Many yoga practitioners regularly perform sun salutations (surya namaskar), the classic energizing sequence of postures that’s designed to warm the body and prepare us for vigorous asana. Sun salutations can be described as a yang – or an active, heating practice. Lesser known is the sun salutation’s direct counterpart: the moon salutation (chandra namaskar). This is a deep, flowing sequence that releases built-up tension in the body, calms the nervous system, and prepares us for rest. We will focus on postures that open the hips, as they tend to house much of our physical and emotional tension. Moon salutations are yin in nature – slow, deep, and cooling, and are wonderful at bedtime. Combined with a few juicy restoratives, this sequence is the perfect end to a busy day and will promote easy, restful sleep.
Feel free to modify any of these postures with props, they should be comfortable and free-flowing.
Anyvittasana (Standing Backbend Variation)
Ground down through your legs and place your hands at your lower back for support, inhale to draw the shoulders back and lift the chest.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Exhale, hinge at the hips and fold forward.
Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose Variation)
Inhale to step the right leg back behind you, leaving both hands inside of the left foot. Exhale and carefully roll onto the outer blade of the left foot. Inhale to sweep the left bicep over the ear for a gentle twist.
Prasarita Padottanasana A (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
Exhale, straighten the legs with the feet parallel to either edge of your mat and fold forward. The head should rest comfortably, either on the floor or on a block. Take a few breaths here.
Skandasana (Side Lunge)
Inhale to bend the right knee and straighten the left leg. The right foot should remain on the floor and the left toes should lift. Lift the chest. You may keep your hands on the floor for support.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
Exhale to frame your right foot with both hands and lower the back knee to the ground. Inhale to sweep the arms overhead and lift up through the sides of your body.
Exhale to release the hands to the floor and step back to a high plank position. Inhale fully.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Exhale to bend the knees into a child’s pose variation with your toes tucked. Allow the forehead to fall to the floor.
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Inhale to slide the chest through the hands. Draw the shoulders back and peel the head and neck off the floor.
Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (3-Legged Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Exhale to lift the hips high into downward facing dog pose. Inhale to reach the right leg high into the air.
Malasana (Garland Pose)
Exhale to step the right foot outside of the right hand. Step the left foot outside of the left hand until you are seated in a comfortable squat. You may sit up on blocks as well. Fold your hands together in front of your heard. Hold for a few rounds of breath.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Inhale to straighten the legs into a standing position.
Repeat on the left side.
Supported Prone Twist
Place your bolster long-ways on the mat and kneel next to it so that as you lay down, your left side can rest on the bolster. Line up the bottom edge of the bolster with your last rib. Bolsters are for supporting bone, while the fleshy part of your torso can comfortably suspend in air. Lay down and twist so that your belly and chest are resting on the bolster and your torso is supported from the bottom rib up to the head. The left side of your face should be resting on the bolster. Relax the arms by your sides. Take this simple twist for a few minutes, and if it is comfortable, you can turn your head in the opposite direction to deepen the twist.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
You’ll need a bolster, strap, and blanket. Unroll your strap completely and wrap it around your waist. In a seated position, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together to a comfortable baddha konasana. Wrap the strap around the tops of both feet and secure it snugly so that there is one loop around your waist and feet. You want the strap to be secure enough that you feel a release in the lower back as you recline. Set the bolster up behind you so that as you lay down on it, face up, the bottom edge of the bolster lines up with your bottom ribs. Support the head with a folded blanket on top of the bolster. Let your arms gently fall out to either side, palms facing up.
Supported Balasana (Child’s pose)
Place two blocks underneath your bolster (at either end) so that there is space between the bolster and the floor. With your feet together and knees apart, lay your belly down onto the bolster into a comfortable child’s pose. If there is excessive space between your calves and your seat, you can place a folded blanket there. Slide your hands under the bolster, into the open space, and wrap your arms around it in any way that is comfortable. Turn your head to one side. Hold for 10 breaths or so before turning the head in the opposite direction.
Finish your practice by dissolving a few drops of lavender or cedar wood essential oil (Young Living Oils are the way to go!) in water and rubbing it on the bottoms of your feet, back of your neck, and temples.