Please meet Harvest Gionta. She is Mind Body Flow Yoga’s featured student for this month’s newsletter. She has a beautiful yoga practice and was generous in sharing it with us, as she demonstrates Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana).
Harvest Shares Her Yoga Journey
Sooooo…when Marina asked me to be the featured student for the month of July, my first thought was:
“My poses are not good enough to be the featured student.”
“What will I look like in the video?”
“What could I have to say that others would want to read?”
Then I realized I was creating a story in my head that does not exist. So, I decided to push myself and my boundaries and see the possibility before me. Just like in a difficult pose on my mat, I am taking a deep breath and trying to find comfort in my discomfort and proceed forward because I am ready now…
My yoga journey began about 20 years ago, when I decided I wanted to go to yoga classes because I thought the poses would create long and lean muscles. I was solely interested in the physical benefits of yoga. Over the course of those 20 years, my life has been filled with many blessings, including an amazing husband and three healthy beautiful children. Due to my husband’s job, it has also included many transitions. We have had to move numerous times and with school-aged children, this is not always easy. To help relieve stress, I have always exercised but only practiced yoga sporadically. With our life, I became accustomed to worrying about each “next transition” and was always busy looking ahead. However, life moves so quickly and before I knew it, I was looking back on times and wondering where they had gone? I wanted to “calm” my mind and be more positive about the transitions we were all often facing.
At the urging of a good friend, I decided to try a class at “Mind Body Flow Yoga.” This time around, I was less interested in the accuracy of my poses and more interested in restoring a balance between my mind and body. From the very first class at Mind Body Flow Yoga, I felt a deep sense of relaxation. So, I continued to come back. Each class brought with it music, readings, and words I needed to hear. Poses pushed me beyond any other yoga I had previously done. I remember one class in particular, Marina was speaking about “letting go” of whatever it is holding you back. After class ended, Marina and I were chatting, and I was talking about how I could really relate to what she was saying. My eyes welled up with tears and before either of us knew it, I was crying. Marina asked what was wrong and what I needed to give up. I responded with:
“I just worry so much!! I worry all the time. I worry about my kids all the time and I worry about all the things I cannot control. I need to give up worrying.”
In that moment, I realized I was always bracing myself for the next change or struggle everyone was facing. I was not being present in the present. My thoughts were often filled with worry about how the kids were adjusting or what will come next in our life, instead of fully enjoying being here now. I was looking back on situations and realized missed opportunities. I knew it was a mindset I had to change. Feeling the transformation yoga was having on my life, I made a commitment to myself to practice at least once every week and have maintained that commitment for over a year. Yoga started empowering me and challenging me, but also quieting me. I was beginning to be able to find a stillness through the practice. I was starting to realize the parallels between how I respond to difficulties on my mat and how it translates into difficulties in my life.
Slowly, as I consistently came to class, I felt a shift. It started small with trying new poses or finding some comfort in the poses I previously hated. Then it became a safe haven when something difficult was going on in my life.
At one point, I was very stressed out, because I thought my husband’s job could get moved out of state, and I would have to be alone with my kids for several months until we could be with my husband. I still came to class because I needed the peace more than ever. Before class started, I told Marina I may just lay there on my mat breathing and listening to her calming voice and cues. She of course told me to take whatever I needed from that class. I told myself I would do the best I could do that day, under the circumstances. My whole life could be changing within minutes and I had absolutely no control over it. Somehow, I had one of the best and most powerful practices I have ever had. I felt not only relaxed but re-surged even. I was so thankful I had gone to class because I had a new sense of reassurance that everything would be fine and fall into place the way it always does and is meant to. It was a very valuable lesson to me.
I am now continuously challenging myself further than ever before with my poses, even though I am much older than all the other times I have intermittently practiced yoga. It is because I am less fearful…less worried. Less worried about not doing it correctly, less worried about how I look, less worried about the unknown. I am more excited about the possibilities of pushing myself and seeing what I am capable of. Yoga has helped me to focus on being positive and present because we really have no control over anything in life except our responses.
When a worry, doubt, or a story I create in my mind starts to surface, when a situation in which I have no control arises, I try to breathe deeply and find a sense of calm and reassurance in the power of a balanced body and mind. I suppose the lessons were always there, I am just finally quiet enough to hear them.
What is this Pose About?
This is a standing balancing pose, which lengthens your spine and opens your hips. The resulting shape is a deep opening through these areas, as well as the chest and shoulders. Watch Harvest enter into this asana from Mountain Pose (Tadasana). She will exit the pose and land back in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) as well.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you decide to try this pose, or if you have already started to experiment with it.
Tips for Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
- Stand at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose. Take a big step back (approximately 3 feet) with your right foot, turning your foot towards the side of the mat while keeping your left toes pointing forward. Your two hip points are now facing the side of the mat.
- Take the arms out in a “T” with your palms pointing down; your shoulders are relaxed while moving your shoulder blades down your back.
- Place your right hand at your waist.
- Start to bend your left knee, gradually shifting your weight into your left leg as you lift your right foot off the floor. Maintain equal weight in your inner arch, outer arch, forefoot, and heel of your standing foot.
- Simultaneously allow your left hand to float towards the floor or a block, “spidering” your fingers so that you are on the finger pads with your fingers spread.
- Your hand should be roughly 12 inches in front of your left foot, stacked directly under your shoulder. Look down to begin, finding a Drishti, or gaze point that is unmoving.
- Keep reaching out through the top of your head to encourage length in the spine and neck.
- Flex your right foot strongly to align the shin, keeping your toes pointing to the side wall.
- Pressing out through your heel to lengthen the leg, raise your leg so that it is parallel to the floor or eventually slightly higher to be in a long line continuous with your waist.
- Keeping your left knee cap lifted so that the quadriceps is contracted, begin to straighten your standing leg. Imagine your tail tucking under gently so that your right hip opens further to the right wall.
- To deepen the pose you may extend your right arm up towards the sky, palm facing the same direction as your right toes. You may also turn your gaze to the side wall, or up to your right hand, continuing to lengthen out through the top of your head.
- Breathe comfortably for at least five breaths.
- To exit the pose, exhale looking down towards your left foot, lower the right hand to your waist, gracefully lowering the right foot back to the earth just as you began.
- Draw the low belly in, root down through your feet, and inhale as you rise up.
- Return to Mountain Pose and repeat on the other side.
- Expands your chest and shoulders
- Increases mobility of your hip joints
- Increases neck mobility
- Lengthens your spinal muscles
- Stretches your hamstrings and groin muscles
- Strengthens and tones muscles of your thighs and calves
- Traditionally thought to improve digestion and menstruation, relieve stress and aid in healing diseases of your legs
- Neck Pain – Keep the head level and look straight forward.
- Low Back Pain / Sacroiliac Pain – Ensure you are drawing in the muscles of your lower belly and the muscles of your pelvic floor (used to stop the flow of urine) to support your pelvis and low back before entering the pose.
- Low Blood Pressure – This pose is similar to other inversions, where the head is below the heart. Use a block under your support hand (see below) to raise your head to the same level as your heart, or above.
Have you tried this pose before? What has been your experience? If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.