Natarajasana is an incredible balancing posture that offers benefits for the whole body. It works on the back, legs, and thoracic regions, strengthening, toning, and increasing the flexibility. Let’s learn how to do this pose!
The meaning of the posture, when translated, becomes Lord of the Dance pose. Natanam is a Sanskrit word that means dance and Nata is the shorter version for the same. Raja stands for King literally, and Asana means Pose.
So Nata + Raja + Asana = King of the Dance. There’s an interesting mythology behind this posture.
The very first look at the position points out that it shares a very close resemblance to the Dancing Lord, Shiva. His cosmic dance, known as Tandava, has the reputation of being ferocious and grateful simultaneously. This duality points out to the lovely way of balancing the masculine and feminine properties of a human being.
Shiva, according to Hindu mythology, is the destroyer. His name itself means liberating. The posture is a depiction of how human life is. In the ancient paintings that were discovered from South India, he is found to stand in the middle of a wheel, with dreadlocks open. He holds a conch in one hand and drum in the other. There is a bowl of fire in one of his four hands and Trishula in the fourth one. A poisonous snake is his adornment. Below his feet is a dwarf.
The entire depiction is beautiful and energizing. This wheel is the cosmic ring made of fire represents the eternal birth, life, and death cycle. Even though he stands amidst the blazing fire, he is calm and stable.
The snake that is coiled around his neck stands for our ignorance or Avidya. Ignorance is one of the deadliest toxins that could destroy us in no time. But Siva is least bothered about the poison it emits as he is well-aware of himself.
The drum is our intuition – the Inner power that keeps reminding us of what we truly are. The fire in the bowl is our yearning for spiritual growth. Trishul depicts our thoughts. It reminds us that we are capable of destroying ourselves, and hence, should be extremely careful about our thoughts.
Last, but not the least, is the dwarf. He is synonymous with the human ego. Ego is pretty mischievous and knows how to play his tricks right. And, we, many a time, fall prey to the distractions it creates. Keeping it right beneath his foot, Nataraja shows us that we should be aware of our ego and keep it under control.
In short, the ideology is fantastic. The whole posture teaches us that only this eternal cycle of birth, life, and death is real. We should be open to learning more, connecting with our inner selves, and crushing our ego to lead a balanced life.
So that was something about the mythological and ideological aspects of this pose. Let’s move into what benefits it has to offer and other aspects essential to our regular practice.
Some of the marvelous Dancer Pose benefits are:
- Stronger back, chest, hips, groins, legs, and ankles
- Stronger, leaner, and toned body
- Better posture and balance
- Improved stretch for abdominal organs
- Better digestion
- Lesser stress
- Improved concentration
- Better sleep
How To Do Natarajasana
Here is a step-by-step guide to practicing Dancer’s Pose.
- Stand straight on the mat, arms resting by on either side of the body. Separate the feet about hip-distance apart.
- Take a couple of breaths to prepare the body and mind for the practice.
- Shifting the entire body weight on the left leg, inhale and bend the right leg backward. Hold the right ankle from inside with the right hand. Open the chest by rolling the shoulders back and away from the ears.
- Extend the left arm out in front, shaping the palms into Gyan mudra [Tips of the index finger and thumb in contact].
- Gaze at a point in the front and hold the posture for five to seven breaths.
- With each exhalation, try to lift the right leg up higher. As the leg lifts higher, the backbend deepens.
- On an exhale, release the foot and palm.
- Take a short inhalation and while breathing out, fold forward halfway, torso parallel to the floor into Ardha Uttanasana. This posture will help to release the stress from the spine and legs.
- Inhale, roll up, and repeat the same with the other leg.
Natarajasana Preparatory Poses
- Supta Padangusthasana
- Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Dolphin Pose
- Virabhadrasana I
- Virabhadrasana III
- Gomukhasana Hands
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Natarajasana Counter Poses
Dancer’s Pose is usually a peak posture which means it is the final Asana in a series. Get into Ardha Uttanasana [Half Forward Fold] or Jathara Parivartanasana [Reclining Twist] to release the spine.
Avoid the posture if you have
- Low or high blood pressure
- Lower back injuries
- Knee or ankle injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Arm injury or severe pain
Dancer Pose Variations
Beginners could try it against a wall. People with knee injuries can practice this pose taking the help of a wall to get into the posture.
Using a strap will help when the practitioner is unable to grab the ankle with the hand.
The deeper variation of this pose is meant only for advanced practitioners. So please feel free to refrain from this variation of the posture, if the practice is new.
After completing the steps mentioned under How to do, follow these instructions.
- Hold the big toe of the right leg with the thumb, index, and middle fingers, thumbing actively pressing against the sole.
- Inhale and lift the leg higher in such a way that the toes rest in the crease of the right elbow.
- If the practitioner is stable here, he/she can move on to the next step.
- Swing the left hand backward by externally rotating and flexing the left shoulder and interlace the fingers of both hands.
- Hold the posture for five to seven breaths.
Breathing in through the nose, gently release the Asana and practice the counter pose.
There are various ways one could get into Dancer’s Pose. The following is a simple sequence that helps to prepare the body for the peak pose.
1. Tadasana – Mountain Pose – Samastitih
Stand straight, separating the feet hip-width. Align the spine and neck. Rest the hands on either side of the body spreading the fingers wide. Close the eyes and push through the soles of the feet into the mat. Engage the core muscles and tuck the pelvis slightly inward. Hold the posture for ten deep breaths.
2. Uttanasana – Standing Forward Fold
With the final exhalation of Tadasana, fold forward from the hips. Rest the abdomen on the thighs and palms on the floor on either side of the legs. Allow the head to rest close to the shin. With each inhalation, push the hips backward. With each out breath, deepen the forward fold. Hold the posture for ten deep breaths.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog
From Uttanasana, press the palms into the floor and walk back. Keeping the feet as wide as the hips, ground the heels into the floor. Adjust the alignment to keep the elbows straight and stacked right under the shoulders. Push the hips to the ceiling with each inhalation. Press the heels to the floor with exhalations. Breathe into the pose and hold for ten breaths.
4. Virabhadrasana I – Warrior I
After completing Downward Facing Dog pose, inhale and lift the right leg to the sky. Close the right hip and lift the right leg higher. Simultaneously, ground the left heel to the floor. With an exhalation, place the right foot in between the palms. Bend the right knee, allowing the right thigh to come parallel to the floor. Turn the left foot slightly away from the body. Square the hips towards the front foot.
Join the palms at heart center and gently arch back, sinking the tailbone closer to the floor. Close the eyes and hold the posture for ten breaths.
5. Anjaneyasana With Gomukhasana Hands – Low Lunge with Cow Face Hands
With the final exhalation in Warrior I, place the left knee on the floor and extend the toes backward. Adjust the alignment so that there is a stretch in the hip flexors. Lift the right hand on an inhale, bend the elbow, and rest it on the back. Let the fingertips point to the floor. Exhale, bend the left elbow and rest it on the back, fingers interlaced with the right ones.
Inhale, straighten the spine, sink the hips deeper, and arch back. Roll the shoulders away from the ears to open the chest. Hold the posture for ten breaths.
On an inhale, release the interlaced fingers. Exhale, tuck the left toes and come back into Warrior I.
6. Vrkshasana – Tree Pose
From Warrior I, inhale and straighten the right leg. On an exhale, bend the left knee and rest the left sole on the right inner thigh. Join palms at heart center, close the eyes, and balance on the right leg. Lengthen through the spine while breathing in. Ground to the floor while breathing out.
Hold the posture for ten deep breaths.
7. Ardha Chandrasana – Half Moon Pose
With the final exhalation in Tree Pose, release the left leg and take it back. Lift it to align it with the hip. Let the toes point to the left. Inhale and while exhaling, place the right palm outside the right foot. Unlock the right knee. Open the hips and torso to the right and hold the posture for ten deep breaths.
8. Virabhadrasana III – Warrior III
From Ardha Chandrasana, take an inhalation and gently come up. Lock the right knee. Roll the hips down so that those face the floor. Adjust the left leg so that toes point down. Stretch out the arms to the front, aligned with the ears. Join the palms and hold the posture for ten breaths.
9. Natarajasana – Dancer’s Pose
Inhale in Warrior III and gently straighten the torso. Balancing on the left leg, release the palms to the waist. Bend the left knee. Grab the left ankle with the left foot and lift the leg higher and away from the body. Stretch out the right arm, aligned with the ear, and lean forward slightly. Gaze forward, engage the core, and hold the posture for ten deep breaths.
10. Ardha Uttanasana – Half Forward Fold
After the completion of 10 breaths, gently release the left leg and place it next to the right. Inhale and while breathing out, fold forward to bring the torso parallel to the floor. Rest the palms on the shin or any other place so that the spine is parallel to the floor. Gaze at a point in the front and hold the posture for ten breaths.
11. Adho Mukha Svanasana
Inhale and place the palms down on either side of the feet. On an exhale, press the palms into the floor and walk back into Downward Facing Dog Pose.
Repeat on the other side by getting into Virabhadrasana I with the left leg.
After completing on both sides, lie down on the back and relax in Savasana.
Even though Natarajasana is a Beginner’s Pose, take it easy. Use props as required to get the feel of the posture.