King Dancer is an intermediate, standing yoga pose that combines the challenging aspects of balancing with a backbend. There are two variations commonly practiced. The first requires holding the lifted leg with one hand, while the second is an advanced pose that requires holding the raised foot with both hands overhead.
The Sanskrit name for this pose, "Natarajasana" (NOT-ah-rahj-AHS-uh-nuh), comes from three words:
- "Nata" — meaning "dancer" or "actor"
- "Raja" — meaning "king"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
It is also sometimes referred to as "Lord of the Dance Pose" or "Dancer's Pose." Note that the pose described here is different from the similar-looking pose in Bikram Yoga, which is called "Standing Bow-Pulling Pose."
Benefits of King Dancer Pose
Natarajasana requires and builds full-body strength, flexibility, and coordination. It opens the shoulders, chest, and hips, as it stretches and strengthens the thighs, ankles, and abdomen. This pose develops greater flexibility in your spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. It also stretches the entire front of the body, while strengthening the back muscles, which improves posture.
Nobility requires no great deed, only relaxed awareness, openness to receive wisdom, and an unwavering alignment to what you feel is right. We learn to soar not through effort but through faith.
Most notably, King Dancer improves your ability to concentrate and focus. By remaining calm while balancing and back-bending, you will learn how to focus your thoughts. This will improve your poise and grace in everyday life.
Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic ankle or low back injury. Also avoid this pose if you are currently experiencing low blood pressure, dizziness, migraines, or insomnia. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
- Shift your weight onto your left foot.
- Bend your right knee and bring your right heel toward your right buttock. Reach your right hand down and clasp your right foot's inner ankle. You can also loop a strap around the top of your right foot, and then hold onto the strap with your right hand. Draw your knees together.
- Reach your left arm overhead, pointing your fingertips toward the ceiling and facing your palm to the right.
- Fix your gaze softly at an unmoving spot in front of you. Make sure your left kneecap and toes continue to point directly forward.
- When you feel steady and comfortable, begin to press your right foot away from your body as you simultaneously lean your torso slightly forward. Keep your chest lifting and continue reaching your left hand's fingertips up toward the ceiling.
Raise your right foot as high as you can. Bring your left thigh parallel to the floor, or higher if possible. At the same time, press your tailbone toward the floor to avoid compressing your lower back. Do not let your right knee splay open to the side.
- If you are comfortable and steady here, you may go into the advanced pose. Swivel your right elbow forward and then up, so it points toward the ceiling. You will need to drop your right shoulder slightly as you make this adjustment. Hug your right bicep toward your right ear. Your right forearm should now be reaching overhead and behind your body to hold onto your foot or the strap. Bend your left elbow and reach your left hand back to hold onto your foot or the strap. Draw both arms inward toward your head as your keep your shoulder blades pressing down your back.
- As you press your raised foot back, keep your chest lifting. Do not let your torso drop forward. Keep your pelvis square and your right knee drawn in toward the midline of your body.
- If you are holding a strap, walk your hands down the strap toward your foot until you can clasp the top of your foot with both hands.
- Hold for five breaths. To release, very slowly and gently return to your starting position. Then lower your right foot and come back into Mountain Pose. Repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same amount of time.
Modifications & Variations
King Dancer Pose can be a great way to gain flexibility, strength, and poise. Be sure to modify the pose as needed, and ease up if you feel any pinching or jarring pain, especially in your back or neck. Here are a few simple modifications that will lighten or deepen the pose for you:
- If you can't hold onto the ankle of your raised leg, use a strap. Wrap a yoga strap around the top of your foot, then bend your knee and come into the pose. Hold onto both ends of the strap with your same-side hand.
- If you are brand-new to the pose, practice Standing Thigh Stretch to gain the flexibility and strength needed for this pose.
- If it's difficult to balance, rest your free hand on a wall, chair, or any other stable object.
- For a deeper stretch, hold your outer ankle with the opposite hand. For example, if your right ankle is raised, reach your left hand behind your body and hold onto your right foot's outer ankle. Then extend your opposite arm forward and up.
Practicing King Dancer will benefit your body, mind, and spirit! Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep your gaze fixed on an unmoving spot in front of you.
- Make sure your bent knee does not splay open to the side.
- Keep the knee and toes of your standing leg facing directly forward.
- Firm the muscles of your standing leg, but do not lock or hyperextend your knee. Resist your standing-leg calf muscle against the shin; this micro-movement will stabilize your lower leg.
- Keep your neck relaxed, not stiff or compressed. Reach forward through the crown of your head.
- Evenly distribute the backbend across your upper, middle, and lower back.
- Avoid jerking, pulling, pushing, or forcing any movement in this pose. Let your movements be slow and smooth.
- Keep breathing throughout the pose. Do not hold your breath.
- Move slowly and don't be afraid to fall! If you do fall, simply get back into the pose and try again.
Dance with Ease
King Dancer can be a rewarding and uplifting pose to add to your regular yoga practice. You will fall out of the pose sometimes. Think of wobbling and falling as part of the dance, and try again. As you learn to flow with the fluctuations of this pose, you will learn to find calmness and serenity in all of life's challenges. Balancing with serenity and ease will rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit!