Challenge pose needs proper preparation. Therefore, in our teacher training, we learn that it is important to build up strength and flexibility before attempting any challenge pose. Here we will focus on one of our favorite backbends, the Dancer’s pose or Natarajasana in Sanskrit.
Dancer’s pose is a very deep backbend, so we need to access it by slowly warming up our body spine.
So to start, come into Downward Facing Dog. Inhale, step your right foot in between your hands. Ensure that your right knee is stack above the ankle. Then, slowly drop the left knee on to the mat. Slowly lift up your torso and both arms up. Feeling the stretch onto your psoas muscles. Adjust your hips so that they face forwards. Drop down your pelvis to lengthen your spine. Hold for five breaths and then slowly place your hands back down and kick your front leg back into downward facing dog. Rest for a while, and then do the other side.
Start by laying down flat on the mat with your stomach down. Feet together, and press them down to the mat. Tuck your tailbones. Place your hands with the fingers in line with your chest. Lengthen the spine. Inhale, lift your chest up, backbending from the thorasic spine, pressing your elbows into the side of the ribcage. Exhale, release and place the chest back down. Repeat for 5 times, then lay for five breaths in neutral spine.
Stand strong in Mountain pose. Shift your weight to your left leg and place your right thigh on top of the left. Simultaneously bend the left knee, and ensure that the standing knee is facing forward and the top knee is not twisted. Squeeze the thighs together. If it is accessible to you, hook the right foot over the left calf. Squeezing the thighs, lower down more.
Spread your arms to your side. Place your left arm under the right. Bend both elbows. Hook the hands together if it is possible. Lift up the elbows to shoulders’ height. Inhale lengthen your spine. Exhale bend your torso down, keeping the legs strong. Inhale bring the torso back up. Exhale release your arms, release your legs, and slowly come back into Mountain pose. Prepare the other side.
Dancer’s pose with help of a strap
Make a little loop with your strap. Stand in Mountain pose. Carry your strap like a backpack with the loop hanging behind your knees. Shift your weights into your left leg. Bend your right knee, placing the right foot behind you in the loop. Then hold the other ends of the loop with both hands with your upper arms on top of your shoulders. Tuck your tailbone. Lengthen your spine. Inhale, kick your right foot back and pull the strap the opposite way with both of your arms. Ensure you bend from your thorasic spine. Do not let the knee splay out. Keep kicking for five breaths. Then slowly come back to Mountain pose. Prepare for the other side.
Counter pose: Child’s pose
An important part to keep the body balance. After the series of backbends, remember to bring your body down and come into Child’s pose. Sit on your heel with your toes untuck. Knees wide or together. Then bring your torso down with your arms spread in front of you. Relax your spine.