Grace, agility, freedom. These are common thoughts that arise when we think about a dancer. In this week’s pose, we will take a good look at dancer pose, also known as standing bow, dancing warrior, lord of the dance, or that one pose where you kick your leg back and try as hard as you can to stay balanced on one foot.
nata = actor, dancer, mime
raja = king
asana = pose
Athletes can benefit greatly by incorporating this pose into their yoga sequence, as it helps to open the hips, stretch and strengthen the quadriceps and shoulders. As a balancing pose, it requires stability, focus and core strength to hold. Make sure you have a loose, warm body before getting into dancer, so do a few rounds of Sun Salutations (or jumping jacks and burpees) first.
Getting into the Pose
Standing in Mountain Pose, shift the weight to the left side and draw the right leg up and behind so the heel comes back toward the glutes.
Grab hold of the inside of the right foot with the palm of the right hand and draw the right knee down to line up with the left knee.
Find your center and activate your core strength.
Lift your left arm straight up, so the bicep is next to the left ear and begin to lengthen the spine. Continue to stay rooted through the standing foot.
When you feel steady and want to take this further, begin to kick the right foot into the right hand, extending the leg backward. Try to maintain squareness in the hips by drawing the right hip down as the left hip draws back.
Simultaneously, begin to reach the chest and the left arm up and forward.
Feel as if you are being pulled forward and up, but also back and down.
Breathe deeply in this pose, as you fix your gaze on an immobile object or spot on the floor or wall in front of you.
Hold for at least five full breaths.
Slowly release back to Mountain Pose and switch sides.
Benefits for Athletes
- Engages core
- Enhances sense of balance
- Activates breath and focus
- Stretches quadriceps
- Stretches ankles
- Stretches front of the hips
- Opens shoulders
- Opens chest
Common Misalignments & Tips to Keep Good Form
Chest tips toward the ground. Move slowly forward until you feel a good challenge. Your chest should always be lifted toward the front of the room. Don’t let your shoulders dip toward the ground. Keep your arm close to your ear to maintain a good lift in the upper body.
Falling out of the pose. Balancing poses are challenging, but continued practice will help you gradually improve your balance and stamina. Before you begin, find a spot to gaze at either at the floor a few feet ahead of you or on the wall in front of you. Keep your gaze fixed on this point as you move into the pose and then begin to breathe. The harder you focus and the more steady your breath, the easier it will be to stay balanced on one leg. Another handy tool is to really engage the core muscles. This will drive more stability into the pose, and you will be able to hold it longer without less wobble. Always think about rooting down through the standing leg evenly into the foot while lifting toward the sky from the crown of the head.
Lifted leg or knee turns out. It’s hard to see what you look like in this pose without practicing in front of a mirror or having someone watch you, but mirrors can be distracting, and the best way to adjust your alignment is to check in with your body. What does the pose feel like? Does anything feel weird or cockeyed? Be sure to start with both knees lined up. This squares off the hips. You will want to maintain squareness in the hips for correct alignment and maximum benefit. When you kick your foot into your hand and your leg begins to extend, press the leg inward and drive the hip down. You probably won’t be able to extend your leg as far, but you’ll be in good alignment, which is more kind to your body. Always remember that the pictures of poses you see in Yoga Journal or other yoga sites and publications are very advanced practitioners who are also very flexible and strong. With patience and diligence, your body will change. You will get more flexible. You will get stronger. But forcing the body somewhere it’s not ready to go can be dangerous and could cause injury. So always listen to the body!