Dancer Pose is a beautiful and iconic yoga pose that will challenge both your body and mind. This powerful pose requires a special blend of balance, flexibility and strength. You’ll feel both invigorated and grounded after practicing Dancer Pose.
While in this pose, you’ll actively reach and press both forward and back. This juxtaposed movement creates tension in the body which helps to lengthen the spine, open the chest, and establish balance.
Dancer Pose requires balance, flexibility and strength. You’ll feel freedom and groundedness.
Although this pose looks graceful and beautiful in its fullest expression, you may feel anything but as you learn the pose. Falling out of the pose isn’t uncommon, even for experienced yoga practitioners.
So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself dancing around your mat as you try to find your balance. As with all yoga postures, creating a perfect shape isn’t the goal, what matters is the process and experience.
Dancer Pose at a Glance
Sanskrit Name: Natarajasana
Targets the Body: Standing backbending posture that challenges balance and concentration
Muscle Groups Involved: Ankles, Legs, Hip flexors, Front and back body core, Chest, Shoulders
Nuances: Gripping of the ankle from either inside or outside, Lifting chest up high or balancing with it parallel to ground like in Warrior 3 Pose
Here’s How to Access Dancer Pose:
- Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) facing the front of your mat
- Bring your left hand to your hip
- Shift your weight into your left foot, pressing down evenly into the four corners of your foot while lifting gently through the arch
- Once you are balanced on your left foot, bend your right leg bringing your right heel towards your glute
- Keeping your hips square to the front of the mat, reach back with your right hand
- Grab the inside of your right ankle or foot, with your thumb facing towards the ceiling
- Establish your Drishti (gaze) at a fixed point in front of you about eye level
- Find your balance here before moving on
- Reach your left arm up towards the ceiling with your palm facing forward
- Inhale and lengthen through your body from the heel of your left foot to the tip of your left fingers
- With your exhale, press your right foot into your hand as you lift your foot up and back
- Your chest will naturally lower as you lift your leg further up behind you
- Lift up through your chest and broaden across your collarbones
- Your right hip will lift as you come into the pose; work to keep your hips as even as possible and pointing to the front of the mat
- Check on your standing leg to make sure you aren’t hyperextending through the knee. If you find you are, put a small bend in your left leg
- Stabilize by grounding down through your standing leg, while lifting up with your chest and through your right leg
- If you would like, you can move your gaze to your left fingertips
- Take several full inhales and exhales while in the pose, find a bit more length and lift with each inhale
- To come out of the pose, lift up your chest as you lower your right leg, gently release your foot or ankle and return to Mountain Pose
Struggling to keep your balance? These Are the 3 Pro Tips You Need to Stick Balancing Poses
Ready to Practice? Check Out Dancer Pose (And More Poses) In the Learning Yoga Video Series
Be sure to check out YA Classes’ Learning Yoga series, a comprehensive workshop-style program that breaks down over 30 of the most common, foundational yoga poses. Get started with this standing back-bending posture, Dancer Pose.
This pose is a major body strengthener. The ankles, knees, legs and back body core are all toned during this pose. While these areas are strengthened, the front of the body, including the chest, core, shoulders and hip flexors, are stretched and lengthened.
Dancer’s Pose is a complex standing posture. In addition to the physical benefits, it helps to increase focus and concentration. With repeated practice it will help to build overall balance both on and off the mat. All of these benefits work together to build full body coordination.
Once in the pose you’ll feel a sense of freedom and openness paired with grounding and strength. With all these benefits, it’s no wonder why this pose is a common favorite asana (yoga pose).
Due to the challenging nature of Dancer Pose there are a few things to be aware of before trying it. If you have a spinal, foot or ankle injury, this pose may place too much strain on those areas. Consult with your doctor before trying this pose for any of those conditions.
If you’re having any sort of inner ear or balancing challenges, this pose may not be the best choice. Stick with a simpler pose like Tree Pose until your balance feels back to normal, or try modifying with a wall or chair for support so you don’t fall.
How to Modify Dancer Pose:
There are several easy ways to modify this pose. If you find yourself wobbling through your foot or ankle, try stepping off your mat, particularly if you have a thick one. Standing on a hard surface will help ground and build the pose on a solid foundation.
For yoga practitioners with tight shoulders, reaching for the inside of the back foot or ankle may create discomfort. Adjust by grabbing the outside instead.
If you’re struggling to maintain balance, find a wall or chair to support you. Face the wall and place your left hand on the wall to give you something to press into. Or place a chair next to you and rest your hand on the back of the chair for support.
If reaching for your ankle places too much pressure on your shoulder, knee or lower back, then use a yoga strap/belt to assist. To get into the pose with a yoga strap:
- Secure the yoga strap around your right ankle before finding Mountain Pose
- As you bend your right foot towards your glute place the long end of your strap over your right shoulder for easy access
- Instead of reaching back for your right ankle, grab the strap at any position that feels sustainable yet still gives you front body opening
- Continue to hold onto the strap as you lift the rest of the way into Dancer’s Pose
A common variation of Dancer Pose involves the height and orientation of the upper body. In this variation you hinge at the hip joint of your standing leg and lower your chest until it is parallel to the floor, like in Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III). Then as you extend into the pose your foot will come overhead.
This changes the aesthetics, but not the function or benefits of the pose. Try both variations, you may find balance easier on one than the other.
Final Information and Tips for Dancer Pose:
Dristi is so important for this pose! If your eyes start to wander, your body will too. Set a soft but determined gaze to maintain balance in this pose.
Although you might think of this as a balancing pose, it’s also a powerful backbend. Use all your backbending tools to keep your spine safe and healthy in this pose. Keep length along the entire spine to keep compression out of the lower back and use your core to support the backbend.
The pose is named after Nataraja, one of the embodiments of Shiva in Hindu mythology. Called Dancer Pose, the full translation is Lord or King of the Dance. In this form, Nataraja represents the cycle of cosmic dance that creates and destroys life and ages.
For the full story behind Nataraja read The Symbolic Story Behind How Natarajasana (Dancer Pose) Got Its Name
Like the ages created and destroyed by Nataraja, our lives are filled with patterns and cycles. Some of these are helpful, and some harmful. Dancer Pose reminds us that none are permanent and that with effort we can destroy the negative old cycles to create something new and better. The creation of something new in your life might just lead you to dance with joy!