black woman smiling and demonstrating how to do dancer pose by grasping her back foot

How to Do Dancer Pose Your Way

There are a lot of yoga poses that just look HARD. Dancer Pose (Natarajasana) is one of those. And truth be told, it IS hard. But when you break it down into steps and individual pieces, you might be surprised at how smoothly it comes together. Let’s look at how to do dancer pose, and explore some ways to make it your own.

white woman demonstrating two ways to do the first step of dancer pose in yoga. There are two mirror images. On the left, she stands tall with one arm extended, doing a thumbs up. On the right, she does the same thing, but is also holding a yoga belt in her hand that she will use to reach her foot.

You can do Dancer Pose with just yourself, or you can use combinations of yoga props. The two most challenging parts are grabbing the back leg and balancing, so it’s a good idea to have a belt, strap, or scarf on hand to loop around your foot if needed. Also stand near a wall or chair, so you can hold something to help you find your balance. 

There is a mirror image, and she is demonstrating two different ways. On the left, her arm is extended in front of her with her thumb pointing up. Her same side knee is bent, with her heel kicking up toward her buttocks. On the right side, she does the same thing but holds a yoga belt in her extended hand. She also holds onto the wall for balance.

The key thing here is to keep your knees aligned. Your bent leg is getting ready to move backward, so start thinking in that direction.

As you add pieces of the pose, keep the original stability you had when you were simply standing. If you start to lose your focus, hold your breath, or wobble, just step down and go back to step 1.

Expect some challenge here. You’re already balancing on one leg, and now we’re adding the reaching back. It’s disorienting at first, for sure. This is a place where holding a wall or other prop is really useful. You can always wean away from holding on later!

Now it’s time to make contact with the back foot in some way. If you cannot reach your foot, loop a belt around it, letting out as much length in the belt as you like/need. 

If you’re grabbing your foot with your hand, aim for the inside of your foot with your thumb still pointing up. If that doesn’t work, try the outside of the foot with your thumb pointing down. 

Main ideas: You’re making contact with the back foot, you’re feeling balanced, you’re still breathing. 

Mid-pose check-in. This is a completely acceptable place to stop. If you practice grabbing your foot for a few days or weeks, it will get more and more comfortable. 

If you’re comfortable and feeling strong here, and you’re meeting all the criteria in the slide above, go on and move forward in the pose!

A mirrored image of a white woman showing how to do dancer pose in two different ways; one grasping her back foot with her hand and the other using a yoga belt.

Now things get even more exciting! Before you hinge forward, engage your back leg and press your foot into your hand of belt. THEN start to hinge forward, balancing on the standing leg, pressing back and up through the opposite leg, and reaching forward at the same time. 

Again, hang on to a wall, a chair, or your kitchen counter while you’re feeling it out at first. 

You can take it as far as you like, as long as it’s feeling good and you’re feeling stable in mind and body.

Six photos of yoga practitioners doing dancer pose in different ways according to their needs and body types. A thin, black woman uses a chair for balance. A white woman remains fairly upright and lifts her extended arm skyward. A thin, white woman grasps the outside of her foot as opposed to the inside. A bigger woman uses a chair and block. A thin, white woman leans forward on a chair while lifting her arms overhead and reaching her foot with a yoga belt. A thin black man reaches both arms overhead and grasps his back foot with his hands.

There are countless ways to practice Dancer Pose. Here are just a few variations that you can try! 

Finally, you can try  the pose with your arms overhead. I use a generous length of belt to loop around my foot. And on days where my balance isn’t there, I skip it. 

Dancer Pose can feel powerful and empowering. When your body is well-prepared, you understand the basic elements, and go there mindfully, this pose will have you feeling strong and capable…and pretty fancy! 

Take it one step at a time, meet yourself where you’re at, and don’t let your ego slow you down. Happy dancing! 

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