Posture of the month: Natarajasana (Dancer's Pose)
For October 2019, we have chosen Natarajasana as Posture of the Month. For now, we are moving away from Forearm Balances and looking at this beautiful, deep backbend, dedicated to none other than Lord Shiva himself.
Natarajasana is the Sanskrit term for 'Dancer's Pose' (from Nata: dancer, Raja: King and asana: posture). This term, the ‘Lord of Dance’, refers to Lord Shiva in his cosmic form as the destroyer, who paves the path to rebirth and regeneration by removing what has become old and stale.
In yogic philosophy, death and destruction are being honoured as part of the cycle of birth and destruction, of change and growth. You have probably come across the main three deities in the Hindu tradition: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the maintainer) and Shiva (the destroyer). In the ancient legends, they are said to all work in harmony to create, maintain and destroy all things material. If one was missing, the cycle of birth, life and death would fall apart.
In most depictions of Shiva as King Nataraja, he is standing on one leg (like we do in this asana), gazing over the head of a small dwarf, the representation of ignorance. He thus encourages us to see beyond ignorance and elevate our consciousness. From a clear focus (drishti) we gain clarity and - from there - steadiness.
Natarajasana also invites us to remember that life is a dance, full of joy, energy and movement. And that no matter which obstacles we may be facing, we should keep engaged in the dance of life.
A beautiful meaning behind a posture that is not only very graceful and aesthetic, but also has a series of health benefits. Make sure you practice it on an empty stomach and not right after having a meal. Should you have any shoulder issues or problems with low blood pressure, please consult with a medical doctor and let your yoga teacher know before class so they can give you alternative options.
Firstly, natarajasana can stimulate the blood flow in the body and raise your energy levels. While balancing on one leg, your are constantly adjusting to stay stable. This helps you to exercise all the small, stabilising muscles that are otherwise difficult to reach.
Secondly, it strengthens the arch in the standing foot. Many of us wear fairly unhealthy shoes, day in day out, including high heels. So it doesn’t hurt to give our feet a bit of extra love.
Thirdly, practicing your dancer improves your balance, which is beneficial in and of itself and will serve you in many other yoga postures. Standing on one leg is a constant challenge. Once you accomplish your goal, you feel a sense of inner peace and calm.
Lastly, it stretches your shoulders and chest. While you are doing so, you are opening up the chest and heart space, a beautiful experience of widening not only on a physical level, but also mentally and spiritually.
To learn more, come along and join us for our daily practices at Flex in October, and watch Cam’s tutorial video below:
Want to read more about Natarajasana? One of the sources of this post has been a fabulous article by Emma Newlyn on Yoga Matters.