LORD OF THE DANCE // NATARAJASANA

This is, at least in my opinion, one of the truly beautiful poses in yoga (another one I'd put on the beautiful list is the Wild Thing). It's one of those poses that feel not only empowering and uplifting, but also really fun and playful.



Lord of the Dance is a vigorous pose and anther great all-rounder: standing, balancing and backward bending pose all in one. It strengthens the ankles and knees, and stretches pretty much the whole front body: chest and shoulders, abdomen, groins and thighs. It's also excellent for working on improving your balance.

Basic instructions would go something like this:

  Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart (Tadasana)
  Lift and spread the toes, press the four corners of the feet into the ground, lift the arches
  Engage all leg muscles (imagine as if you were to jump off the ground, but you don't)
  Shift your weight onto the left foot
  Bend your right leg, raise foot towards the bum, keep thigh bones parallel
  Reach the right hand back and grab the right foot or ankle
  Begin to lift the right foot up and away from the torso
  Stretch left arm in front

As you stand in Tadasana and start shifting your weight onto the left foot, press the top of the left thigh back and feel the muscles strong on all sides of the left leg. Don't lock the KNEE: if there is a tendency to hyperextend the knee, microbend (= a bend so little it is barely visible) the knee to counteract this. An easy way to tell whether a leg is straight and not hyperextended is to look at your leg from the side (use a mirror or ask someone to check for you): the ankle, the knee and the hip should all be in one straight line.

As the right leg starts to lift, keep an eye on the HIPS. The natural tendency will be for the right hip (lifting leg) to rise and the left hip (standing leg) to descend, but this action throws the whole alignment off and makes it more difficult to balance. Square the hips by drawing the left outer hip back and tucking the right buttock under as a kind of a seesaw movement. Keep the thigh bones parallel and draw the knees towards each other (towards the midline of the body). It's important to keep the lifting leg engaged: this will help with balance and stability, and with keeping the hips square.

When reaching back with your right hand to grab the lifted foot, you can hold onto the inner or the outer edge (I find that holding the inner edge deepens the shoulder stretch). whichever variation you choose, make sure to fully INTEGRATE the top of the armbone before extending it back. Start by extending the arm in front of you, actively draw it back into the shoulder socket, keeping the top of the armbone in place (ie in the shoulder socket), lower the arm down, extend it behind and grap hold of the foot.

As you lift the right foot up and back, keep an eye on the hips making sure they remain squared (= right outer hip moves down, left thighbone moves back). The aim is to lift the right thigh up so that it becomes parallel with the floor. But remember, yoga is not a competition: if the final form is not happening just yet, it's absolutely ok to just imagine moving towards it. Respect for and awareness of your body comes first. When working on gaining balance, strength and flexibility, it always pays off to practice PATIENCE.

It's great to have a goal to works towards though so today, I'd like to end on an aspirational note... the bound version of lord of the dance:

tiffany cruikshank // photo: jasper johal
P.S. For more info, go to yoga journal, which has a great asana library and it's all free! And if you liked what you read, why not subscribe to my Serendipity letter and get yours (and more) straight to your inbox!

No comments:

Post a Comment