Yoga poses – spotlight on natarajasana (dancer)

Yoga poses…so many to choose from! In my first blog of the 30 day challenge, I talked about my favourite pose – Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance or dancer pose). You might know that there is usually a story behind a yoga pose…so what’s the story of Natarajasana?

The story behind Natarajasana

To understand the story behind Natarajasana, we first need to be introduced to Shiva. Shiva is one of the three Hindu deities that form the Trimurti (the other two being Brahma and Vishnu). The Trimurti are responsible for the cycle of creation, maintenance, and destruction. Brahma is the creator of the universe, Vishnu sustains it, and Shiva destroys it to clear a path for renewal and transformation.

Shiva as Nataraja

At the end of each age, Shiva becomes Nataraja and performs the Natana which includes the dance of destruction (tandava) and creation (Lasya). He dances inside a circle of fire called samsara which represents the pattern of birth, life, and death.

In his Nataraja form, Shiva is often seen with four arms which represent the four directions (north, south, east, and west). Two of the arms represent the balance between creation and destruction. Creation is represented by a hand holding an hourglass-shaped drum (damaru). The drum signifies the passing of time, the sound of creation (Aum/Om), and both genders. Destruction is represented by a flame in the palm of another hand, which is also symbolic of knowledge (vidya). Shiva also gestures with one hand in the abhaya mudra (representing fearlessness). The remaining hand points to the raised lower leg, symbolising release from the cycle of birth and death. This hand also forms the gaja-hasta mudra which represents Shiva’s son, Ganesha (the remover of obstacles).

Shiva dances on a dwarf/demon called apasmara-purusha (the man of forgetfulness) or Muyalaka. This tiny figure represents ignorance, which Shiva crushes. Around Shiva’s necks is a cobra (Naga) which symbolises the past, present, and future, and also Shakti. The venom of the cobra has also been said to represent the toxic nature of ignorance (avidya).

There’s a lot more that could be said about Shiva’s dance but let’s look at the pose before I get too carried away!

Natarajasana – Dru style

How to perform Natarajasana

  • In tadasana (Mountain pose) find a point to gaze at.
  • Shift weight onto your right leg – ensure your core is engaged as you breathe out.
  • Breathe in and raise your left leg (bent at the knee) and right hand (into the abhaya mudra) – maintain your balance and focus.
  • Breathing out, flow your left hand from your left knee to the left shin and then on to your ankle or foot.
  • Breathe in, draw your left foot behind you (like a quad stretch).
  • Breathe out as you extend your left leg backwards and right arm outwards and upwards – make sure your hips are flat and do not come out of alignment.
  • Feel energy move through your whole body to your fingertips then create the Jnaana mudra.
  • Reverse the movements to come out of the posture and bring the Jnaana mudra to your heart.
  • Repeat on the other side and then finish in tadasana.

If you would like to see a video of the pose, then please go to YouTube: Natarajasana – Dru style.

Health considerations

Always work within your own ability and remember that yoga shouldn’t be painful!

Take care if you have knee cap issues (anterior knee pain), knee problems or balance issues –work gently and use modifications as appropriate.

Modifications

  • Try a standing variation without the strong balance.
  • Use a strap to support the foot.
  • Use a chair or wall for support.
  • Seated with a focus on the arm extension to the Jnaana mudra.
  • Visualise the process.

Benefits

  • Stretches spine.
  • Improves balance
  • Tones leg muscles.
  • Opens chest.
  • Performing Jnaana mudra links with creativity, calmness, and concentration and directs the prana for increased focus and connectedness.
  • Builds strength, releases fear, and allows us to stand in our own power

Tips

  • Do preparatory stretches for the iliopsoas, quadriceps, and pectoralis muscles before you begin the pose.
  • Before starting, stand for a moment in Tadasana and visualise breathing into the heart and out into the earth. Imagine roots extending down into the earth and see your legs strong like the trunk of a tree.
  • Find a point that does not move and look at it with a soft, focused gaze (drishti).
  • Make sure you have activated your core and transferred your weight to the standing leg before starting to move.
  • Spend a moment at each stage to make sure you have your balance – try not to rush the pose.
  • Use the Jnaana mudra as the Dru point (still point) during the pose.
  • Enjoy your practice!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my favourite pose, Natarajasana – a Lord among yoga poses!