I have this recurring dream about Naṭarājāsana or King Dancer’s Pose. In my dream, I can reach over my head, grab my foot and place my foot on my head. The dream is so vivid that I when I come to my mat to practice and I work on this posture, I forget that I’m unable to reach my foot. I believe in the energy and the power of manifestation. The fact that I can imagine the pose so clearly tells me that someday I may be able to experience it.
This pose is an homage to Shiva, the Lord of the Dance. It’s symbolic of our cosmic rhythm and the cyclical nature of life, the circle of life with all of its joys, sorrows, and everything in between. With a strong base and an open heart we can join fully in the dance of life whatever the rhythm or pace, challenge or reward.
At it’s fullest expression, this pose is a major back bend requiring open shoulders, a pliable back, open quads, and the stability of the balancing leg. Try these variations to find your fullest expression. Keep in mind that your fullest energetic, imaginative expression might be different that your fullest physical expression. Working on this path, may bring the two together at some time in the future.
Option 1 – Reach for the Foot. Root and ground through the balancing leg. Bend the opposite knee, keeping hip, knee, foot, and shoulder in the same plane. Reach back to grab the foot. If you need to coil in to reach it, be sure to re-extend through the standing leg and spine. Reach the tailbone long, avoiding any crunching in the low back. Begin to kick away as you reach the heart into the opposite hand.
Option 2 – Expansion. Maximize the kick of the foot into the hand as you resist the kick with a gentle pull of the hand. Extend the opposite arm long overhead. Reach the crown of the head and the foot skyward, imagining that you can create a teardrop shape with your torso and leg. Vary the grab of the foot, try reaching for the arch edge or the blade edge. These variations create slightly different opportunities for opening the shoulder.
Option 3 – Arms Overhead with Strap. Using a strap around the lifted foot, reach the arms overhead and walk the hands down the strap. Keep the elbows pointing up and the hands lower than the elbows. When you hoist the foot up as high as it can go, kick away. Keep the back long as you resist the kick with the strap, reaching the heart up.
Option 4 – Arms Overhead Grab Foot. (not pictured) Reach for the foot, with the elbow out to the side. With a firm grip on the foot, lift the elbow overhead. The opposite hand can extend up or reach for the foot. Work to lengthen both sides of the body as the heart and foot lift.
In the words of Martha Graham, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.” Let this pose, whatever the variation, be an expression of your deepest self. Work where you can find balance and let the breath move as if it were dancing through your body. Join in this weekly challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.