Dancer's Pose  -Natarajasana

Step by step

  • Begin in Tadasana / Mountain pose.
  • Press firmly and evenly through your feet and take a point on eye level to focus on. 
  • Exhale bend your left knee, bringing your left foot to the buttock, and hold the outside of your left foot with the left hand. Firm the right hip in and engage your right thigh and knee to make the standing leg strong. 
  • Keep the torso upright, the chest open and lengthen your tailbone down. As you inhale, push the left foot back into the hand, raising the leg so the thigh bone ends up parallel to the floor and the lower leg in a right angle with the thigh bone and vertical with the floor. You can lift your right arm up in front of you, parallel to the floor or a little higher next to the ear. 
  • Stay for 5-10 breaths. 
  • To come out of the pose, release the leg as you exhale. Repeat on the other side. 

Tips for beginners

  • If your balance is not great you can try doing this pose near a wall 
  • To help you get into the full expression of the pose, you can use a belt. Loop the belt around your left foot. Make sure the strap comes over your shoulder from the back. Then walk your hands down the belt, elbows pointing to the ceiling, hands behind the back, slowly lifting the foot. 

Benefits

  • Strengthens the feet, ankles, legs, core, back and arms.
  • Opens the front of the body, the chest, abdomen, hip flexors and the shoulders.
  • Improves balance and concentration.

Watch out for

  • Don't lock the knee of the standing leg. You can keep a micro-bend in the knee to avoid this.
  • This is a strong backbend, make sure you are properly warmed up and prepared by sequencing this pose after other backbends like Cobra, Locust and Bow pose.

Variations

  • You can hold onto your bent leg with both hands, to intensify the opening in the chest. However, your balance needs to be good for this. 
  • You can try to hold the foot from the inside - this changes the stretch in the shoulder slightly.