Natarajasana, or “Lord of the Dance,” is a balancing pose named after Siva in his role as master of the “dance of creation & dissolution.” Like all balancing poses, natarajasana is great for building stability and for strengthening the supporting muscles of the lower legs — muscles that are essential for a healthy gait-pattern. Other benefits include:
- Promotes openness in the shoulder-girdle & upper chest, improving posture & respiration
- Helps open hip flexors & lower abdomen, again improving posture & supporting more efficient movement
- Excellent stretch for the hamstrings
- Readily adapted to a wide range of ability
How It’s Done…
As with all balancing poses, it’s best to start with the side you find most challenging — you’ll be more patient with it, and you’ll enjoy the other side more when you get to it.
- Take a moment to center through the supporting leg, then slowly reach back to take hold of the ankle or foot of the other leg — either from the outside (thumb down) or inside (thumb up), whichever feels best.
- As you raise your free arm, think of it as a lever gently opening the chest — you can even rotate the hand either direction to see what feels best for the chest & shoulder.
- Press the foot back into the hand, allowing the hip to release back — think about engaging the quadriceps while softening both the hip flexor & shoulder, allowing them to release back.
- If you like, allow yourself to hinge forward on the supporting hip — this will deepen the stretch through the hamstrings of your supporting leg.
- Breathe fully to the abdomen, letting the breath deepen the stretch to the rib-cage, shoulder & pelvis.
- Remember to keep your supporting foot soft — it’s natural to tense unconsciously, so we want to keep the muscles relaxed. The supporting leg should be straight but also free from tension.
- It’s okay to vary the angle of the back leg — releasing straight back will increase the stretch to the hip flexor, while letting the hip to release to the side allows more opening through the rib cage. Both versions are valid — find what feels best for you, or you can alternate between the two.
- Most importantly, when you’ve finished on your first side, release slowly & take whatever time you need to fully reset before repeating on the other side — remember, re-centering & absorbing between sides or asanas is every bit as important as our time in the poses.
With practice, you’ll be improving posture, deepening respiration, and supporting the healthy function of the muscles of the lower legs, in turn helping the knees, hips & lower back function the way in which they were designed….