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There is a common and persistent misconception that there is only one “correct” way to practice any yoga posture.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are several variations of each pose that allow you to create that same shape, often with the support of props such as a chair, blankets, blocks, a yoga strap, even the wall or floor. This enables everyone to find a variation of a pose that works for their unique body and accommodates any injuries or conditions they may be experiencing.
Let’s look at Natarajasana, or Dancer Pose, which is a graceful yet challenging asana. A combination of a balance pose and a backbend, it strengthens your standing leg while stretching your chest, the front of your hips, and your abdomen.
The traditional standing version of Natarajasana can be challenging for anyone, particularly those of us who experience balance issues, tight hip flexors, or limited shoulder mobility. Practicing any of the following versions allows you to practice exploring many of the same actions and benefits of the asana, including the balance between effort and ease as well as focus, resilience, and stamina. They also develop core stability, spatial awareness and, of course, balance.
5 Dancer Pose variations
In preparation for any version of Natarajasana, you’ll want to first stretch your shoulders, chest, hips, and inner thighs with any of the following prep poses:
1. Traditional Dancer Pose
Stand at the front of the mat and shift your weight into your left foot. Bend your right knee and bring your right heel toward your buttock. Reach your right hand behind you and take hold of your arch or the outer edge of your foot. Slowly press your foot toward the wall behind you as you reach your left arm forward. Notice if your right knee is playing out to the side and draw it back in line with your hip. Begin to fold forward at your hips and lift your chest to move into a slight backbend. Focus your gaze on a fixed point straight in front of you.
2. Dancer Pose with a strap
Stand in front of a wall and shift your weight into your left foot. Bend your right knee, and place a yoga strap over the top of your right foot. Hold the strap overhead with both hands (or rest the strap on your right shoulder and hold it only with your right hand). Press your foot toward the wall behind you and begin to fold forward at your hips and lift your chest to move into a slight backbend. The strap can help you find and maintain your balance and also lift your back leg a little higher for a more intense hip flexor stretch. Keep your right hip bone in line with your left so that your pelvis remains facing forward. Focus your gaze on a fixed point straight in front of you. (You can practice this facing a wall and bring your left hand to the wall for additional support.)
3. Dancer Pose in front of a chair or wall
Stand facing an arm’s length away from a chair or a wall. Place your left hand on the back of the chair or against the wall for support. Then lift your right foot and enter the pose as described above. Bend your left arm as you hinge forward at your hips and keep your chest lifted.
4. Dancer on a chair
Sit sideways along the edge of a sturdy chair so your left thigh is supported and your right hip is off the chair. Bend your right knee toward the floor and either take hold of your right foot with your right hand or loop your yoga strap over the top of that foot and hold the ends of the strap in your right hand. Lean slightly forward from your hips but remain upright. Reach your left arm forward, place it on the back of the chair for support, or reach it behind you to help hold the strap.
5. Dancer on the floor
Lie on your left side with your hips stacked on top of each other. Rest your head on a pillow or bolster if that feels more comfortable and supportive for you. Bend your right knee and take hold of your right foot with your right hand or loop your yoga strap over that ankle and hold it in your right hand. Reach your left arm slightly forward.
About our contributor
Andrew McGonigle has studied anatomy for more than 20 years. After initially studying to become a doctor, he moved away from Western medicine to become a yoga and anatomy teacher. He shares his knowledge of the body and the ways it moves in yoga teacher training courses throughout the world and leads his own Yoga Anatomy Online Course. His second book, The Physiology of Yoga, was published in June 2022. To learn more about Andrew, check out doctor-yogi.com or follow him on Instagram @doctoryogi.