“Stack your hips.”
Oh, friends, how many times have I heard this oh-so-convenient (and oh-so-terrible) cue?
The problem with cuing stack your hips in Ardha Chandrasana is that most students can’t actually do it. It’s like asking students to “square the hips” in Virabhadrasana II. You simply can’t square the hips (or stack the hips) in most human bodies unless you torque the standing knee.
Here’s another contender:
“Step into ardha chandrasana.”
Bam. Just step into it. Just like that, people. Imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Just Do It. Noooooowwww!” No other instruction. It’s too tricky to cue through students through the transition, so we just tell them to step into it.
“Engage your legs.”
Yes, good idea, but the real question is how?
Now, don’t despair if you’ve been using these cues. Transitions are challenging to cue, which is why they are so often glossed over. And Ardha Chandrasana is one of the most challenging poses of all! But let’s break it down, and you can give your students some great supporting cues to help them through this trickster of a pose.
What’s supporting me?
Question number 1: what is supporting us in Ardha Chandrasana?
To answer this, first ask: what is at risk during the transition?
In AC, the prime culprit for misalignment is the standing leg knee, right? It drops in both during the transition and during the pose. The culprit? Not enough external rotation at the standing leg hip! Here’s the skinny:
- the standing leg is externally rotating
- external rotation keeps the knee tracking over the ankle
- weak external rotation will cause the knee to drop inwards
- therefore, strong external rotation will help the knee to track and stabilize the pose!
When we’re teaching AC, it behooves us to set up our students for success by teaching external rotation of the front leg in poses such as Warrior II, Triangle, and Side Angle. Pre-teaching this action will give them the body imprint to carry this stability forward into a more challenging transition like Ardha Chandrasana. And getting these external rotators firing up is so good for our bodies!
Stacking the hips, help!
What makes AC different than Warrior III? Well, once the front hip has it’s stability, then the pelvis opens towards the side of the mat. This action is different than squaring the hips. “Towards” implies “as much as your body allows. Since everyone’s range of motion is different, I like to say something like this,
“Keeping your front knee tracking over your ankle, now open your hips towards the side of your mat as much as you can.”
Putting the stabilizing cue first (“keeping your knee tracking”) means that they are thinking about alignment, and then the sneaky little word “towards” gives them permission to only go as far as their own personal range of motion.
Engage your legs
Good idea! But soooo vague! Can we be more specific?
Do you mean,
“pull your outer standing leg hip towards the back of your mat to engage your outer hip”
“lift your quads to straighten your legs”
“lift your hamstrings and quads evenly to hug the femur to the pelvis…”
When we find ourselves using a blanket cue such as “engage your legs” (or engage your core), it’s a good idea to reflect if we can be more specific. There’s certainly a time and place for general whole body cues, but let’s make sure that’s what we want.
Try it out, let me know how it goes!