Natarajasana (Sanskrit: नटराजासन; IAST: Naṭarājāsana), Lord of the Dance Pose or Dancer Pose is a standing, balancing, back-bending asana in modern yoga as exercise. It is derived from a pose in the classical Indian dance form Bharatnatyam, which is depicted in temple statues in the Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram.
Etymology and origins
The name comes from the Sanskrit words नट nata meaning "dancer", राज raja meaning "king", and आसन asana meaning "posture" or "seat". Nataraja is one of the names given to the Hindu God Shiva in his form as the cosmic dancer.
The pose is depicted in 13th – 18th century Bharatnatyam dance statues of the Eastern Gopuram, Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram; some 20 different asanas are depicted, implying according to Ananda Bhavanani both an early origin for these poses and a cultural interchange between medieval hatha yoga and dance.
Elliott Goldberg, on the other hand, observes that Natarajasana is not found in any medieval hatha yoga text, nor is it mentioned by any pre-20th century traveller to India, or found in artistic depictions of yoga such as the Sritattvanidhi or the Mahamandir near Jodhpur. Goldberg argues that the pose, like several others, was introduced into modern yoga by Krishnamacharya in the early 20th century, and taken up by his pupils such as B. K. S. Iyengar, who made the pose a signature of modern yoga; Goldberg suggests that Iyengar transmitted the pose also to Sivananda, as Iyengar sent him a complete photo album showing Iyengar in all his asanas.
This aesthetic, stretching and balancing asana develops concentration and grace; it is used in the Indian classical dance form Bharatanatyam. The actor Mariel Hemingway describes Natarajasana as "a beautiful pose with tremendous power", comparing the balance and tension in the arms and legs with an archery bow, and calling it "a very difficult pose to hold."
The pose is entered from standing in Tadasana, bending one knee and stretching that foot back until it can be grasped with the hand on that side. The foot can then be extended back and up, arching the back and stretching out the other arm forwards. For the full pose and a stronger stretch, reverse the rear arm by lifting it over the shoulder, and grasp the foot.
Reaching up and back with both arms, elbows upwards, to grasp the rear foot gives a more intense pose.
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He also points out that these [Bharatanatyam dance] stances are very similar to Yoga Asanas, and in the Gopuram walls at Chidambaram, at least twenty different classical Yoga Asanas are depicted by the dancers, including Dhanurasana, Chakrasana, Vrikshasana, Natarajasana, Trivikramasana, Ananda Tandavasana, Padmasana, Siddhasana, Kaka Asana, Vrishchikasana and others.
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- Hemingway, Mariel (2004) . Finding My Balance: A Memoir with Yoga. Simon & Schuster. pp. 71–72. ISBN 978-0743264327.
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- Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (January 2004). A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Nesma Books India. ISBN 978-81-85787-08-4. Retrieved 9 April 2011.