Nature is ever-changing. Energy is flowing from one form and shape to the other. Being alive means facing these changes and challenges which are constantly there in our lives. How we stand in life and deal with it all depends on our inner state of mind. Yoga gives us tools through which we can anchor ourselves. Yoga practice makes us more and more able to be the watcher and to act from that point according to our intellect. Through meditation we can center and ground better and see through the illusion and created reality around and inside of us. Asanas are a great way to work towards this same goal. Especially when our minds are overloaded with information and assignments, being physically active is a great way to ground again and be present. It is also very much needed in order to feel in balance. When grounded, we can stay calmer, make wiser choices, let go unnecessary load, and be open and curious to the new.
Natarajasana is a standing back bending asana. It is a complex posture in which balance, focus, strength, and flexibility are needed. While standing in natarajasana, viyana prana, udana and apana prana are activated. Apana prana makes us able to stand and ground, udana prana takes care of the balance and viyana prana stimulates circulation throughout the whole body. Natarajasana is a very powerful posture since it balances all three doshas. It develops concentration, improves balance, stretches the shoulders and the chest.
Natarajasana, a physical embodiment of the king Nataraja, a form of the lord Shiva, is a tribute to this powerful cosmic dancer, the god of destruction. This pose is a helpful reminder of the need to embrace all the aspects of life, also destruction, and death. Since there can be no creation, no birth without destruction and death. On one hand, one is aware of and able to witness the dance of life, with all its rhythms, cycles, challenges, and rewards and also, behind all of this, absolute stillness. King Nataraja is mostly shown as standing on one leg gazing over the ignorance thus this pose is often called ‘the dancer pose’. It encourages our consciousness to elevate above ignorance, above the common thoughts and misunderstandings that cloud our view. The balance that comes from the pose awakens our understanding that clarity brings steadiness. Good preparation for Natarajasana is very beneficial. Doing some asanas beforehand to stimulate apana, udana and viyana prana and by that improving focus, balance, and opening in the chest and shoulders allows the practitioner to be able to go more fully into the final pose.
1 – Start by grounding yourself and finding your balance in the tree pose [Vrksasana]: Stand up straight and press your palms together in front of your heart. Place the sole of your right foot against the inner ankle of your left leg and open the right knee to the side. Find balance. Press your tailbone down and tuck the belly in. Lift up your chest. Feel the grounding through your standing leg and lifting up through the crown of your head. If you feel balanced try placing the sole of your right foot even higher, against the inner side of the left leg. Maybe even against the inner thigh. Tree pose activates apana and udana prana.
2 – Stand with your feet parallel and hip distance apart. Grab your hands on your back and stretch your arms backwards. Fold forward while keeping your legs straight. Lift your sit bones to the sky and with your belly tucked in go as much as possible in the direction of your upper legs. Keep stretching your arms away from your back and bringing your shoulder blades closer together. Your head and neck are relaxed. This position activates apana and viyana prana.
3 – Bring your arms to the back and release them down to the ground. Step back with both of your feet to make a triangle with your body and the ground. Open your hand palms and press them firmly into the ground. Your shoulder blades should go towards your hips (not towards your ears). Try to rotate your armpits towards your heart. While pressing your heels as much as possible towards the ground see how far you can bring your chest towards your knees and your head towards the ground to open the chest as much as possible. This position activates apana and viyana prana. (Adho Mukhasvanasana)
4 – With your toes and hand palms firmly in the ground look to the front and start slowly pushing your chest forward and head up and forward while your hips are still high. Slowly while pushing the chest forward you lower the hips down. Make sure your shoulder blades are as close as possible, shoulders away from the ears and your chest to the front while looking up. This position, often called the upward-facing dog, activates viyana prana.[Urdhva Mukha Svanasana]
5 – Step your left foot between your hand palms. Lower your right knee to the floor and relax your right foot on the ground. Bring your left foot little bit further then your left knee. Lower your hips as much as possible. Stretch your arms above your head and bring your palms together. Lift up your chest as much as possible. This position activates apana, udana and viyana prana. (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
6 – Place your hands back to the ground. Bend your right knee and lift up your right foot to catch it with your right hand. Try to go over your knee so you won’t lean with the top of your knee to the ground. You can also put something soft under the knee. Try bringing your right heel to your buttocks while your hips stay as low as possible. If possible hold your right foot with both of your hands and bring your chest up. This position activates apana, udana and viyana prana
7 – Lay on your belly. Bend the knees and grab both of your feet or ankles with your hands. Start pushing your feet into your handpalms so that your chest would lift up. Lift up your legs too. Look up. This position activates prana, viyana and samana prana. [Dhanurasana]
8 – Come to all fours; with your hands and knees on the floor. Lift up your right leg and bend your right knee. Grab your right foot with your left hand. Push with your right foot into your right hand palm so that you could lift up your chest and your right leg as much as possible. This position activates prana, udana and viyana prana.
9 – Lay on your back. Bend the knees and place the feet on the ground under your knees, hip distance apart. Your arms are straight towards your feet. Push your pelvis up. Interlace your fingers under your back and push the pelvis as high as possible. Try to bring your shoulder blades closer together. Your chest is coming as close as possible to your chin. If possible try grabing your ankles and doing the same practice with pushing the pelvis up. You can also try lifting up one straight leg at a time. This position activates viyana prana. [Setubandasana]
10 – When you lower your pelvis back to the ground keep your knees bent and feet on the floor under your knees. Put your hand palms next to your ears, fingers pointing towards the shoulders and elbows pointing above the head. press your feet in the ground, activate the muscles in your upper legs and bring the pelvis up. Press the hand palms in the ground and try to bring the top of your head on the floor. If this goes OK, try to stretch your arms and come to the wheel. This position activates all five pranas and all the chakras. [Chakrasana]
11 – Natarajasana: ground yourself through the sole of your left foot. Bend your right knee and lift up your right heel towards your buttocks. Hold the inner side of your right ankle with your right hand. Stretch your left arm forward for balance. Hold your hips parallel as much as possible. At the same time start lifting up the chest and pushing the right leg against the right hand palm in order to lift the right leg as high as possible. Open the chest and shoulders as much as possible. The knee of the standing leg is slightly bended.
The mudra were the thumb and pointing finger are connected is called Gyan mudra. It symbolizes the unity of fire and air as well as the unity of universal and individual consciousness. The Gyan mudra increases concentration, creativity, and is a gesture of knowledge. To put the pointing finger under the thumb as I show on this photo means putting your individual ego and consciousness under the universal consciousness.
Understanding why we do asanas and what is the correct way to do them makes the whole practice more efficient and enjoyable.