Rhythm Riding with Nataraja
In Hindu mythology Nataraj is a four-armed, wild-haired dancer who balances atop a dwarf demon named Apasmara while he performs a dance said to destroy humankind’s ignorance. Apasmara, who represents spiritual ignorance, must be subdued and managed rather than killed. In this way, Nataraj’s story is about acceptance of that which is.
Whereas we mere mortals tend to fear nature’s cycles – of birth, death, and rebirth – Nataraj, an incarnation of Shiva, happily rides them. Benevolently, he assists in the destruction of the universe so that new life can emerge. In Nataraj’s eyes, winter is no time to shrink, mourn or hibernate, it’s a time to celebrate wildly as we prepare for the rebirth of springtime.
May we all take a cue from Nataraj and be dancers this season.
Natarajasana The Pose:
King Dancer pose is a one-footed balance and backbend all at once. In it, the practitioner grabs one foot or ankle and reaches the other arm forward. Ideally, the hips stay even and the heart stays lifted.
To deepen the pose, try grabbing your foot from overhead, with one hand and then eventually two. A strap around your foot can work wonders as you build the flexibility required of this incredibly challenging variation.
Once you’re in, it feels a little like King Pigeon and requires the same flexibility in your lats, triceps, back, and hip flexors. Aim to square your hips and chest forward.
To explore the pose’s significance:
Try it balanced upon a block which can symbolize the dwarf demon underfoot who if freed would see to it that we remain shackled to our ego experience and its turbulences. Stand on the block to symbolically break free of the patterns that keep you bound to fearful living.
The Pose’s Benefits:
All variations open the shoulders, stretch the hip flexors, keep the spine supple, and tone the back body. As a balance pose, it strengthens the legs, hips, core, and spine.
The pose itself can strike fear, as many balance poses do (especially on a block). If it seems elusive, try it at a wall to cancel out any sense of instability. When you do eventually feel stable in the pose, draw your heart forward, tilt it up, and notice the pose’s power to liberate your spirit.
While you execute Natarajasana, in whatever form you have chosen, feel lifted and light, peaceful and celebratory. Let nature’s rhythms course through you without resistance. Keep the beat with your breath and give yourself over to the moment.
Happy rhythm riding,