Disclaimer: While it’s a dream that plagues my heart daily, I’m not a certified yoga teacher. I am, however, an eager student who so wants to see other practitioners grasp the posture they’ve been trying to express. These photographs are years apart.
I was recently traveling in Colorado, visiting yoga studios in the surrounding Denver and Boulder areas, when I saw a young girl in the studio (who reminded me of myself) practicing Natarajasana, the Lord of the Dance’s posture.
She had her standing leg bent and wobbling as she kicked up with her grip set up, frustrated as she fell out of the posture each time. As I regularly see students pursuing this posture, I wanted to write an article in the hopes that it might help someone attempting Dancer’s pose—whether for the first time, or even a long time practitioner looking to improve the posture.
I compete for the USA Yoga Federation. It’s an asana (posture) competition with your own self, a great process of self-discovery, humility, and persistence. These values collide on stage, where you perform postures at a competition and receive scores on the postures based upon particular criteria for the postures you choose. I recently took Dancer’s pose to stage when I competed at the USA Yoga National Asana Championships in Wyoming.
Dancer’s posture was one that I had always dreamed of taking to the stage, or to at least be comfortable performing in front of others. Not only is it a beautiful posture, but it also simultaneously builds strength and flexibility, all while stretching the spine, shoulders, and chest.
Yoga is about tying together the mind, the breath, and the spirit. In this beautiful practice, however, there’s no denying that there are some postures we’re just hungry for. Dancer’s pose was one of them for me. And one day, it so happened that I chased the posture that I once despised, and it followed me right back.
Tips For Dancer’s Posture:
Lock your standing leg. This does not mean pushing the knee cap back, but rather to pull up. By pulling up on the knee cap, the quadriceps muscle contracts. This is the foundation of the posture, and it’s key!
Once there is a strong standing leg, it’s time to go for the grip. Grip the foot, and lift the other arm up. It’s a strange grip that involves and internal shoulder rotation. The most simple is to place the hand in front of the body, bring it to the side, drop it down and grab the foot from the outside. The thumb should now be on the inside of the foot.
Note that Standing Bow Posture is the opposite; this would be an inside grip of the foot. If you don’t feel stable going for this grip with a strong standing leg, try it while holding a wall (I did this too!)
Now it is time to kick. And maybe fall. And kick and fall and kick and fall. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall; it only matters that you don’t stop trying. In yoga class, I used to sit out of the postures I “knew” I would fall out of. Two things are wrong with this mentality: stop predicting you will fail. Positive thoughts often fuel positive results. And the second is, by not trying, there is automatically failure and progress will not occur. Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself the way you would to a friend.
Once kicking in a straight line, up towards the ceiling, try to lift the other arm to grab the kicking ankle. Maybe the hands will meet. If they do, clasp them with a strong grip. Interlace the fingers. Go all the way. Or maybe hang out with the fingers barely touching. Remember that it’s a process of discovery.
Continue to kick and stretch up towards the ceiling and bring your body down. Chin parallel to the floor. Lats stretching, arms stretching, and kick. As time goes on, it will become second nature to know which muscles to relax and which muscles to contract.
I too had a wobbly bent standing knee. I later realized that this was due to weak quadriceps muscle and lack of mind-body connection to engage the muscle.
At one point in time, I could not even get the grip. It’s a tricky grip, and often the first piece of frustration in the posture. But let go of your frustration. If you can’t yet get the grip, if you can’t yet lock your knee, whatever it is, it’s okay. Most importantly, understand that this is your yoga and it’s a beautiful process of unfolding and re-building and breaking down and re-building time and time again.
“Yoga is a balancing factor, a substratum across all of your life, so you do not get shifted in one direction or another. It gives you freshness, gives you light, recharges your batteries. You become a stable person. You realize what balance is, what sukha is, what contentment is, what joy is.” ~ Birjoo Mehta
Author: Robin Fox
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen