The Dance of Shiva: Natarajasana

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The Dance of Shiva: Natarajasana

how to become a successful yoga teacherBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Shiva is one of the quintessential Hindu deities. He is known as the “Auspicious One” who is transcendent, unchanging, formless, and without limit. He is considered to be the embodiment of the formless divinity, also known in Hinduism as the Supreme Lord or Parameshwara. In the Hindu pantheon, many of the deities have different energetic qualities or aspects to their embodied personas. Of course, this is also true of Shiva. His fiery aspect is referred to as Rudra in the ancient Yogic text, the Rig Veda, which dates back several thousand years to the time period between 1100-1700 BCE.

The Rig Veda extols Shiva as the “one who is eternally pure” and who remains forever untainted by the imperfections of tamas and rajas. In Yogic terminology, “tamas” refers to lethargic, heavy or dark qualities of energy, and “rajas” refers to very active, sometimes overly active and frenetic, qualities of life energy. The essential nature of Shiva, who is seen ultimately as transcendent, vacillates between the energies of creation, sustenance and destruction, of all things in this world.

One of the most famous embodied depictions of Shiva is as Nataraja or the Lord of the Dance. This reference to Shiva as Nataraja is first noted in the Sanskrit text, the Shiva Sahasranama. This text chant remembers and honors all of Shiva’s aspects and manifestations. It is still sung today in Yoga ashrams that follow a Shaivite path. In his aspect as Nataraja, Shiva imbues his devotees with great creativity and inspiration. This impulse to create, sustain and destroy is found in the very rhythm and fabric of all life.

When Shiva feels that the universe needs to be destroyed and “rebooted,” he accomplishes his goal by dancing the Tandavanrtya. In this dance, the flow of energy vacillates between the masculine, destructive, fiery aspect of Shiva and his feminine consort, Lasya. Lasya embodies the soft, gentle, feminine, creative aspect of the universal pulsation of existence. Thus, the Tandava-Lasya dances are associated in the Yogic scriptures with the ceaselessly unfolding cycle of the destruction and creation of the universe.

As Yogi and Yoginis, we can harness the power of Shiva’s transcendence and his creative potential through practices that connect us with his essential nature. Natarajasana is a Yoga pose that emulates the divine dance of Shiva’s creation and destruction of the universe, known in the Hindu scriptures as the Tandava. The internal pulsation of the flow of our breath is a reflection of the expansion and contraction of Shiva’s creative energy. By riding the wave of our breath as we hold the Yoga asanas, we are connecting intimately to the creation and dissolution of life.

In Natarajasana, or Dancer Pose, we are invited to nobly expand into the fullness of our own creative potential. Natarajasana also expands the entire front of the torso, including the throat and heart chakras. When the creative energy is following freely though these chakras, we are much more able to speak our truth and feel the longing of our own heart’s desire. Practicing Natarajasana also improves balance and concentration, both qualities that are critical to creating and sustaining a life that honors our deepest dreams and desires.

* Natarajasana

To practice Natarajasana, or Dancer Pose, come to an equal standing position at the front of your Yoga mat. Before proceeding, find a gazing point or drishti two to three feet in front of you on the floor. If you hold this drishti point without wavering during your practice of Dancer Pose, your balance will become steadier and the fluctuations of your mind will begin to calm. With an inhale, shift your weight to your right foot and raise your left foot behind you. Grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Remember to keep your left foot in direct alignment with your left hip bone.

Keep your drishti steady and with your next inhale, begin to apply gentle pressure by pressing your left foot against your left hand. Expand your chest fully with your breath and stand in a noble and proud manner as you embody Shiva’s essence. Hold this Yoga pose for three to five complete breaths, and then with your next exhale, release your left foot and come back to Samasthiti or Equal Standing at the front of your Yoga mat. Repeat Dancer Pose on the right side.

© Copyright 2014 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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