When you take your time and prepare your body, you’ll find that challenging postures like Dancer Pose (Natarajasana) come much more easily. To prepare for Dancer Pose, include shapes that open the chest and shoulders, cultivate balance, and strengthen and stretch the muscles in the legs.
Dancer Pose - Natarajasana
Here I am in Dancer Pose. Keep in mind, this is one of my versions of the pose. I’ve been practicing it for over 10 years, and my body was warm for this photo. There are MANY ways to make Dancer Pose your own by using yoga props or holding on to a wall or chair for balance.
But ALL versions of Dancer Pose will contain the same basic elements: balance, backbend, and some amount of splits.
Let’s take a look at 8 poses and their variations that will get you ready for Dancer Pose!
Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), is a nice warm-up backbend, and a great preparatory pose for Dancer. To add more of the elements of Dancer Pose, position your arms so your palms face up.
Also try taking one leg up at a time, because this variation will build balance, as well as strength in the legs and hips.
Next up is Locust Pose (Salabhasana). Locust strengthens the whole back body and opens the chest, paving the way for a strong and spacious backbend. The first variation with thumbs up requires external rotation in the arms, which is ideal in Dancer Pose.
You can also try taking hold of the back foot and kicking the foot into the hand. Trying this on the floor provides a safe, solid practice space. Later, when you’re standing on one leg and doing the foot grab, you’ll have the muscle memory already.
Next, this is an active version of Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), meaning the legs and core stay engaged. Press both legs firmly into the floor while drawing them toward each other. You’ll feel your torso start to lift. Engage your core and add cactus arms or another backbend.
From active pigeon, bend your back knee and reach back with the same side arm to grasp your foot. You can loop a belt around your foot, too.
Just like Dancer Pose, there are a lot of ways to make this preparatory pose accessible. Take your hand do the floor or a block, or add a folded blanket under your back knee for padding.
It’s important in Hanumanasana (Splits) to keep your legs actively engaged. Similar to pigeon, press both feet/legs into the floor and draw them toward your torso. Keep your spine upright and your hips square.
In the top picture I’m using blocks to support myself in Splits. Another variation is to bring your back knee to the floor and focus on lengthening the back of the front leg on each side.
In this shape, High Lunge strengthens the legs while also lengthening the muscles for the splits action in Dancer Pose. I’m adding some outer hip stability work by pressing my front knee into my hand. Reaching back with the opposite arm provides practice for reaching back and grasping the foot.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the ways to prepare for Dancer Pose. The main ideas are to look at the pose you’re aiming for, notice the key elements happening in that pose, and practice simpler poses that contain one or more of those elements.