12.31.2010

Asana of the Week: Natarajasana


"This vigorous and beautiful pose is dedicated to Siva, Lord of the Dance, who is also the fountain and source of Yoga (BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga)."

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.

Advanced variation


The standing leg works strongly here to maintain balance, particularly in the outer hip and lower leg.  The spinal extensors contract to create the bend in the back.  The rectus abdominus and obliques of the standing leg side work to support the lumbar spine and distribute more of the curve into the thoracic spine (upper back) while squaring the shoulders straight ahead.  The quadriceps, psoas, rectus abdominus, and intercostals of the lifted leg side are given a good stretch which is intensified by the opposing action of the foot pressing into the hand and the hand pulling back on the foot.  Use these opposing forces within the body to find equilibrium and balance in this pose (image source).

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.
  1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
  2. Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose)
  3. Ardha Chandrasana (Half-moon Pose)
  4. Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana (Standing Splits)
  5. Parivrtta Natarajasana (Revolved King Dancer Pose)
  6. Release and repeat steps 1-5 on the opposite side.


5 comments:

  1. Love this one! And love your blog, btw, been following it for a few weeks.
    What's Parivrtta Natarajasana / Revolved King Dancer Pose? Both names turn very few hits in Google Image!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Gina - Thanks for the comment! To practice the revolved variation of King Dancer, one would reach back with the right hand, for example, to grab the inside edge of the left foot and then kick the foot into the hand to create the backbend. Try entering the pose from Revolved Half Moon, with one hand on the ground, and then lifting up from there. I always get some great opening sensation in the outer hip of the standing leg when I practice this variation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting! Thanks for the reply. It sounds hard though, I'll give it a try but I think I'll have to stick to the regular Natarajasana for now (I'm a beginner).
    Hey, just a little anecdote about how I came to following your blog: I was googling "Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana" in Google Images after seeing it in a video on Youtube, and there were only two hits, one of which was your blog. I came, explored a little bit, followed. So it pays to blog about "obscure" poses! ;-) I'm surprised that pose isn't more popular, I personally love it. Anyway... thanks for a great blog for the beginner I am! The photos are great and the texts too!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have the worst time coming out of this pose. It makes me dizzy afterward. I feel great while I'm in it, but see stars when it's done!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm a little late in replying but @Kira I read somewhere that you should not do this pose if you have low blood pressure.

    ReplyDelete

I delight in your questions and comments and do my best to respond to each one.