Instructor: Sarah N.
Sarah has completed an intensive yoga teacher training program in Pune, India at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute. She has been inspired to continue practicing and teaching yoga for life.

Lord of the Dance Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions


Natarajasana, or Lord of the Dance Pose, is a posture that requires lots of preparation to master. Normally you would perform this asana after warming up your legs with standing poses and practicing your backbends first.

Step by Step Pose Information Benefits Partnering

Natarajasana

(Pronounced as "knot-ah-RAH-JAHS-anna")

The literal translation of Nataraja is "King or Lord of the Dance," which is one of the famous names of Lord Shiva. The ancient traditions also consider Shiva the source of the yogic teachings. On a deeper level, Shiva's dance symbolizes how every atom in creation is vibrating with cosmic energy.

How to do Lord of the Dance Pose

Step One

Stand up straight on your yoga mat in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose. Next, lift your left arm up straight in front of you. Hold the left arm at shoulder level with your left palm facing the floor. Stretch the arm out almost as if you are trying to grab something in front of you that's just out of reach.

Now shift your weight onto your left leg and keep it straightened. Bend your right knee and raise the right foot up behind you near your buttocks. Bend your right arm so that you can reach back and grasp your right big toe in between the right thumb and the first and middle fingers of your right hand. Hold the big toe with your right palm facing upward toward the ceiling. Keeping the right leg well bent, pull your right foot up behind you until it's at almost the same height as your shoulders.

Step Two

Keep your grip firm on the right foot. Then rotate your hand and shoulder as needed to slowly lift your right elbow up toward the ceiling, opening up your right armpit as much as possible. If this movement is too difficult, then skip down to the alternate version listed below. Push your shoulder blades deeply into your back and expand your chest. Tuck in your tailbone deeply as you move deeper into this stretch. As you lift the right arm this way, you will simultaneously lift the right foot behind you. Pull up the right leg in such a way that the right thigh becomes parallel to the floor. The right shin should be perpendicular the ground. Keep visualizing pressing your tailbone down toward the floor.

Step Three

As you continue balancing on the left leg, pull the left kneecap up and keep the left thigh very active to avoid hyperextending the standing leg. You may find yourself needing to lean forward to balance with the leg raised behind you. In the beginning stages, it is fine to stay like that. Gradually, however, you want to learn to pull your torso up more so that you are holding up the center of your torso perpendicular to the floor. You need to pull yourself up into more of a backbend to achieve this final position.

Step Four

In the beginning, it's enough to hold the final posture for up to 15 seconds. Later on after your endurance increases, then you can stay for up to 30 seconds. Do not hold your breath in the final posture. When you are ready to come out, release your grip on the raised foot and let it come down as you return to Tadasana. Then repeat these steps on the other side for the same duration.

Alternate Version:

Rather than reaching your arm up over your shoulder to grab the foot behind you, you can instead reach your arm out to the side with your hand down and grab your ankle rather than the foot. Then practice slowly pulling up the leg only as far as you're able to behind you as you balance. This variation is an excellent preparation for the full pose that will slowly help increase your flexibility.

Beginner's Tip:

Warm up your legs in the seated Virasana Pose and follow it with Uttanasana to avoid getting cramps in the legs as you practice Natarajasana. If you still get cramps in your thighs and hips even after that, then practice the pose by flexing the raised foot. In other words, you can keep the top of the foot at a 90-degree angle with the shin instead of pointing your toes. Then grab your ankle instead of the toes.

Pose Information

Sanskrit Name:

Natarajasana

Pose Level:

Level 3

Modifications and Props:

You can practice the posture near a wall or chair that you can hold onto with your free hand to help you keep your balance. Also, try taking a yoga belt and making a small loop at the end of the belt. Then slip the belt loop around your foot and lift up this foot behind you by holding onto the end of the belt. You can gradually walk your fingers down the belt closer to your foot little by little.

Deepen the Pose:

After you have become comfortable in the full pose without relying on anything for support, then try to reach both arms over and behind your head to grab your foot with both hands while balancing on your standing leg. Then gradually arch your head and torso fully, coming into a maximum backbend. Now pull your foot up enough to touch the sole of your foot against the top of your head.

Benefits:

  • Stretches out tension in the hips, groins and abdomen
  • Builds strength in the back
  • Opens the chest fully
  • Tones and strengthens the legs, ankles and arches of the feet
  • Greatly improves your posture

Partnering:

Ask a partner to help you go deeper in the pose. They can help adjust your overall positioning if you are leaning too far forward or backward so that you stay balanced. Once you feel stable in the pose, then they can stand behind you and grab your lifted ankle with one hand and the wrist of your raised arm with their other hand. Then they can help pull your hand down a little more and lift the leg up a little bit so that you get a better grip on the foot behind you.

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Big Toe Pose
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Bound Angle Pose
Bow Pose
Bridge Pose
Camel Pose
Cat Pose
Chair Pose
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Corpse Pose
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Plow Pose
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Hero Pose
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