Natarajasana is one of the most photographed poses in yoga. This is because of its beauty, elegance and display of balance combined with strength. It is an inspiring sight to behold and can be a wonderful motivator.
We are going to look at the beauty of the natarajasana or dancer’s pose to both inspire and motivate you.
Story Behind Natarajasana
Natarajasana is also known as Dancer’s Pose but is more accurately translated as King Dancer Pose. This is because nata means dancer, raj means king and asana means posture. The pose is a depiction of Shiva, in his cosmic form as the destroyer.
He paves the way for regeneration and rebirth by destroying what is stale and old. Yogic philosophy embraces the cycle of birth and destruction. The main three deities of Hinduism are Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer and Shiva the destroyer.
According to ancient legends they work harmoniously together to create, maintain and destroy all material things. Without one of them, the cycle of birth, life and death would fail.
Shiva as Nataraja is depicted as standing on one leg, looking over the head of a dwarf who signifies ignorance. This encourages practitioners to see beyond ignorance and raise their consciousness. From clear focus, clarity and then steadfastness is gained.
Natarajasana is also a reminder that life is full of joy, movement and energy. It also reminds us that despite the obstacles we face we should keep on engaging in the dance of life.
There are many health benefits to be had from practicing natarajasana. As you stand on one leg to practice this pose you have to constantly adjust to remain stable. This exercises all the small but stabilizing muscles it may otherwise be difficult to engage.
This pose also stimulates blood flow in the body and raises energy levels.
By practicing dancer’s pose you can improve your balance which is important for this and many other yoga postures. It is quite a challenging exercise, standing on one leg is really not easy.
However, once you master this pose you will feel a sense of accomplishment as well as a feeling of calm and inner peace.
For those who spend a lot of time on their feet this is a great posture. The pose strengthens the arch of the foot that you are standing on. Women in particular can benefit from this if they often wear high heels.
Finally, natarajasana stretches your chest and your shoulders. As you open up the chest space, including your heart, this provides a wonderful experience of widening not just on a physical level but spiritually too.
How To Do Natarajasana Or Dancer’s Pose
So to experience all of these wonderful physical, and spiritual benefits we need to understand how to do natarajasana or dancer’s pose.
- Step 1: Stand in mountain pose or tadasana. Shift your weight onto your right foot. Now bend your left knee so that you can reach your left hand back to your left foot. Alternatively you can use a strap to grasp.
- Step 2: Move your left foot into your left hand or strap by lifting it up and back at the same time. By more actively engaging your left leg it will be easier to keep your balance. Keep your right leg straight and grounded.
- Step 3: Extend your right arm up and forward. You should be maintaining equal pressure on all parts of your standing foot. A small bend in the standing knee will engage the quad muscles.
- Step 4: To release from natarajasana, slowly stand up straight until your shoulders are over your hips. Then let go of your left foot. Put it down on the floor and take several deep breaths. Now repeat the pose with the other side.
Which Muscles Are Involved In Natarajasana?
There are many muscles involved in natarajasana, so it has many benefits in different areas of the body.
The internal and external oblique muscles provide trunk flexion and rotation. They help to force exhaled air out of the lungs. In the practice of natarajasana, the oblique muscles are responsible for backward bending.
The abdominal muscles support, and allow movement of the trunk. They hold internal organs in place by regulating the internal abdominal pressure. They form part of the core muscles which keep the body stable and balanced, something which is vital for dancer’s pose.
In natarajasana, the abdominal muscles are working with the sacrospinalis muscles during the backward bending movement.
The sacrospinalis muscles or erector spinae extend on either side of the spine from the top of the pelvis to the base of the head. They work with the abdominal muscles during natarajasana in the backward bending movement.
The gluteal muscles are the strongest muscles in the body and are responsible for keeping us upright. They are important for propulsion and pushing us forward in walking and running.
In natarajasana the gluteal muscles support you as you stand on one leg. They also support the lower back.
One of the most commonly known groups of muscles are located in the back of the thighs. They act on the knee and the hip joints.
During natarajasana, the hamstrings are responsible for the flexion of the knee and the extension of the hip.
At the front of the thigh are the quadriceps. This large muscle group acts as extensors of the knee joint.
In dancer’s pose they are being seriously stretched. Your quadriceps also help with balance and stability.
Rotator Cuff Muscles
Rotator cuff muscles are located in the shoulder and are responsible for moving and stabilizing this joint. These muscles work together to rotate the arm, hence the name.
During natarajasana your rotator cuff muscles allow you to reach back and grasp your foot.
What Challenges Does Natarajasana Present?
Natarajasana is not an easy yoga pose with a degree of difficulty of around 85, where 100 is the most difficult. It is recommended for intermediate practitioners.
The pose involves several different movements including backward bending, hip extension, knee flexion and external rotation of the shoulders.
There are some challenges involved in practicing natarajasana. Hamstring tightness is a potential problem. If you don’t warm up properly, it will be difficult to bear all your weight on one leg while keeping that leg straight.
Similarly, any tightness in the hip area can cause issues with balance during the pose. It can be difficult to keep the body weight centered or achieve the finished posture.
Chest tightness can interfere with the arch of the back during natarajasana. This can mean a lot more effort is needed in achieving the pose.
While there are challenges with the dancer’s pose it is one of the most elegant and fulfilling of yoga postures. Practice and proper warm up will allow you to achieve natarajasana without injury or excessive work.
We hope that we have succeeded in both inspiring and motivating you with this look at natarajasana or dancer’s pose.
While it may look intimidating if you are a beginner, with perseverance and determination you will be able to achieve this beautiful posture.