right toes forward and left toes point up as your tailbone reaches downward.
Once you’ve entered the low side lunge, bring your palms to the mat or to heart center. Ease out of the deep squat as necessary if it is too intense. Take 3-5 breaths as you feel your inner thigh and hip flexors opening.
Garland Pose (Malasana)
On an inhale, re-bend the left leg and bring both knees to face upward as you squat between your knees. Keep your heels rooted into the mat.
On an exhale, bring your palms to Namaste heart enter as you press your elbows into your knees to further open your hips. Keep your spine as straight as possible as you feel your hips open even deeper and your pubic bone reach toward the floor.
Malasana is known to channel your life force energy (qi or chi) down toward the root chakra. As it stretches the thighs and groin, remember to breath very deeply for as many rounds as feels right. This pose can bring up some intense emptions, so try your best to keep your mind calm and focused.
This is the peak of the moon salutation sequence. Now begins the cycle back through the poses on the other side.
Side Lunge (Left Side)
From Garland Pose, lean toward the bent left leg and straighten your right leg out to the side, keeping your hands at heart center. Flex the right toes up toward the ceiling and breathe.
Low Lunge (Left Side)
Inhale and lift your arms up overhead with the palms facing each other. Exhale and rotate your hips back to the front of your mat in a low lunge. This time, drop the right knee to the mat.
Inhale and reach up as you slightly backbend and open the heart to the sky. Be knowledgeable of bringing the left hip forward to maintain square aligned hips.
Pyramid Pose (Left Side)
From Low Lunge, tuck your back toes and press into the right foot to straighten your right leg up off the ground. Inhale and straighten the left knee, then exhale and bend forward over the left thigh with your spine as straight as possible. Reach your arms to floor and place your forehead as close to the left knee as possible.
Hold for 3-5 breaths, then inhale your torso back up.
Triangle Pose (Left Side)
On an inhale, pivot your torso so the side of the body is facing the front and your hips are aligned as if two walls are on each side. Bring your arms straight outward as your right hand reaches up and left hand rests by the ankle or shin. Move your gaze upward and breathe.
From Triangle Pose, return to Star Pose by inhaling the whole body to standing. Pivot on your left heel to bring your left toes facing forward. Keep your feet wide and bring your arms straight up to the sides as if in the shape of a star.
On the next exhale, bend your elbows down into “goalpost” position and pivot your toes out the sides with the heels inward. squat down once again into Goddess Pose, sitting deeper into your hips than before. Hold for 3-5 rounds of breath.
Standing Half Crescent Moon
On an exhale, push into the floor as you straighten your legs. Step the left foot back to meet the right foot and stand straight with your hands clasped up ahead, elbows touching your ears and shoulders relaxed downward.
Inhale and bend to the left, feeling a an arching stretch in the right side of the body. Exhale back to center, then slowly inhale to the right to round off your final half moon pose.
Finally, return to Mountain Pose or Prayer Pose with your hands in prayer position at the heart center. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths as you thank yourself for showing up to the practice.
Envision yourself in a completely calm state of rest or sleep. Optionally, bow your head and say “Namaste” to end your practice.
When to Practice Moon Salutations
Unlike sun salutations, moon salutation sequences are not a cardiovascular-intensive exercise. They should not be practiced in a vigorous or fast motion.
Instead, move slowly and with intention for a soothing experience. Moon salutations are far better for times of relaxation such as after a long work day or right before bed.
Moon salutation is best practiced:
- As a “cool down” at the end of a yoga practice or workout
- To unwind after a stressful event or workday
- For women, during their moon cycle
- Before a meditation practice
- In the evening, about 30 minutes before bed
Is Moon Salutation good for sleep?
A moon salutation draws on the soothing feminine, lunar energy of the evening, which makes this sequence ideal for aiding in a good night’s rest. Many yoga practitioners use moon salutation to create energy of calmness and relaxation right before bed. The key is to breathe as deeply as possible and move slowly.