The name comes from the Sanskrit words nata meaning “dancer,”raja meaning “king,” and asana meaning “posture.” Nataraja is one of the names given to the Hindu God Shiva in his form as the cosmic dancer.
After finishing my teacher training (TT) program in December, I embarked on yet another yoga journey through which not only helped boost my yoga teaching confidence, but it also allowed me to get to know better some of my fellow TT yogi bears who decided to commit to yet another chunk of time while also putting some pretty amazing new souls in my life.
One of the “OM” work (cute, I know)–ok let’s call it for what it is…”assignments”–was to breakdown postures and do a little background research on them (history, benefits, modifications, mythology, symbolism, philosophy, etc.). Dancer’s Pose, one of asanas (postures) in the “beginner” sequence known as “C1” at Core Power Yoga, is the pose I selected to breakdown. I did this without much thought. I had to pick one and this is the first one that popped into my head, everything happens for a reason…To get into this pose you…
- stand tall, arms reach for the ceiling (palms in)
- drop down your elbow by your waist line (imagine you were holding a tray)
- kick your leg (right first, then you’ll repeat on the left) toward your booty grabbing for the big toe-side of your foot (this will give you an external shoulder rotation)
- voilà, you’re in dancer’s pose
Hopping onto the Googs (Google, I tend to abbreviate a lot of words #DaisyLexicon), I typed “dancer’s pose history.” Quickly skimming some websites and jotting down a few notes (completing this during the sliver of “free” time I had), I started realizing how much I actually enjoyed the sensation of this pose. The stretch in your thigh, the opening of your shoulder, chest and collar bone, and when you take its deeper expression (grounding down through your standing leg and kicking your foot into your hand) you can feel a greater stretch in your leg while inviting a more intense opening through your chest that creates more of a back-bend for your body. For me not only do I feel a deeper physical connection, but I also gain a sense of empowerment…
Perhaps it was my subconscious that helped me pick this posture to explore, but when I read it’s history I kind of had a “get out of here” moment. I identified with it so much. Here’s what I found:
- The asana is a representation of constant change: My left wrist bears a tattoo that speaks to the state of constant change (and how breathe calms the mind during a transitions or when we experience intense emotions). In life, that is the only constant: change.
- A nugget of history: The pose symbolizes the ancient dance of Shiva and how he finds bliss amid chaos. He represents a duality: the fierceness and tender aspect of living. The pose celebrates life’s ups and downs. You can live from your center (heart) seeking balance (physically you’re balancing on your one grounded leg) during life’s challenges.
- Heart opening posture: Any heart opening posture welcomes conscious awareness. When you open your heart you become vulnerable. Yoga has taught me many things and one of the things that really “stuck” with me was that being vulnerable isn’t a “bad” thing. Many of us don’t want to show our vulnerabilities because we mistake that for weakness. I’m learning that it’s okay to be vulnerable.
I love the posture’s metaphor and its interconnection with a bigger picture: remaining steadfast (balanced on your one standing leg) even when you feel overwhelmed (like you’re losing balance) with life’s challenges.
What’s your favorite yoga pose? Maybe do some digging and you’ll discover a deeper connection with it 🙂