17. Nataraja-asana – The King of the Dance Pose
The Sanskrit word ‘nata’ means ‘dancer’ and ‘raja’ means ‘king’. Nataraja is another name for Shiva, the Lord of the Dance, whose cosmic dance is the creation and destruction of the world.
1. Stand with the feet together and the arms by your sides (see the tad-asana).
2. Inhale and bend the right leg backward grasping the left foot with your left hand while simultaneously extending the right arm straight out in front.
3. Continue raising the right arm upward until it is about 45 degrees from the floor while lifting the left leg as high as possible with the left arm.
4. Hold the posture while breathing gently through the nostrils. Keep your gaze fixed slightly above the horizon.
5. Remain in the nataraja-asana for about one minute then return slowly to a standing position. Repeat by reversing directions 2-4.
Perform the nataraja-asana gracefully as if dancing, yet firmly with focused attention. This posture helps to strengthen your sense of balance and concentration. The arch formed by the back and stretched leg gently aligns the vertebrae of the spine restoring suppleness and easing strain caused by poor posture or long periods of sitting. It tones the muscles of the hips and legs as well as stimulates the chest muscles.
Begin by holding the nataraja-asana for about a minute and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable with this posture. Repeat it three times on each side, alternately from right to left.