- Sanskrit (Original): Naṭarājāsana
- Etymology: Dancer (naṭa), king or lord (rāja), pose (āsana)
- Fun Fact about the pose: The full English name of the pose is Lord of the Dance Pose or King of Dance Pose named after the Hindu god Shiva Natraja who is often depicted dancing.
- Asana Type: Backbend, Standing
- Main length muscle groups: Pectoralis muscles, abdominal muscles, triceps brachii, serratus anterior, back leg: iliacus, psoas major, rectus femoris
- Main strength muscle groups: Spinal extensors, psoas minor, abdominal muscles, trapezius, rotator cuffs, rhomboids, deltoids, biceps brachii, hamstrings, glutes; front leg: articularis genu, quadriceps, tensor fasciae latae, muscles of the foot and lower leg; back leg: adductor magnus, vastii, hamstrings
- Vinyasa Breath: Inhale
How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step
- 1Start standing in Tadasana and shift all your weight into one foot. Firmly ground the four corners of the foot into the mat to activate the arches of your foot.
- 2Lengthen the frontline of your torso and lift your sternum up and away from the hips.
- 3Keep the front of your ribs soft and your hips parallel while you bend your lifted leg and bring the heel close to the buttocks.
- 4Bring the arm of the same side as the lifted knee backwards and externally rotate the arm.
- 5Clasp your ankle with the hand, ideally, you take hold of the ankle from the inside as this will help to maintain the external rotation of the arm.
- 6Create a micro bend in your standing leg.
- 7Keep the hips parallel and rotate your lifted leg inwards while you press the thigh of back and up.
- 8Fully extend your standing leg again.
- 9Kick the foot into the hand and simultaneously push the foot upwards to the ceiling.
- 10All the time keep the lifted knee close to the midline to prevent it from splaying outwards.
- 11From here lift your sternum up again and roll your shoulders up and back to create a deeper backbend through the length of your spine.
- 12If these first steps come easy to you, you can move further into the pose by taking hold of the foot with the arms above your head.
- 13To do this extend your other arm up toward the ceiling and turn the palm facing backwards. Bend the elbow and take hold of the foot. Then do the same with the other arm that was holding the foot until then.
- 14Take a couple of smooth breaths in the pose and then softly and with control release the grip without the foot flicking back.
- 15Repeat on the other side.
Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose
- Extend the core muscles: This one is tricky but essential to get into deeper backbends. As your core muscles are working to support your torso it is quite common that they are pulling the ribcage and the hips closer together. This action is also there to support the lumbar spine from bending too deep. However, you need to simultaneously release the abdominal muscles to some extent to create more length in the front body.
- Guide the tailbone: A common observation in Dancer Pose is that the pelvis is overly tilted in an anterior (forwards) direction. This causes major compression in the lumbar spine and SI joints and can lead to back pain. To avoid this guide your tailbone and sacrum back down and inwards and work to bring your pelvis slightly more towards a neutral position.
- Cultivate an even and steady breath: The breath can become quite rugged in this position as the diaphragm cannot extend fully due to the deep backbend. As in most deep backbends taking deep full breaths is not easy in Dancer Pose. However, you can concentrate on making your breath even, smooth and steady in the pose.
- Actively lengthen the triceps: If you are practicing the full pose with the arms reaching from overhead, you can work on lengthening your triceps by sending your elbows up towards the ceiling. This will help not only to balance the pose but also to guide the foot higher and support the shoulders from taking up too much force.
Adapting The Pose Through Modifications
- Use a strap to take hold of your foot if your shoulders, hamstrings or quads don’t (yet) have the openness or strength to grab the foot with the hand.
- Practice Dancer Pose with one hand supported on the backrest of a chair or against a wall if you need more support while balancing.
- Challenge your balance and practice Dancer Pose with your eyes closed or on your tiptoes or with the standing foot on a block.
- Once you master the pose and feel comfortable perhaps you will find the availability to rest the back of your head comfortably on your lifted foot.
Benefits of Natarajasana
- Dancer Pose helps to improve your balance, stability and focus. It trains your proprioception (your body’s ability to know where it is located and how it is moving in space) and boosts your overall body awareness.
- It is a full-body workout opening up the whole front line of the body, especially the chest, and the legs, but also the shoulders.
- Natrajasana strengthens the back muscles and the core.
- The hamstrings of the lifted leg have to work a lot to execute the pose, so it is a great way to build up hamstring strength.
- The energetics of Dancer Pose is very uplifting and will make you feel graceful and elegant like a dancer.
Pose VariationsSee all Poses
Pose variations can be anything that makes the original pose easier or more simple but also anything making it more challenging or adding complexity.
Half Bow Pose
Eka Pada Vrschikasana
One-Legged Scorpion Pose
Bound Wild Thing
Preparatory PoseSee all Poses
Preparatory poses are poses that have a similar shape to the pose you want to prepare for but maybe in a different alignment towards gravity and/or poses that target specific body areas to warm up, stretch or strengthen in order to lead to the final pose. Include preparatory poses when you build yoga sequences.
Half Bow Pose
Ardha Baddha Chandrasana
Bound Half Moon Pose
Counter PoseSee all Poses
Counter poses serve to balance the body back into neutral after a pose or a set of same poses. E.g. symmetrical poses balancing asymmetrical poses, forward folds or twists balancing backbends, balancing challenging poses with restorative poses. Use counter poses to build sequences that feel amazing – you can use our free Sequence Builder tool to get started.
Happy Baby Pose
What a pose! Dancer Pose does not come easy to me but everytime I practice it, it feels very powerful. The action of kicking and reaching the lifted leg at the same is rather challenging but is rewarded with a feeling of being really long and extended.
Content Manager at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher
FAQ: Common questions about this pose
Yes, Dancer Pose is a hip opener and requires quite a comprehensive range of motion in the hip joint. On the standing leg, it strengthens the front of your hip, especially the hip flexor. And on the lifted leg it opens the groin and stretches the front of the hip.
The mastery of a pose comes not only from the right application of all the alignment principles and details but also from how you feel and embody the form on the inside. The main gamechanger for many practitioners is the kicking upward notion of the back leg, as many focus merely on kicking backward. Another detail is taking as much force out of the arms as possible. This will come along with the action of kicking the leg up, but also with extending the triceps. Paying attention to creating an equal curve along the whole spine and not only in one place (which is most of the time cranking the lumbars) will indicate an advanced practitioner. Your balance will be different with every time you step on your mat but can also be a great parameter to see how you develop the pose over time. And lastly, the smooth and equal quality of your breath will indicate how skillful you are standing in the pose.
As Dancer Pose requires a lot of openness and strength in all the main areas of the body, especially the hips, legs and shoulders the pose is mainly practiced in advanced yoga classes. The combination of a backbend in a standing balance pose adds to the difficulty as you have to master several actions simultaneously and have a good proprioception and control of you body.
Natarajasana or Dancer Pose is good to open up the chest, shoulders, hips and thighs. It will also improve your balance and proprioception. Actively working the hamstrings can help to balance out the front and back body as oftentimes the focus lies on the strengthening of the quadriceps and the hamstrings are naturally three times less strong than their antagonist quadriceps. The yoga pose is a nice way to safely approach deeper backbends as you have more control over your spine in a standing position and the relationship of the spine towards gravity is different compared to other backbends (e.g. Urdhva Dhanurasana or Kapotasana).