King Dancer Pose - Natarajasana Pose

King Dancer Pose - Natarajasana
King Dancer Pose - Natarajasana. Ian Hootan/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Also known as: Lord of the Dance Pose, Dancing Shiva Pose

Type of pose: Standing, balancing

Benefits: Strengthens the legs, improves balance and core strength, stretches the shoulders.

Yoga's most advanced postures often require putting together a combination of difficult skills. Natarajasana, particularly the full version described below under "advanced tips," certainly fits this bill. It requires strong balance, intense back-bending, and open shoulders, all of which take time to cultivate.

The starter variation, pictured here, is more accessible but still no walk in the park. Take it step by step, stopping along the way whenever necessary. 

Instructions:

1. Begin by standing tall in tadasana with your weight equally distributed in both feet.

2. Shift your weight onto the right foot. Bend your left knee to lift your left foot off the floor. Keep your left knee hugging toward your midline throughout this pose. 

3. Grasp the instep of your left foot with your left hand. Your thumb is resting on the sole of your foot and pointing in the direction of your toes.

4. Lift your right arm straight up to the ceiling. 

5. Lift your left leg behind you as you bring your torso forward as a counter balance. Remember that your left knee should not splay out to the side. Your right arm will also move forward. 

6. Kick your left foot strongly into your left hand to lift the leg higher and deepen the backbend.

Keep your left toes active.

7. Hold 5-10 breaths.

8. Lower your left leg back in line with your right. Repeat the pose on the other side.

Beginners' Tips:

1. Fix your gaze on something that doesn't move so that you don’t lose the balance.

2. Position yourself near a wall so you can reach out with your hand for balance if you need to.

Advanced Tips:

When you feel very comfortable with the pose as described above, start to work on the following variations.

1. Work your left foot into the crook of your left elbow. Bend your right arm and drop your right hand behind your back to bind with your left hand. This is like a standing version of mermaid pose.

2. Shift your grasp on your left foot so that your left elbow is pointing up toward the ceiling. This requires coming into a deeper backbend.

Once you have ahold of your left foot with the left hand from above, move your right arm into a parallel position and take hold of the same raised foot. The position of your arms and foot are similar to that of full pigeon. If you can't quite reach your foot with both hands overhead, loop a strap around the foot to help bridge the gap.

Balance and deepen the backbend.

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