“Open your heart, stand strong and find your balance”
I thought it might be beneficial to take a closer look at some key yoga asanas (postures) from time to time, so I figured we’d start with Natarajasana, or Dancer’s Pose, which we looked at in both our classes this week.
I included it this week as we had a heart-opening focus and this is a beautiful heart-opening backbend. There are many variations to this posture, some very advanced, but this variation I am exploring and demonstrating here is accessible to most people and is how I teach the pose in class.
How to perform Natarajasana
1. Stand with the feet together and focus your gaze (drishti) on a fixed point to help with your balance.
2. Shift your weight onto your right leg, bend your left leg, heel towards your bottom and try to catch hold around the left ankle/foot with your left hand. This might come easily to you or you might find it hard to reach your foot in which case you can use a yoga strap (belt/tie) to wrap around the foot instead of holding with your hand. You should feel a lovely stretch across the front of your left thigh here – your quadriceps muscles.
3. Now kick your left foot into your left hand, extending your left leg out backwards as much as possible. You can hold around the outside or inside of the foot depending on what feels comfortable to you. Your right arm can stretch out in front (as in the photo above), taking Gyan Mudra held at around eye line.
4. Try to make sure the hips stay level so that the left hip doesn’t twist out. The leg stays raised directly behind the body as opposed to out to the side and the knee of the extended leg also stays in towards the mid-line.
5. Aim to hold this position for at least 5 breaths (if possible) and keep the gaze focused on your fixed point.
6. To come out of the pose slowly release and lower the left leg back to the floor and lower the arms. Relax a moment before repeating to the other side.
Benefits of Natarajasana
This yoga posture stretches the chest and shoulders deeply
Enhances balance, coordination and concentration
Lengthens and strengthens the front of the torso and spine
Stretches the quadriceps and the iliopsoas (deep hip flexors) in the non weight-bearing leg
Strengthens the standing leg
Gently stretches the spine and opens the heart
Activates the Heart Chakra, Anahata
I always tend to do preparatory stretches before the main pose, focusing on stretching out the quadriceps, still in a standing balance but just concentrating on drawing the heel towards the bottom.
Remember to use your drishti, focusing on a fixed point really does help with the balance.
Take your time, start from where you are, no expectations and remember to breathe deeply.