Natarajasana, or Lord of the Dance pose, is a pose symbolic of both transformation and of maintaining internal bliss amidst chaos.
The pose is named after Nataraja, one of Shiva’s many forms. Shiva is one of the most prominent deities in the Hindu tradition, and is considered the overseer of destruction (or transformation, depending on how you see it).
Nataraja is depicted dancing in a ring of flames—which represent samsara, or the constant cycle of change—birth, death, and rebirth. He is steady, calm, and fearless. All of which are necessary for the pose, Natarajasana.
This pose requires open hips, an open heart, and calm, steady focus.
From the ground up
First, let’s explore the more commonly practiced version of Natarajasana, commonly known as Lord of the Dance pose, or sometimes “Standing Bow”.
This pose helps to warm up for the full expression by stretching the hips, hamstrings, and shoulders.
- Begin by grounding down through the right foot. Lift and spread the toes and distribute your weight evenly over all four corners of the foot.
- Bend the left knee and take hold of the inside arch of the left foot with your left hand.
- Reach your right arm up toward the sky.
- Bring the knees together to square your hips. Maintain squared or at least mostly squared hips in this pose.
- Press your left foot firmly into your hand, kicking it back and up. As you kick, counterbalance by lowering the torso and reaching the right arm forward.
- Hold for five breaths, staying active by continually kicking and reaching. Repeat on the other side.
As you become more comfortable in Lord of the Dance pose, if you are practicing with a mirror in front of you, you should see the lifted foot above your head in the mirror. Eventually if flexibility has become easy for you, holding on to the foot will not be enough, you may need to walk the hand down to the ankle. This will allow you to get a deeper stretch.
When you feel ready to tackle the full expression of Natarajasana or Lord of the Dance pose, you can first try practicing at a wall and with a strap.
- Begin standing with your right side near a wall. Ground down through your right foot.
- Make a small loop in your strap and loop it around your left foot.
- Reach your left arm overhead and bring your right hand to the strap—holding on to the strap with both hands overhead.
- Walk your hands as far down the strap as possible.
- Press your foot back into the strap to open up the shoulders. Keep the heart lifted.
- Use your right elbow on the wall to help with balance. As you get more comfortable you can take the elbow away from the wall.
- Hold for five breaths and repeat on the other side.
Modify or replace
- Stay standing and reach back for the non-standing leg for a quad stretch.
- Hinge slightly forward to challenge balance; then return to standing.
- Keep a slight bend in the knee to avoid hyperextension.
- Place hands at the thighs or hips for support.
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