By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Natarajasana, in this pose the practitioner assumes the shape of lord of the dance, another name given to Lord Shiva. In the final pose the practitioner resembles Lord Shiva in a dancing pose and hence the name.
Table of Contents
Natarajasana – Lord of the Dance Pose / Dance Pose
Nata = dance
Raja = king / lord
Asana = pose
This pose is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is said to be the master of time, source of Yoga and cosmic rhythm of life. It is the dancing avatar of Lord Shiva through which his love for dance, music and art are depicted.
It needs immense balance, intense back bending and open shoulders to accomplish this pose. This pose is considered as an advanced level standing, balancing back bend.
It is a standing, balancing, back-bending pose. It is supposed to be developed from an Indian classical dance pose called Bharatanatyam. This pose of dancing Lord Shiva is depicted in the famous shrine of Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, Tamilnadu – South India. This pose is that of Lord Shiva in his form as a cosmic dancer.
This pose is entered from standing in Tadasana, bending one knee and stretching that foot back until it can be grasped with the hand on that side. The foot can then be extended back and up, arching the back and stretching out the other arm forwards. For the full pose and a stronger stretch, reverse the rear arm by lifting it over the shoulder, and grasp the foot.
Preparation for Natarajasana
Positioning for the pose
Stand in Tadasana tall and straight with head and neck straight. Your ribcage should be in line with your pelvis.
Getting into the pose
Now take left leg forward imparting the total body weight on it.
Your back leg i.e. right leg is placed with its toes touching the floor with heel up while maintaining the stability. Keep your hands on hips.
Flex right leg at your ankle, pull right leg up and hold foot with your right hand. You can hold on the outside or inside of foot, as if feels comfortable for you to do.
Make supporting (left) leg nice and strong. At this point you should be well balanced on your left foot. Your chest, shoulders, thighs and groins should be opened up.
Stretch left arm in front of you and move forward holding right foot with right hand. Keep neck and shoulders relaxed. Avoid squeezing neck and shoulders. The shoulders should be down and relaxed.
Keep moving forward and lengthen yourself into the pose. Your shoulder will open up. Don’t let the pelvis / hips go out (to open up). Keep it in front. Keep opening up chest and avoid bending or compressing back as you move forward. Move only to an extent to which your body allows you to move. If your flexibility allows, you can move till you make ninety degrees with right leg. Root down from foot. Feel the connection from your hip to the heel.
Be here for few breaths. Fix your gaze on a spot. Alternatively you may make a mudra with fingers of your extending arm and gaze at it to concentrate. This will give you good balance.
Read – How To Do Pranayama – A Simple Pranayama Technique
Release from the pose
Key points to remember while in the pose
Your knee should not be locked. It should also not be excessively extended or overtly bent. Keep it relaxed and soft. To keep your supporting knee soft, keep your quadriceps engaged.
Ensure that the ankle of your raised foot is flexed. Therefore you must move the top of your foot closer to the shin.
Breathe in and lift left foot. Your heel is placed towards the left butt with your knees bent.
Advanced pose alteration
You can challenge yourself deeper into the pose. Catch the inner part of your raised foot with the opposite hand swept behind your back. Grab the outer edge of your left foot with your right hand. This is more challenging and will enhance your ability for a better balance. This variation will also raise your chest and give a deeper stretch to your shoulders.
Read – Padmasana Lotus Pose, How to do, Benefits, Side Effects, Ayurveda View
You may do this pose standing in the tadasana, without moving one leg forward (as explained above). From Tadasana you may directly bring one of your leg up and hold the foot with the hand of the same side. The other steps will be the same.
You may practice to balance yourself by holding each foot with your hand of the same side alternatively one side after the other before bending forward. Once you learn to control by standing with imparting the entire body weight on one leg you may proceed to take the bend.
When you move forward if you cannot balance yourself, you may hold the chair in front of you with the extending arm or press against the wall in front of you. You can do this until you get a balance in this pose. Later you can move forward and take a bend without any support.
You may hold your flexed leg with both hands until you get a balance.
If you cannot reach your foot, you can use a strap to extend your reach.
Follow Up Poses
Natarajasana is one of the last poses in the backbend series. To comfort and relieve your spine you could perform Ardha Uttanasana after practicing Natarajasana.
Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths / 15-30 seconds
This pose activates and energizes Anahata Chakra – Heart Chakra, and Manipura Chakra – Solar Plexus / Navel Chakra.
Doshas – Mainly balances Vata and Pitta.
Elements – Balances air and fire elements.
Read – Chakra – Kundalini: Introduction, Meaning, Types, Location, Ayurveda View
Note – Even in these conditions you may do with slight modifications if need be, but with the consent and supervision of an expert Yoga master.
This pose may be avoided during pregnancy and menstruation.
Avoid over arching of the pose while in pose
Impact on Doshas and its subtypes – Since this pose generates head, increases the metabolism and also improves digestive functions, it is pitta increasing in nature. At the same time it keeps samana vata and kledaka kapha in balance. It expands the chest and opens the heart and also activates thyroid gland and hence balances udana vata and avalambaka kapha. Its contribution in improving the memory, concentration and focus also points towards its balancing effect on udana vata and the udana vata-prana vata axis.
The pose balances the head doshas i.e. prana vata, sadhaka pitta and tarpaka kapha and thereby releases stress by keeping your mind calm, promotes consciousness and postural awareness. It also helps you to gain balance and confidence and relieves fatigue and hence has balancing effect on kapha, mainly shleshaka kapha, the tissues of the body and vyana vata.
Impact on tissues – Since this pose strengthens and stretches the muscles it can be considered to be good for health of muscle tissue and channels of transportation of muscle tissue. Likewise it is good pose and exercise for bone tissue. It helps in balancing the fat tissue as it expels excessive fat from its stores and also enables loss of weight.