Half Moons and Flying Dragons

I remember the evening twenty-five years ago when our teacher led us into Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose).  I had been attending Karl’s class for just a few weeks and it was my first Half Moon.  It wasn’t pretty. I distinctly remember thinking that night would be my last night at Yoga.  My standing leg was shaking, my extended leg’s hip was screaming and my brain was telling me “This is nuts. You can’t do this.  Just go home.”

But I didn’t go home.

To this day Ardha Chandrasana ranks as one of my favorite poses.  Several classes after that first attempt, when I smoothly transitioned into the pose from Triangle and felt the strength in my balancing leg and the openness in my hip, I was free.  I felt like a soaring bird.

And when I introduce Half Moon to a new class for the first time, teaching in the same studio where I was taught, I always stand in the spot where I attempted the pose for the first time and tell the class “Things change.”

These days I’m adding modifications to my Half Moon.  Sometimes, with limited success, I bring my fingers up from the floor to rest the hand on my heart chakra.  More often I’ll take the ankle of my extended leg and pull myself into something I’m certain has a proper name but I call Sideways Bow.

We grow.  We learn.  We fall down. We try again.  We grow.

It took a lot of prying to open my mind to a new way of thinking about Yoga.  My practice was firmly rooted in Iyengar.  There was no other way.

But things change.

While I will probably never, ever understand how I can further my Yoga practice while listening to rock music (please, someone, explain this trend to me), a few years ago I was encouraged to explore the possibility of a fluid, non-alignment based practice.

Enter Flying Dragon. Wait a minute, wasn’t that a Bruce Lee movie?

The truth is, I can be a little bit…ahem…rigid in my thinking.  I like having a place for everything and everything in its place.  Just like an Iyengar practice. I’m not saying Iyengar theory is rigid, only that it might appeal to someone with rigid thinking.

When Suzee Grilley introduced the Flying Dragon sequence to us on a summer morning at teacher training my brain was telling me, “You can’t do this.  This isn’t Yoga.  Give Up.  You’re too out of shape.”  My brain even said this, “You’re too old.”

Several mornings later and I was flying my dragon with joy.

Flying Dragon is the cure for my rigid thinking.  I can feel my soul open to the universe when I practice Flying Dragon.  It lifts my spirit.  It is a balm for the type of depression that feels heavy and leaden.

Different approaches to Yoga fill different needs. Right now I need less formal alignment and more fluid movement.

And for the past few weeks I’ve had this idea in my head that I can’t shake.  There’s a local park not far from my home, and I see myself there, teaching Flying Dragon to anyone who wants to learn.  When I mentioned this to a friend he suggested I was ‘giddy’.  I probably am.  But the thought of a Flying Dragon Flash Mob puts a big smile on my face.

So that’s what I’m going to do.  If you’d like to free your rigid mind – or just feel like flying your dragon – join me for a morning of Flying Dragon (with a few Golden Seeds thrown in for a nice warm up) this Saturday at 11:00 in the park on Homer Street in Palo Alto.

Update:  Four hours after I posted Half Moons and Flying Dragons the August (August?  Seriously?) issue of Yoga Journal arrived.  My “Sideways Bow” variation of Half Moon has a name:  Ardha Chandra Chapasana.  Whew.  Now I can sleep tonight.