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Beginner Yoga Sequence: Dancer Pose (Natarajasana) - FREE Online Yoga Sequence + Practice Tips
When practicing or teaching Dancer Pose, there is a lot to consider. Dancer Pose is tricky because it is both a standing balance as well as a backbend. The standing leg needs to be strong, and capable of holding you up by itself; the hip flexors and quadricep muscles need to be lengthened; the spine should be warm; and your focus must be present and alert. By practicing these poses in a class sequence, the body should be ready for the challenges of Dancer Pose.
1. Low Lunge Quad Stretch
This variation of Lunge Pose stretches the hip flexors and quads, preparing these muscle groups for the more challenging stretch of Dancer Pose.
It is also a somewhat challenging balance pose, which forces engagement of the core cylinder to keep the trunk upright and balanced.
For extra core engagement, press the hands into the front thigh and feel trunk muscles engage.
2. Quad Stretch with Chair
This variation of Lunge Pose builds on the work in the straight lunge, warming up the hip flexors and quads muscle groups for the more challenging stretch of Dancer Pose.
It also adds an additional chest opening as you reach back to hold the chair. This will also familiarize you with the action of reaching behind their body for their foot later on in Dancer Pose.
This pose is a great way to stretch quadriceps and open the chest (if you can reach back to the chair.) If you are setting up further from the chair to decrease the angle of flexion in their knee, you can try to interlace the hands behind the back to open the chest.
3. Half Bow Pose (Ardha Dhanurasana)
This variation of Half Bow Pose teaches many of the same actions required for Dancer Pose. This pose stretches the front of the thigh, opens the chest and shoulders, and creates a backbend in the spine.
It also adds an additional chest opening as you reach back to hold the foot. This will also familiarize students with the action of reaching behind their body for their foot later on in Dancer Pose.
The block under the hand is a great tool for any yogi to incorporate as it encourages lifting from the sternum. As you press your palm into the block, engaging the latissimus muscles and drawing the shoulders down away from the ears, you can use this to lift and lengthen the torso.
4. Simple Standing Balance
This standing balance prepares the standing leg to maintain balance for the entire body. The hip flexor of the lifted leg is also put into a position of flexion, encouraging it to work and get worn out - the perfect prep for stretching this muscle group later on in Dancer Pose.
For those needing more challenge, create a flow between Crescent Lunge and this standing balance pose. Try to move smoothly from one to the next several times, trying to arrive in one smooth movement in each of the ending poses.
5. Hand to Big Toe Pose - Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
Extended Hand to Big Toe builds on the balance work of the simple standing balance pose while stretching the hamstrings calf and ankles of the lifted leg. The hip flexors of the lifted leg are also put into a position of flexion, encouraging these muscles to work and get worn out - the perfect prep for stretching this muscle group later on in Dancer Pose.
Holding the strap encourages the muscles of the upper back to engage, opening the chest and allowing for a more vertical spine. A strap from the lifted thigh to the standing foot can be a useful tool in maintaining pelvic alignment.
6. Camel Pose - Ustrasana
Camel Pose opens the chest and introduces principles of backbending. Like all backbends, it opens the fronts of the hips, lengthening the hip flexors, and stretches the quadriceps.
As you reach back for the chair, you can take advance of the natural external rotation that happens in the shoulders. You can also take advantage of the chair's support by pressing down firmly with your hands and feeling the effects in your upper back - this action of pressing down makes it easier to press the shoulder blades into the ribcage and open the front chest.