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.
Ustrasana: Camel Pose
A powerful way to boost your energy and your mood, ustrasana (oosh-TRAHS-anna) offers a long list of benefits for both the physical and subtle bodies. Thanks to its many variations and modifications, there are plenty of ways for practitioners of all levels to appreciate the physical and chakra-opening effects of camel pose.
Philosophy + Origin
Although the name of this pose is camel because the shape resembles the hump on a camel’s back, there are other ways to consider the name when approaching the posture. Camels are known for their slow, steady, almost methodical way of moving. Rather than trying to race into the posture, being slow and methodical will help you find its benefits without risking discomfort or strain. In the same way, camels use their humps as food reserves, like well-packed bags ready to be used when needed. This type of physical preparation, a part of the camel’s natural adaptation for survival, is essential for this pose as well. Take your time to gather and practice the skills and knowledge necessary to take a back bending journey to ensure that you enter and exit the posture with ease and poise.