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Natarajasana (Dancer Pose or Lord of the Dance Pose) is a deep backbend that requires patience, focus, and persistence. The pose is named after the Hindu god Shiva Nataraja, King of the Dance, who finds bliss in the midst of destruction. Like its namesake, Lord of the Dance Pose embodies finding steadying calm within.
In preparation for Natarajasana, stretch your shoulders, chest, hips, and inner thighs in the same manner in which they will be challenged in this pose. Practice balancing poses such as Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and stretches like Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose).
As you stand on each leg in Dancer Pose, you’ll strengthen your ankles and begin to correct any muscle imbalances you might have in your legs, hips, and glutes. You can use a strap to achieve greater access to Dancer Pose, and to keep your hips squared toward the front of the mat and your lifted knee in life with your hip rather than splayed out to the side.
Dancer Pose | Lord of the Dance Pose basics
Sanskrit: Natarajasana (not-ah-raj-AHS-anna)
Other names: Lord of the Dance Pose, King Dancer Pose
Targets: Lower Body
Why we love it: “I was never a dancer but in this pose, I feel graceful and long,” says Tracy Middleton, Yoga Journal‘s brand director. “Natarajasana is all about balance: You’re simultaneously kicking and reaching. It’s a balance of effort and ease that requires all of your attention. Some days I fall out of the pose, others I’m steady and strong. It’s a good reminder that as it is in yoga, it is in life. Every day is a new chance to find balance.”
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Dancer Pose improves balance and focus, postural awareness, proprioception (a sense of your body’s position and movement in space), and body awareness. It can boost energy, fight fatigue, and build confidence. It strengthens your core and back muscles, and stretches your chest and shoulders. On the standing leg, it strengthens the front of your hip (hip flexor), your thigh (while also stretching the back of your thigh/hamstring), shin, and ankle. On the lifted leg, it strengthens your glutes and back of your thigh (hamstring). Dancer Pose also stretches the front of your hip (hip flexor), front on your thigh (quadriceps), and ankle.
Dancer Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) facing the front of the mat. Notice the symmetry of your pelvis and your torso.
- Press down through your big toe mounds and lift your inner arches. Rotate your inner thighs toward the wall behind and release your tailbone down.
- Lift your sternum away from your navel and soften your front ribs.
- Bend your right knee and bring your right heel toward your backside. Reach back with your right hand to clasp your ankle. Ideally, you will reach from the inside so that your palm faces the right and your shoulder is in external rotation.
- Bring your right knee alongside your left knee. Pause and observe which of the elements from Tadasana have been lost. To bring your body back into symmetry, press down with your left big toe mound, draw your left outer hip into the midline, and bring the right side of your pelvis and chest forward in line with your left.
- Maintain the symmetry in your body as you start to press your right thigh back and up. Lead with your inner thigh and press your right big toe mound away from you. Simultaneously reach your left arm forward and up, leading with your inner upper arm.
- Reach your sternum away from your navel to maintain the lift of your chest while you extend back and up with your right thigh. Keep your right knee in toward the midline rather than splay it out to the side.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths, then release back to Tadasana.
- Repeat on the other side.
Many beginners, when lifting the leg, tend to cramp in the back of the thigh. To avoid this, keep the ankle of your raised foot flexed (that is, draw the top of your foot toward the shin.)
Variation: Dancer holding onto a chair
For balance and stability, hold on to the back of a chair.