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How to Do Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)

Dancer Pose is iconic, its silhouette gracing the cover of Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, which is one of the most widely read yoga books on the planet. Iyengar’s version, in which he reaches over his shoulder to grip his foot, requires very open shoulders, in addition to the ability to do deep backbends and balance while standing on one leg. Before you give up on this pose, however, know that most people begin with a much more accessible version, which we’ll describe below.

If you’ve already been practicing for a while, we also have a great method for using a strap to train yourself towards feeling comfortable with the over-the-shoulder grip. Let’s get into all the pertinent alignment details and ways to adapt this pose!

Benefits of Dancer Pose:

Improves balance and core strength

Builds leg strength

Opens the chest and shoulders

Instructions:

  1. Come to stand at the front of your yoga mat in Mountain Pose.
  1. Shift your weight to your right leg while keeping your hips squared to the front of your mat.
  1. Lift your left foot away from the floor by bending your left knee and bringing your left heel toward your left buttock.
  1. Reach your left hand behind you and take hold of the inside or outside of your left ankle. If you’re not sure, try both grips and notice how they feel different.
  1. Raise your right arm straight up to the ceiling with your palm pointed inward.
  1. Begin to lean your torso forward while taking your left knee back and up. Keep both hip points facing the front of your mat.
  1. Stop when your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to your standing leg.
  1. Kick your left foot in your hand to lift your left heel away from your butt. Press your hand back into your foot to create oppositional energy and keep your hips from opening to the side.
  1. Activate your left foot and your right hand, bringing awareness to your toes and fingers.
  1. After several breaths, return to upright and release your left foot. Then do the posture on the other side.

Working Towards an Over the Shoulder Grip 

  1. Make a loop in a yoga strap and slip it over your left foot when you are standing upright with your left knee bent. 
  1. Stand with your foot in the loop, left heel near your butt. Drape the strap over your left shoulder so that the end of the strap is on the front of your body. 
  1. Hold the strap in your left hand. As you begin to tilt forward, lift your left elbow toward the ceiling. With the hand and foot connected over the shoulder, you may not tilt as far forward. 
  1. Lift your right elbow toward the ceiling and let your right hand join your left in holding the strap.
  1. Walk your hands down the strap toward your foot. Stop when your reach your fullest extension.
  1. Eventually, your hands will make contact with your toes and you can release the strap, holding your foot with either your left hand or both hands.
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