We’ll start with a modified version of the pose. The full pose will be described in the Variation section below.


nata = actor, dancer, mime

raja = king

Lord of the Dance Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1

Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Inhale, shift your weight onto your right foot, and lift your left heel toward your left buttock as you bend the knee. Press the head of your right thigh bone back, deep into the hip joint, and pull the knee cap up to keep the standing leg straight and strong.

See also Joy of the World: Lord of the Dance Pose

Step 2

There are two variations you might try here with your arms and hands. In either case, try to keep your torso relatively upright. The first is to reach back with your left hand and grasp the outside of your left foot or ankle. To avoid compression in your lower back, actively lift your pubis toward your navel, and at the same time, press your tailbone toward the floor.

For More Balancing Poses

Step 3

Begin to lift your left foot up, away from the floor, and back, away from your torso. Extend the left thigh behind you and parallel to the floor. Stretch your right arm forward, in front of your torso, parallel to the floor.

For More Backbend Poses

Step 4

The second option with the hands is to sweep your right hand around behind your back and catch hold of the inner left foot. Then sweep the left hand back and grab the outside of the left foot. This variation will challenge your balance even more. Then raise the thigh as described in step 3. This second variation will increase the lift of your chest and the stretch of your shoulders.

For More Standing Poses

Step 5

Stay in the pose for 20 to 30 seconds. Then release the grasp on the foot, place the left foot back onto the floor, and repeat for the same length of time on the other side.

Full Pose

For the full pose, perform step 1 as described above. Then turn your left arm actively outward (so the palm faces away from the side of the torso), bend the elbow, and grip the outside of the left foot. (You can also grab the big toe with the first two fingers and the thumb.) The fingers will cross the top of the foot, the thumb will press against the sole. Inhale, lift the left leg up, and bring the thigh parallel to the floor. As you do this, rotate the left shoulder in such a way that the bent elbow swings around and up, so that it points toward the ceiling. It requires extreme flexibility to externally rotate and flex the shoulder joint in this way. Reach the right arm straight forward, in front of the torso and parallel to the floor. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, release, and repeat on the second side for the same length of time.


Pose Information

Sanskrit Name


Pose Level

Modifications and Props

Balance can be difficult in the modified version. Try bracing the free hand against a wall to help you stay stable.

Deepen the Pose

You can move even further into this pose by grasping the raised foot with the off-side hand. Complete the pose as described above in the Full Pose section. Then inhale and swing the free hand first up toward the ceiling, then bend the elbow and reach for the inside of the raised foot.

Preparatory Poses

  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana
  • Dhanurasana
  • Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
  • Gomukhasana
  • Hanumanasana
  • Supta Virasana
  • Supta Padangusthasana
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana
  • Ustrasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Virabhadrasana III
  • Virabhadrasana I
  • Virasana
  • Vrksasana

Follow-up Poses

Natarajasana is usually performed as the final pose of a series of challenging backbends. You’ll probably want to release the spine by coming to Ardha Uttanasana (Half Uttanasana), also known as Right Angle Pose, at the wall or reclining twist.

Beginner’s Tip

Many beginners, when lifting the leg, tend to cramp in the back of the thigh. Be sure to keep the ankle of the raised foot flexed; that is, draw the top of the foot toward the shin.


  • Stretches the shoulders and chest
  • Stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen
  • Strengthens the legs and ankles
  • Improves balance


Have your partner help you with balance. As you perform the pose (any of the described variations), have your partner stand behind you. Let him use his best judgment on how to keep you from toppling over, such as bracing your hips with his hands, or helping you to grasp the raised foot.

King Dancer is an intermediate, standing yoga pose that combines the challenging aspects of balancing with a backbend. There are two variations commonly practiced. The first requires holding the lifted leg with one hand, while the second is an advanced pose that requires holding the raised foot with both hands overhead.

The Sanskrit name for this pose, “Natarajasana” (NOT-ah-rahj-AHS-uh-nuh), comes from three words:

  • “Nata” — meaning “dancer” or “actor”
  • “Raja” — meaning “king”
  • “Asana” — meaning “pose”

It is also sometimes referred to as “Lord of the Dance Pose” or “Dancer’s Pose.” Note that the pose described here is different from the similar-looking pose in Bikram Yoga, which is called “Standing Bow-Pulling Pose.”

Benefits of King Dancer Pose

Natarajasana requires and builds full-body strength, flexibility, and coordination. It opens the shoulders, chest, and hips, as it stretches and strengthens the thighs, ankles, and abdomen. This pose develops greater flexibility in your spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. It also stretches the entire front of the body, while strengthening the back muscles, which improves posture.

Nobility requires no great deed, only relaxed awareness, openness to receive wisdom, and an unwavering alignment to what you feel is right. We learn to soar not through effort but through faith.

Baron Baptiste

Most notably, King Dancer improves your ability to concentrate and focus. By remaining calm while balancing and back-bending, you will learn how to focus your thoughts. This will improve your poise and grace in everyday life.


Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic ankle or low back injury. Also avoid this pose if you are currently experiencing low blood pressure, dizziness, migraines, or insomnia. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.


  1. Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
  2. Shift your weight onto your left foot.
  3. Bend your right knee and bring your right heel toward your right buttock. Reach your right hand down and clasp your right foot’s inner ankle. You can also loop a strap around the top of your right foot, and then hold onto the strap with your right hand. Draw your knees together.
  4. Reach your left arm overhead, pointing your fingertips toward the ceiling and facing your palm to the right.
  5. Fix your gaze softly at an unmoving spot in front of you. Make sure your left kneecap and toes continue to point directly forward.
  6. When you feel steady and comfortable, begin to press your right foot away from your body as you simultaneously lean your torso slightly forward. Keep your chest lifting and continue reaching your left hand’s fingertips up toward the ceiling.
  7. Raise your right foot as high as you can. Bring your left thigh parallel to the floor, or higher if possible. At the same time, press your tailbone toward the floor to avoid compressing your lower back. Do not let your right knee splay open to the side.
    • If you are comfortable and steady here, you may go into the advanced pose. Swivel your right elbow forward and then up, so it points toward the ceiling. You will need to drop your right shoulder slightly as you make this adjustment. Hug your right bicep toward your right ear. Your right forearm should now be reaching overhead and behind your body to hold onto your foot or the strap. Bend your left elbow and reach your left hand back to hold onto your foot or the strap. Draw both arms inward toward your head as your keep your shoulder blades pressing down your back.
    • As you press your raised foot back, keep your chest lifting. Do not let your torso drop forward. Keep your pelvis square and your right knee drawn in toward the midline of your body.
    • If you are holding a strap, walk your hands down the strap toward your foot until you can clasp the top of your foot with both hands.
  8. Hold for five breaths. To release, very slowly and gently return to your starting position. Then lower your right foot and come back into Mountain Pose. Repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same amount of time.

Modifications & Variations

King Dancer Pose can be a great way to gain flexibility, strength, and poise. Be sure to modify the pose as needed, and ease up if you feel any pinching or jarring pain, especially in your back or neck. Here are a few simple modifications that will lighten or deepen the pose for you:

  • If you can’t hold onto the ankle of your raised leg, use a strap. Wrap a yoga strap around the top of your foot, then bend your knee and come into the pose. Hold onto both ends of the strap with your same-side hand.
  • If you are brand-new to the pose, practice Standing Thigh Stretch to gain the flexibility and strength needed for this pose.
  • If it’s difficult to balance, rest your free hand on a wall, chair, or any other stable object.
  • For a deeper stretch, hold your outer ankle with the opposite hand. For example, if your right ankle is raised, reach your left hand behind your body and hold onto your right foot’s outer ankle. Then extend your opposite arm forward and up.


Practicing King Dancer will benefit your body, mind, and spirit! Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:

  • Keep your gaze fixed on an unmoving spot in front of you.
  • Make sure your bent knee does not splay open to the side.
  • Keep the knee and toes of your standing leg facing directly forward.
  • Firm the muscles of your standing leg, but do not lock or hyperextend your knee. Resist your standing-leg calf muscle against the shin; this micro-movement will stabilize your lower leg.
  • Keep your neck relaxed, not stiff or compressed. Reach forward through the crown of your head.
  • Evenly distribute the backbend across your upper, middle, and lower back.
  • Avoid jerking, pulling, pushing, or forcing any movement in this pose. Let your movements be slow and smooth.
  • Keep breathing throughout the pose. Do not hold your breath.
  • Move slowly and don’t be afraid to fall! If you do fall, simply get back into the pose and try again.

Dance with Ease

King Dancer can be a rewarding and uplifting pose to add to your regular yoga practice. You will fall out of the pose sometimes. Think of wobbling and falling as part of the dance, and try again. As you learn to flow with the fluctuations of this pose, you will learn to find calmness and serenity in all of life’s challenges. Balancing with serenity and ease will rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit!

Yoga Pose Notebook: Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose)

If you’ve spent time practicing with me, you know that I like to organize postures into categories. Sorry, I’m a Virgo. I’m also from the Midwest which is why I’m apologizing for something I don’t need to apologize for. In my defense, Patanjali was an organizer and list maker. So was the Buddha. I’m in good company.

Naturajasana falls into the backbending category in which the arms are reaching overhead and holding the foot/feet. Notable members of this family include the One-Legged King of Pigeon postures (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana postures), the ridiculously difficult arm balance named Kapinjalasana, and Hand-to-Foot Boat Pose (Padangusthasana Dhanurasana). So, yeah, this pose group is difficult.

Writing as someone with a mortal’s body who can’t directly hold my foot in ANY of these postures, I am thankful that they’re all highly accessible with a strap. In fact, these are my favorite backbends to practice, and I’m convinced that I feel every bit as good in these postures as someone who can hold their foot without a strap (or, at least, that’s what I tell myself while I cry myself to sleep).

See also Backbends: When and Why to Engage Your Glutes

One Thing to Know About Natarajasana

This entire family is challenging, but Natarajasana’s difficultly stands out. In fact, a highly skilled and capable student in my recent workshop in Copenhagen asked me why she wasn’t able to do Natarajasana, even though she had deep backbends. This is how the conversation went (with a few embellishments here for your entertainment):

Student: Why can’t I hold my foot in Natarajasana, when I can hold my foot in similar postures like Pigeon Pose?

Me: You’re not spirituality pure enough and the only way to burn the necessary samskaras is to provide your teacher with significant cash donations.

Student: No.

Me: OK. There’s another reason, and it’s simple. If you have the flexibility to hold your foot in Pigeon Pose, you probably have the flexibility to hold your foot in Natarajasana. The challenge is that it’s much more difficult to access your flexibility in Natarajasana than Pigeon.

Student: OK.

Me: Let’s quickly break this down. In Pigeon Pose, you have a lot of contact with the floor. Your front shin, your front knee, your front hip, and your back knee are in contact with the ground (or props). This means you’re stable and you have good leverage. When you’re stable and you have good leverage, you can generate more motion in your body to do your backbend. Plus, in Pigeon Pose, your center of gravity is close to the floor.

Therefore, in Pigeon Pose you have: More stability + more leverage + lower center of gravity = more range of motion.

Compare this to Natarajasana. In Natarajasana, your entire base consists of your standing foot. That’s all. In addition, you’re standing upright so your center of gravity is much higher. Pigeon is short and squat, Natarajasana is long and narrow.. This means that you have much less stability in Natarajasana than you do in Pigeon Pose.

When you have less stability, your body creates greater tension to stabilize your shape. This leads to less mobility—or, more accurately, less access to your mobility. You’re still just as flexible, but you can’t access it under the current conditions.

Get the difference? Yes? Good, come to my yoga teacher trainings. No? Good, come to one of my teacher trainings. Sorry, for the shameless plug, but if you’ve made it this far in this tedious article, we share common ground.

Therefore, in Natarajasana you have: Less stability + less leverage + higher center of gravity = less range of motion.

Student: You’re still not getting a cash donation.

That’s how the story goes.

To prove that she was able to do Natarajasana, I supported her raised knee properly and she easily reached back and took hold of her foot. When I provided her with additional base and stability, she was able to access her flexibility—just like she does in the other postures in this family.

When you don’t have a friend or a teacher to help create stability for you, you can do so by rooting through the base of the big toe, grounding the inner heel, and engaging quadriceps. You could also stand parallel to a wall (on the standing leg side) and place you hand against the wall so that you can feel the activation in your standing leg.

What’s the simple take-away that goes beyond Natarajasana? Sadly, you don’t need to give your teachers cash donations to do more difficult postures. Instead, you have to focus on producing greater stability and activity in your base, so your body is able to move more freely.

{illustration by MCKIBILLO}

The Symbolic Story Behind How Natarajasana (Dancer Pose) Got Its Name

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Natarajasana, also referred to as Dancer Pose or King Dancer, puts our bodies into a beautiful shape and is a fun way to practice balance and concentration. This pose honors the Lord of the Dance, Nataraja.

Even if the shape we get into does not accurately represent him, there is a lot we can learn from his form.

The figure of the Lord of the Dance is one of the eight forms of Shiva (another form being Warrior Pose and is also one of the most well-known figures of Hindu philosophy in the West.

It is the one-legged god with four arms, each hand holding an object or doing a mudra. With one arm and his left leg placed in front of his body, he is dancing in a circle of fire, and stepping on a dwarf. He is often called the performer, the creator, and the destroyer.

The cycle of destruction and creation reminds us of the circularity of life.

Keep reading to learn about the meaning of the Lord of the Dance’s moves and objects it holds, what we can learn from this deity, and how to bring the spirit it represents into our practice of Natarajasana.

The Fascinating Symbolism Behind Nataraja

Nataraja is most present in South India, its figure often found in metal form in Shaivite temples (one of the three main branches of modern Hinduism in India, worshipping Shiva). He is said to represent the cosmic dance at the source of everything in our universe.

Shiva, in this form as the Lord of the Dance, holds objects and is represented in a way that hints at his five responsibilities:

1. Creation

Shiva as the Lord of the Dance is shown holding a number of objects in his hands, one of them being a drum, or the damaru. According to Hindu philosophy, this is the musical instrument that made the first sound through which the universe came to exist. Nataraja reminds us of this important element.

2. Protection

The deity’s lower right hand is shaped in the abhaya mudra – the “Fear Not” mudra – the hand gesture that invokes fearlessness. Conquering human fear is one of the central points in Hindu philosophy and an idea we can find in many representations of Shiva.

Common Mudras, Their Meaning, and How to Practice Them

3. Destruction

In one of his hands, Nataraja holds fire, or agni, the symbol of destruction, which also appears in the form of a circle around him.

To allow growth and evolution, we must destroy what isn’t serving us; we must leave what we don’t want to make space for what we need.

In order for the universe to expand, it must go through destruction – an idea that is inherent to Hindu philosophy. Many stories involving the Hindu gods tell tales of destruction before rebirth, the latter being impossible to reach if nothing is broken or destroyed in the first place.

4. Embodiment

Standing on one foot, Shiva is connected to the floor, hinting at his connection to the physical world. However, he is also stepping on a dwarf, which the story says to symbolize apasmara, or ignorance.

According to Hindu philosophy, our goal must be to reach the Higher Self, and the material world (purusha) is an obstacle to this. Nataraja reminds us of this goal.

5. Release

Nataraja’s foot in the air hints at movement, dance, and energy flow. One of his hands is in the Gaja Hasta Mudra.

“Gaja” means elephant in Sanskrit, which references Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and son of Shiva. Both serve as reminders that when we conquer the obstacles we face, we can find freedom.

Natarajasana: We Must Destroy In Order to Create

So, Nataraja is responsible for the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe. We might ask: but how can he both represent creation and destruction? Aren’t these opposing forces?

Well, destruction here is to be understood in the sense of transformation: just as a phoenix turns into ashes before being born again, everything must go through a process of destruction in order to expand.

The cycle of destruction and creation reminds us of the circularity of life: spring and fall come every year; the moon comes anew, full, and back again; days turn into nights and nights into days.

The way Nataraja stands – and dances! – over the symbol of ignorance also implies that to allow growth and evolution, we must destroy what isn’t serving us; we must leave what we don’t want to make space for what we need.

Natarajasana Also Symbolizes Victory of Mind Over Matter

You might recall that in the Bhagavad Gita, fearlessness is one of the most valued spiritual inclinations. Lord Krishna urges Arjuna to let go of fear and follow his dharma, his destiny.

As Nataraja dances with the objects and mudras that hint at expansion and liberation, we are invited to follow his lead and focus back onto these important values and ideas.

Nataraja encourages us to honor music and the sound of the universe, to let go of our fear, to commit to growing and expanding, to literally step over our ignorance in favor of liberation and freedom.

Add the Wonderful Symbols of Nataraja to Your Dancer Pose

A modern interpretation of Nataraja’s figure could be as follows: we are always going to face obstacles in our day-to-day, but when you can find your grounding and maintain your balance, you’ll be able to gracefully move through whatever comes your way.

Next time you get into our modern version of Dancer Pose, remind yourself of your inner dancer and fearlessness. Remember the basics – just like Nataraja holds the sound of the universe in his hand.

Every time you fall out of Natarajasana, invoke the lightheartedness of the Lord of the Dance, the music he carries with him, the flow of energy that moves through him.

Remember that just like seasons come and go, you too can fall and get back up again, releasing what doesn’t serve you to create what you need.

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Natarajasana – Dancer’s Pose – is a beautifully challenging yoga pose. It’s a complex pose with a lot of benefits:

  • Opens the chest and front line of the body
  • Works your balance (ankle and hip stability)
  • Increases focus

The component parts (parts of the body that need to be warmed up or educated in order to do the pose) are as follows:

  • Hip flexor opening: the front of the hip needs to be stretched and opened.
  • Backbend: the backbend should initiate from the upper back (thoracic) and the lower back should be stabilized by the core, which leads us to ….
  • Core stability: engaging the abdominals intelligently prevents over-compression in the lower back
  • Hamstring opening: to hinge forward from the hip, the backs of the legs need to be open.
  • Arm in extension: the arm that is holding your foot is moving backwards in space. This helps with chest opening.
  • Balance: training the outer hips and ankles to support us in space.

Here’s a flow sequence that helps you warm up your body to make the most of the pose! Props you may want:

  • Strap


  • Virasana – Hero’s Pose
  • Cat Cow with leg and arm extended (Dancing Cat)

Warm Up

  • Surya Namaskar A with low lunges
  • Triangle trikonasana
  • Twisted chair parivrttta utkatasana
  • Eagle garudasana
  • High lunge with arms clasped behind
  • Wide legged forward fold prasarita padottansana c
  • Sphinx and Locust salabhasana
  • High lunge into twisted lunge parivrtta parsvakonasana
  • Thigh stretch (add a quad stretch in low lunge, or do a pose like saddle)
  • Locust and Bow dhanurasana
  • Warrior 3 virabhadrasana


  • Dancers holding foot with simple standing quad stretch natarajasana
  • Dancers holding foot with arm in extension (behind), adding hinged forward backbend
  • Dancers holding foot with both arms above head and elbows bent – use strap to hook foot


  • Forward fold janu sirsasana or paschimottanasana
  • Seated twist ardha matsyendrasana
  • Thread the needle or seated outer hip stretch agnistambhasana

Happy sequencing!

Icon for infographic from:

  • Chanut is Industries
  • Zlatko Najdenovski

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Dancers pose in yoga

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