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natarajasana: lord of the dance pose


Natarajasana (not-ah-raj-AHS-anna) is a physically challenging, beautiful pose that requires flexibility in your spine, legs, and hips. The fact that you do such a deep backbend while balancing on one foot is one of the reasons why Lord of the Dance is often used as the “peak” pose in many yoga classes. To practice the pose, it’s a good idea to use a thoughtful sequence filled with plenty of preparatory poses in order to make sure your body – and mind – are ready. Regular practice will help develop strong mental fortitude and determined concentration.

Philosophy + Origin

A physical embodiment of King Nataraja, another form of 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 your consciousness to be elevated above ignorance, above the common thoughts and misunderstandings that cloud your view. The balance that comes from the pose awakens our understanding that clarity brings steadiness.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • 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 the aid of a wall or chair
  • Play with holding your foot from the inside and outside to see which variation works best for your body

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Shoulder injuries
  • Low blood pressure

TIPS:

There are many different variations of Natarajasana. Don’t be in a rush to “progress” too quickly. No one form or shape is better than another. If you experience discomfort or cramping, especially in the thigh or around the knee of the lifted leg, try focusing on flexing the foot while in the pose.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Begin in Mountain pose, Tadasana. Bring your attention to your left foot, shifting your weight as you begin to lift your right foot off the floor. As you do, press equally into all four corners of your left foot, paying special attention to the mound of your big toe. Draw your right foot towards your right glute, keeping your ankle in line with the knee. Engage the quadriceps muscle of your left leg by pulling the knee cap up.
  2. Reach back and find your right ankle or foot while avoid leaning forward. Depending on your body and flexibility, you might find that holding the inside or outside of your foot or ankle feels better. Both are appropriate variations for this pose. 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.
  3. Begin to push 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.
  4. Extend your left arm forward, bringing it parallel to the floor with your palm facing in. Do your best to stay in the pose for 30 to 60 seconds. To release from the pose, slowly let go of your right foot, placing it back on the floor returning to Tadasana. Take several deep breaths before repeating on the other side.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Dhanurasana
  • Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
  • Gomukhasana
  • Hanumanasana
  • Supta Virasana
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana
  • Ustrasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Virabhadrasana III
  • Vrksasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Ardha Uttanasana
  • Jathara Parivartanasana

SANSKRIT:

  • Nata = dancer
  • Raja = king
  • Asana = pose

 

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Tones and stretches the muscles of the legs and hips
  • Strengthens the arch in the standing foot
  • Improves balance
  • Stretches shoulders and chest

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Develops concentration
  • Promotes clarity

MANTRA:

“Om namah shivaya”

Reciting this sacred mantra will help you identify with Shiva, in all of his forms. The translation of this mantra is: I bow to Lord Shiva,the inner Self.

MUDRA: Abhaya mudra

A demonstration of fearlessness, protection, peace, and friendship, the Abhaya mudra is often considered the very first mudra used by the Buddha after attaining enlightenment. To practice, open the palm of your right hand, bringing it level with your shoulder. Face the palm of your hand away from your body.

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