Natarajasana: Lord of the Dance Pose
Natarajasana (not-ah-raj-AHS-anna) is a physically challenging, beautiful pose that requires flexibility in the spine, legs, and hips. To practice the pose, use a thoughtful sequence filled with plenty of preparatory poses in order to make sure your body – and mind – are adequately prepared. Regular practice will help develop strong mental fortitude and determined concentration.
Philosophy + Origin
A physical embodiment of King Nataraja, a form of the lord Shiva, lord of the dance pose (also referred to as king dancer pose) is a tribute to this powerful god of destruction. Embracing destruction and even death as part of the cycle of change and growth, this pose is a helpful reminder that no good can exist without evil, no birth without death.
In most depictions of King Nataraja, he is standing on one leg (hence the shape of the pose), gazing over the head of a small dwarf, whose presence represents ignorance. In this way, lord of the dance pose encourages our consciousness to elevate above ignorance, above the common thoughts and misunderstandings that cloud our view. The balance that comes from the pose awakens our understanding that clarity brings steadiness.
- If reaching back for your foot is difficult, use a strap around your foot to bridge the gap.
- As you work on improving your balance, try practicing this pose with your extended hand on a wall or chair.
- Some styles of yoga teach this pose with chest forward and extended arm reaching straight out in front of the chest.
- Begin in mountain pose. Shift your weight to your left foot and bend your right knee so your right hand reaches back for your right foot. Keep your right kneecap pointed toward the ground.
- Grabbing the outside of the foot is typically more challenging, but it will provide a deeper stretch for your shoulders and will better encourage your chest to stay lifted.
- Option to kick your right foot into your right hand, lifting the foot up and back at the same time. The more actively you use your right leg, the easier it will be to maintain your balance.
- Extend your left arm forward and up, reaching toward the sky.
- Press equally into all four corners of your left foot, paying special attention to the mound of your big toe. Engage the quadriceps muscles of your left leg by pulling the knee cap up.
- Hold for up to 10 cycles of breath. To release from the pose, slowly let go of your right foot, placing it back on the floor returning to standing. Take several deep breaths before repeating on the other side.
- Front splits pose | Hanumanasana
- Upward-facing bow pose | Urdhva dhanurasana
- Warrior III | Virabhadrasana III
- Nata = dancer
- Raja = king
- Asana = pose
- Tones and stretches the muscles of the legs and hips.
- Strengthens the arch in the standing foot.
- Improves balance.
- Develops concentration.
- Promotes clarity.
Malasana: Squat Pose or Garland Pose
A great stretch for ankles and the lower back, Malasana (mahl-AH-sana), which is also referred to as Squat or Garland pose, opens the groin and tones the belly. While comfortable for some, Malasana can be difficult for others. Appropriate adjustments and modifications can help students enjoy the benefits of this posture while strengthening and opening the muscles needed to practice Malasana and other postures.
Philosophy + Origin
There are many beautiful attempts to defend the translation of Malasana as “Garland Pose.” While mala most commonly refers to a garland or rosary, many students have a difficult time understanding how this imagery applies to the pose. Some teachers argue that the shape of the body depicts the bead on a mala, or perhaps the arms look like a mala or garland hanging from the neck. Other teachers will use the story of how this posture is traditionally taken when receiving the gift of a garland from a spiritual teacher. While all very poetic, there’s another lesser-known understanding of Malasana that makes more sense. The word mala can also be translated as excrement. Considering the digestive benefits of this posture, it makes a lot more sense.