April Pose of the Month
Nata (Dancer) Raj (King) Asana (Pose)
Level: Beginner - Intermediate
Natarajasana has so many elements to it that if it feels difficult it is because it is a difficult pose! But in other respects it is a simple wonderful pose of self expression and grace.
Many yoga asana's (postures) hold mythical stories that can teach us to live life with more awareness and openness to see things not as they first appear but to look further afield to enable us to see the bigger picture.
Dancer's Pose has always been one of my favourite poses to practice myself not because I understood the mythology behind it (because I had no idea for many years before I started my teacher training), I simply liked it because it enabled me to embody what it might feel like to be a dancer, it made me feel good, open and joyous, I always to seem to automatically go into some version of dancer in pictures just to make them more interesting and fun!!!
Mythical Teachings Behind Natarajasana (King of the Dance or Cosmic Dancer):
"According to Hindu mythology, and in comparison to our short human lives, the ages of the world are long. Shiva, the destroyer, is the one responsible for turning the world to dust so that another world can be created in its place – out of the ashes of a fire springs new growth. For Shiva, each age passes in the blink of an eye and he marks the passing of each age with the beat on the drum that he carries. Each beat on this drum is both a death and a rebirth and it is to this rhythm that Shiva dances inside a circle of fire that represents ‘samsara’; the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound."
(extract taken from - shadesofyoga.com).
The snake around the neck of Shiva represents the dangerous venom of Avidya (Avidya in yoga texts is one of the 5 main obstacles of life, Avidya describes our ignorance to who we truly are and as a result we develop our ego instead of seeing our true selves, which is pure love), Shiva is immune to this as he understands that we are all divine, all one and all connected to creation. The dwarf that Shiva dances on represents this ignorance the ego and joyously sees the beauty within all of us and moves to the beat of his own drum.
Even though Shiva is called the destroyer, it is through his destruction of the old that creates new rich soil in which rebirth can occur. Natarajasana teaches us that ultimately nothing stays the same, everything changes with time, experience and life. We will not permanently stay in a state of sadness or happiness, we won't always be young and we won't always be old, once we accept that we are meant to change and grow, we can be free from the restraints of having to feel or be or certain way simply because we think we should. Shiva represents, freeing us from the fear of change. When we know and believe that as energetic beings we can not be created or destroyed we simply change form.
Energetic and Emotional Benefits of Natarajasana
Calms the mind
Improves concentration and focus
Stretches abdomen, thighs and groin
Stretches chest and shoulders
Improves range of motion in the shoulder joint
Strengthens ankles and legs
Strengthens the arches of the feet
Tones and stretches the hip flexors and legs
Strengthens the spine
Can improve posture
Can help with weight loss
Dancer pretty much opens the whole front body and strengthens the back body
Cautions and Contraindications
Low Blood Pressure
Injury in shoulder and spine - be mindful, don't push
Hints and Tips
To help balance, it can be helpful to keep your eye gaze on one point, perhaps past the tip of your middle finger
Use the wall to help you to balance at first if necessary
To advance the pose use a strap to help open the upper back to take hold of the foot
There are 6 things that are required for the full expression of Dancers Pose as shown on the right:
1. Balance 2. Hamstring Flexibility (for standing leg)
3. Hamstring Strength ( for lifted leg)
4. Strong Core
5. Open Chest and Spinal Flexibilty: 6. Shoulder Flexibility and Rotation
When we continuously work on these things in our yoga practice you (and myself) may be able to hold the foot with both hands but it may not be the case for many people due to the structure of their skeleton. I believe its good to know what the full expression of a pose is so you can work towards it if you desire, however I'm an even bigger believer and not letting the look of a pose over ride how the pose feels. To me Yoga is not about looks but feelings, its nice to look good but its even better to feel good, so with this in mind please don't rush into the shape of Natarajasana but instead feel your way in, take your time and enjoy your practice.