This week’s Peak Power Pose is Ardha Chandrasana Chopasana, which is sometimes called Candy Cane Pose. It’s the perfect fit for the week of Christmas. This challenging posture is a balancing and backbending pose. Ardha Chandrasana Chopasana melds together Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon) and Ardha Dhanurasana (Half Bow). It requires balance, and availability of the hamstrings, hip flexors, back and shoulder. Moving slowly from half moon to adding the backbend is key to maintaining poise and grace in this pose. Just like a candy cane, it can break and crumble quickly. When you can find the shape in the long stem of the legs and the curve of the back, you’ll receive the sweet reward of this beautiful balancing heart-opener.
Personally, I had to spend time encouraging my hamstring not to freak out when going for the foot grab. First, I started just mentally reminding my hamstring to stay open to the possibility, then I pay close attention to softening the hamstring when I made contact with the foot, and eventually I could reach my foot without tension or drama. This mental practice combined with work to open the hamstring, quad, and shoulders made this progress possible.
Here are some variations and stages to practice for your sweetest expression of this Candy Cane Pose.
Option 1 – Reaching. Start in an open and stable Half Moon with the hand on the block for support. Soften the top knee drawing the heel to the glute. Reach back with the top hand, pulling the shoulder onto the back. Try to keep the knee in the with the hip and the heel in line with the glute. Over time, the gap between the foot and the hand will become smaller.
Option 2 – Contact with the foot. When you can reach the foot, try to get the hand securely on the top of the foot. Continue to draw the heel toward the glute, resisting the temptation for the knee to lift. Draw the foot behind you towards the ground as you stack the hips and open the shoulders. Reaffirm the standing leg, keeping both side bodies long. If needed, coil the knee to the chest, take the hand to the foot, then draw the leg behind. This may make the foot more accessible.
Option 3 – Kick the foot away. When you are stable in option 2, begin to kick the foot away, but resist the foot with the hand. Create as much space between the heel and the glute as possible. At the same time, reach the heart as if it could bust from your chest. The gaze can be at the hand or for more challenge can move to the horizon or the ceiling.
Option 4 – Two handed clasp. If you are able to float your half moon and your shoulders feel open, interlace the fingers to clasp the foot with both hands. Press the thumbs into the bottom of the foot to create a stable hold. Once the grasp is secure, kick the foot away, creating the back bend. Work to bring the knee, hip, heart, shoulders and head into one line that is parallel to the ground. Imagine that you could pull the foot to touch the crown of the head.
Respecting the delicate nature of this pose, be sure to work where you feel challenged, but also where you can breath, relax around the work, and not freak out. Follow this weekly challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or share about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.