Natarajasana is a standing asana that requires balance and concentration.
The name comes from the Sanskrit nata, meaning “dancer,” raja, meaning “king,” and asana, meaning “pose” or “posture.” The common English name for this pose is dancer’s pose.
Traditionally, nataraja is the king, or lord, of the dance, which is the cosmic dance of creation, preservation and dissolution. Named after him, Natarajasana teaches one to recognize contrasts. On one hand, one is aware of the dance of life, with all its rhythms, cycles, challenges and rewards; but, behind all of this, there is absolute stillness. This pose helps the practitioner to be able to witness all of these movements and changes, but remain changeless. In other words, to be still while dancing and to dance while being still.
Natarajasana improves balance and focus. It strengthens the legs, hips, ankles, and chest, and helps one develop grace. It also promotes inner stillness and consciousness of the world changing all around.
- Begin in Tadasana / Mountain pose.
- Press firmly and evenly through your feet and take a point on eye level to focus on.
- Exhale bend your left knee, bringing your left foot to the buttock, and hold the outside of your left foot with the left hand. Firm the right hip in and engage your right thigh and knee to make the standing leg strong.
- Keep the torso upright, the chest open and lengthen your tailbone down. As you inhale, push the left foot back into the hand, raising the leg so the thigh bone ends up parallel to the floor and the lower leg in a right angle with the thigh bone and vertical with the floor. You can lift your right arm up in front of you, parallel to the floor or a little higher next to the ear.
- Stay for 5-10 breaths.
- To come out of the pose, release the leg as you exhale. Repeat on the other side.
There are variations of this pose in which one can grasp the inside of the lifted foot with the opposite hand and the outside of the foot with the other hand. This requires even greater balance and helps to open the chest even more. Some teachers instruct students to raise the extended arm up to the sky instead of keeping it parallel in order to keep the heart lifted. Also, as this is a backbend, it is important not to pitch the torso forward, but lift the heart upwards instead.