What is Dancer’s pose?
‘Natarajasana’ is the Sanskrit name for the ‘Dancer’s pose’. It resembles the form of a dancer's pose. It is also popularly known as the ‘King Dancer Pose’ or the ‘Lord of the Dance Pose’. It is named after Lord Shiva, who was the King of Dance, Nata - Raja. Lord Shiva found peace in dance even in the midst of chaos. Similarly, the asana helps one steady the mind to find balance and calm in the midst of a storm.
What are the Dancer pose yoga benefits?
Natarajasana pose, the yoga dancer’s pose, greatly improves focus and concentration. It stills and steadies the mind to such an extent that balance is restored, helping one make better decisions, stay calm and collected. Physically, it strengthens and stretches the ankles, legs, thighs, hips, chest, neck and abdomen. It is one of the best asanas to improve mobility in the hips, especially the asymmetrical mobility. It develops flexibility in the spine, shoulders and hamstrings, making it a great asana to improve overall flexibility.
Position type: Standing/ Lunge
Posture type: Balancing
Ideal for: Leg and back strength; balance
Targets: Body and mind balance
Pose level: Intermediate
How to prepare for the Dancer's pose
We will be talking more about natarajasana preparatory poses that you can practice.
1. Back flexibility: As this is a backbend, it is good to have back. Cobra pose, locust pose, and forward bends like seated forward bend and standing forward fold are helpful in improving flexibility.
2. Stability through Marjari : In the cat pose, lift one of the legs back and hold it with the opposite hand and then raise it higher up, similar to Natarajasana. This is good preparation for eventually doing it in the standing position.
3. Core and leg strength: Developing strength in the core and legs is useful for holding the posture for longer. Regular practice of the warrior series, triangle pose, extended side angle pose, boat pose and plank are good for this.
4. Developing balance: Balance and focus is important. Practice simpler poses like the tree pose, eagle pose, and lunges. With better balance in the legs, you will be more comfortable in the posture. For better focus, gaze directly at a point in front of you and take deep, slow breaths. Breathwork and meditation will also contribute towards improving your focus.
How to practice the Dancer's pose
Getting into the posture
- Take one step forward with your right leg, and shift the body weight forward on that leg. Inhale and as you exhale, lift the left foot off the ground, bending the knee, and holding the left ankle from the inside or the outside.
- Again, inhale, and as you exhale, take the upper body forward, simultaneously raising the left knee higher, pushing the foot into the hand.
- After reaching a stable position, inhale and extend the right hand forward, joining the index finger and thumb in gyan mudra. Looking toward the right fingertips.
Getting out of the posture
- As you exhale, bring the left knee down, release the ankle from the hand
- Release the right hand down, straighten the body and come into samasthiti.
Repeat the asana with the other leg.
Dancer pose variations
Here are two Natarajasana or Dancer Pose variations that you can practice.
- As a beginner, try to work on the balance without stretching the back leg too much
- Use a wall for support to take the challenge of balance initially and work purely on flexibility.
- An advanced version is the Purna Natrajasana, where both the hands grab the ankle or toes of the leg that is raised up. This comes only with a lot of practice and with the opening of the shoulders. A Shvasa teacher can guide you to progress to this point.
- After completing the asana, simply stay still in Tadasana for a few breaths. You can also shake your legs a little to release the pressure that was on the leg on the mat.
- You can also practice Uttanasana (the standing forward fold) to give your back a counter movement.
Key alignments for Dancer's pose
- Grip the back leg from outside the ankle and not the inside, also avoid gripping the foot or toes.
- Ensure that the back knee is exactly aligned right behind the hip, do not allow it to open to the side in a hurry to lift the back leg higher.
- Internally role the thighs of the back legs even as you lift the leg higher
- Lean forward enough to balance the weight of the body - the leg lifted back should be balanced with the trunk moving forward.
- The balancing knee can also be softly bent until you gain balance.
- You can push the raised foot into the raised arm so that the leg is higher. This will give an arch to your spine and engage the thighs.
What are the contraindications for the Dancer's pose?
It is best to avoid the asana if you have knee pain or injuries. If you have any hip pain also, do avoid the asana. While practicing, if you have any discomfort stop the practice. Keep the back bend soft if you have back pain, or feel a pinch in the lower back. These are the natarajasana contraindications that you must keep in mind before practicing.
Advice for beginners
Always keep the knee low with a gentle push. You can try to raise the back knee up and push the foot into the palms. Do not lean too forward too much as this may cause an imbalance and a misalignment. Keep the leg on the ground strong and stable so that you can hold the posture for longer.
What is the history of the Dancer's pose?
The dancer’s pose requires strength, power and focus. It represents the grace and awareness of Lord Shiva while dancing. It is believed there are two aspects of this dance - Lasya, a gentle, calm form of dance associated with creativity and creation, and Tandava, an aggressive dance associated with destruction. Most often, we aim to practice yoga like the form of Lasya, a gentle, tranquil flow, that is energizing yet relaxing. In this form, every pose is aligned well and benefits our mind and mind in the greatest form. However, sometimes, one may feel their practice is disturbed, imbalanced or restless. That is when it is more like Tandava. Of course, there are many factors that influence this like our state of mind, external happenings, mood, energy levels, etc. The dancer pose sequence has the ability to turn an aggressive or unsuitable practice into a suitable one through its free-flowing, focused and gentle movements, teaching us to apply the same in our everyday lives. We learn to navigate through moments of chaos and make our way to bliss and calmness.
- If it is hard to maintain balance, keep a chair in front of you for support or let the fingertips of the arm that is in front of you lightly touch a wall. This will prevent you from losing balance.
- As this is a backbend, it should be done carefully and with full awareness of the lower back. Do not overstrain the spine.