Natarajasana is a beautiful and deeply satisfying pose. It requires a combination of strength, flexibility and balance. There are several variations, pictured here is the variation that focuses on the back bend and a variation that is more suitable for beginners that concentrates more on balance and lengthening the body.
Methodology: Start in Tadasana. Balancing on the left foot bend your right knee taking the heel to your right buttock. Holding the little toe side of the foot bring your knees to touch with the right knee lengthening towards the floor to stretch your quadriceps. Fix your eye gaze (drishti) to steady your balance.
For the backbend variation keep your torso relatively upright, leaning forward just a little, arch your back as you draw the foot up and bring your left arm slightly forward to counter balance. Once the thigh is parallel to the ground reach your foot behind you to stretch into the shoulder and deepen the backbend. Avoid compression in the lower back by keeping the hips even and lengthening your tailbone towards the floor.
For the less intense variation, lean forward as you raise the right foot, bringing your torso parallel to the ground and reaching your left arm out in front.
In the full variation you would ‘flip the grip’ of your right hand so the right arm is overhead, and bring the left arm overhead to also catch hold of the right foot, perhaps even arching the back bend so your head comes to the sole of that foot – but this requires an extreme shoulder rotation, an acute backbend and exceptional balance.
Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side. This pose can offer a wonderful feeling of strength and grace.
Contra Indications: If you have any lower back issues refrain from arching the back and taking the backbend, just take the quad stretch, or if it feels okay the variation with the torso coming forward and lengthening. If you suffer from knee pain be careful as you come in and out of the pose.
Benefits: This pose improves balance, strengthening the spine, legs and ankles and stretching the shoulders, quadriceps and abdomen. Balances are great for improving concentration, for cultivating mindfulness and for having some fun!