Natarajasana, sometimes referred to as "Dancer Pose," is a challenging and energizing standing balance with a backbend. The full expression of this pose, in which the arms reach back to take hold of the foot and pull the sole of the foot toward the back of the head, requires a great deal of flexibility in the spine, psoas, and shoulders and lots of strength in the legs and core. Luckily, there are many variations of Natarajasana to practice as you build the strength and flexibility necessary for the full expression of the pose. The variation pictured above, with the hand to the inside of the foot, is my preference, but one may also take hold of the outer edge of the foot or use a strap around the foot to practice this pose.
I have had to work very hard for my backbends in general, and Natarajasana in particular has always been a challenge for me. In an effort to gently open the chest and shoulders and bring more awareness into my thoracic spine, I have been working with hang-backs and spending a fair amount of time in supported heart openers, but I feel I've still got a long way to go before my shoulders and upper back will be open enough to approach the full expression of the pose. In the meantime, I've been enjoying the more accessible variations and finding new ways to utilize this pose in my practice.
Natarajasana Sequence: This brief standing sequence will challenge your balance, deepen your backbends, and strengthen and stretch the outer hips. Be sure to warm up well with lots of Surya Namaskara before attempting these poses. Hold each pose for 3-5 breaths.
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose)
- Ardha Chandrasana (Half-moon Pose)
- Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana (Standing Splits)
- Parivrtta Natarajasana (Revolved King Dancer Pose)
- Release and repeat steps 1-5 on the opposite side.