Dancer's Pose is a favorite of many a yoga practitioner in a class or at home. The pose is named after Nataraja, who represents the dancing side of Lord Shiva. Dancing is a form of movement and creation, so we can think of this pose as a way to spring forth and create something special out of ourselves.
Now, looking at the pose itself there are several things going on. First of all, it is a balancing posture. Second of all, it is also a backbend. Many people miss this point. And the third important aspect is the hand placement- how to hold the back leg in the air. Let's take a look at these three important points.
How To Balance
First things first, align your feet properly. Make sure your toes are pointing straight forward in parallel and really spread through your feet. Anchor the big toe into the ground- this part is very important. Often, when the big toe goes- everything else does, too! And then you end up falling over out of your beautiful Dancer's Pose. And no dancer ever likes to fall...
Why is this so important? Because pressing the big toe down activates the inner thigh. When the inner thigh is activated, the muscles of the central body help you balance more efficiently. So always start with the foundation!
Making It a Backbend
Dancers may move around a lot, but in this pose, we are actually more in a position to be poised like a bow and arrow. In order to keep this as a backbend rather than falling forward, try keeping your gaze at eye level or even slightly lifted. If there is any tendency to look down, well... the body may just follow and give into gravity!
The lesson here is to keep lifting the chest upward while kicking the back leg into the hand. Okay, let's get into how to hold that back foot.
There are as many ways to hold the back foot as there are variations on this pose. The leg can be bent or straight; you can even bring the foot and the head together. Talk about a cosmic activation!
In the end, it's up to you to dance and play with how you choose to perform the pose, knowing there are always variations.
However, there is one thing you MUST know about the grip: The shoulder must be externally rotated when you grab the inside of the ankle.
Most beginners learn by holding onto the outside of the foot or ankle. In this variation, it is easier to balance, but the shoulder is internally rotated which limits the chest opening and ability to lift the leg higher. So, when you switch to holding the INSIDE of the ankle so go deeper into the pose, the shoulder joint must be externally rotated.
How can you know the difference?
Just reach back with your hand like your serving a platter behind you as you catch your foot without changing your arm position. Boom, it's that easy!