Natarajasana /Dancer's Pose
nata = actor, dancer, mime, raja = king
Natarajasana, or Dancer's Pose, is the physical depiction of Shiva as King Dancer. In this posture, Shiva, Hindu God of Destruction, dances on one leg atop a tiny deformed demon. This demon is ignorance in all of its forms, including ignorance of the true Self. Performing his dance on top of ignorance, Shiva gains a higher level of consciousness, rising up so that ultimately he can be liberated from all the negative qualities trying to hold him down.
Natarajasana is a balancing back bend that cultivates an open heart while opening the shoulders and strengthening the legs. In this posture we feel a stretch along the entire front of the body as we lift up to extend and even an opening in the hips.
To start, ground down through the standing foot, we'll use the right foot here. Then bend the left leg and reach back, grabbing a hold of the left foot with your hand. Next, extend your right arm up alongside your right ear. Be careful that the right shoulder does not hug the ear and roll the shoulder down the back to release. When you are ready, inhale and press your hand into your foot, lifting yourself forward, out and up. Be mindful not to fall too far forward in this pose. The extension happens by pressing your foot into your hand, allowing the front of the body to open while you slightly lean forward and lift up. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Come back to center and release. Repeat on the other side.
photo by Mina Habibi
Natarajasana is a challenging balance pose that requires great focus and concentration. I like this asana for these aspects as well as the openness I gain along the front of my body and shoulders and the strength I feel when I hold this pose steady. I also like to envision the ignorance that I might experience from day to day and I use this opportunity to physically stamp it out, so that I might act with more clarity and openness in my own life.
What qualities of Natarajasana resonate with you? Do you find this pose easy or challenging? What other variations have you tried that you enjoy?
Learn more about Shiva and the story of Natarajasana here.