Tag Archives: Natarajasana

symbolism behind natarajasana

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Depicted in southern Indian art dating back to the 10th through 12th centuries, Shiva Nataraja dances at the center of the wheel of samsara, a cosmic ring of fire that symbolizes the eternal cycle of birth, life, and death.

The name Shiva derives from a Sanskrit root that means “liberation,” and liberation or freedom is what the dancing four-armed Shiva Nataraja expresses. He can’t stop the passage of time or the fire that surrounds him, but he can find bliss amid the chaos. His dreadlocks shake as he balances on the demon of avidya, or ignorance. In one of his hands, he holds a drum on which he beats the passage of time. Another hand holds a conch shell, recalling the power of the sound of Om that reverberates through the universe. In a third hand, the flame of vidya, or knowledge, reveals the internal light of our true nature. One of Shiva’s right hands is held up in Abhaya Mudra, a gesture of fearlessness. It’s the fearlessness that comes from knowing one’s own transcendent nature—that though the mortal form you inhabit will change and die, there is an energy within you that will continue on, like the pulsation of an atom or the light from the supernova of a dying star that reaches earth with its beauty.

Shiva’s heart is the center of the wheel; the hub that stabilizes him within the great cycles of cosmic change.  When you make the shape of the pose, you embody both the wheel of samsara and the hub. As you settle into this backbend, balanced steadily on your standing leg, your heart lifted and open, feel free to reach a hand forward in one of several positions. Either hold the hand up in a “stop in the name of love” kind of gesture that is the equivalent of the gesture of fearlessness that Shiva uses; or join the first finger and thumb in Jnana Mudra, the yogi’s “okay” symbol. Or simply turn the palm up in a gesture that signifies you are ready to surrender to the change that is afoot.

The beauty of working toward a difficult pose is that, in the best of circumstances, the desire for the form of the pose eventually falls away. Along the way, the fire of the practice may leave you free from desire for the final pose, as you embody steadiness and joy in your own Shiva’s dance.

Excerpt from Yoga Journal article Joy to the World by Alanna Kaivalya


lasya vinyasa

According to tantric lore, Shiva’s dance was first performed at Chidambaram, the mystical center of the universe. Within the microcosm of the human being, the center of the universe—the stage for this divine dance—correlates to the heart itself. Thus, the spirit of natarajasana inspires a fluid sequence that opens the heart and invites conscious awareness.

The term Lasya, in the context of Hindu mythology, describes the dance performed by Goddess Parvathi as it expresses happiness and is filled with grace and beauty. She is believed to have danced the Lasya in response to the male energy of the cosmic dance of Tandava performed by Lord Shiva. In a literal sense, Lasya means beauty, happiness and grace.

Lasya Vinyasa

From adho mukha shvanasana (downward-facing dog pose), move very slowly and in synchronization with the breath as follows:

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Inhaling, extend the right leg back and up, externally rotating the hip and bending the right knee, while rooting the left heel down.

Exhaling, release the right foot to the floor about mat-distance to the left of the left foot, toes pointing backward.

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Inhaling, sweep the right arm around in a wide counter-clockwise circular motion toward the sky.

Exhaling, continue the arm movement to bring the right hand back to the mat.

Inhaling, extend the right leg back and up to its original elevated position in three-legged downward-facing dog.

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Exhaling, draw the shoulders over the wrists as you move toward plank pose, while drawing the right knee toward the chest; then extend the right leg to the left, crossing it underneath the left leg at a 90-degree angle and planting the outer edge of the foot on the floor.

Inhaling, root the left heel in and down and the right hand evenly into the floor, while sweeping the left arm up and around in a wide clockwise circular motion toward the sky

Exhaling, continue the circular motion of the arm to release the left hand back to the mat.

Repeat on the other side before resting in adho mukha shvanasana.

 A Heart Opening Sequence for Natarajasana by Mark Stephens