How to do the Ardha Chandrasana Pose
- Begin in mountain pose (tadasana) at the top of the mat. Ground through your right foot, planting the four corners of your sole and all five of your toes firmly into the mat. Fix your gaze on a point directly ahead and slightly above eye level.
- Inhale. Bend your left knee and lift your left heel to your buttocks. You may bend your right knee slightly to avoid hyperextension or, if you do not have a tendency to hyperextend your knees, engage the muscles of your right knee to protect the knee joint.
- Reach your left arm behind you and turn your palm outwards. Take ahold of the inside of your left foot with your left hand.
- To avoid compressing your lower back, scoop your tailbone towards your navel. Maintain this pelvic tilt throughout the pose.
- Press the top of your left foot into your left palm. Let your arm yield to the pressure, guiding your leg up and back. Stay as upright as possible in the pose.
- Keep your shoulders aligned by pulling your right shoulder back. Open your heart by rolling your shoulder blades together and down against your back.
- Raise your right arm above your head. Make a circle by bringing your thumb and pointer finger together. Extend your other fingers so that your hand is in chin mudra position.
- Look upwards, towards your extended arm.
- Breath and hold the pose.
- Exhale. Bend your left knee to bring your heel back to your buttocks. Then, release your foot and bring it to the floor. Shake out your legs and repeat the pose on the opposite side.
Modifications and Props
Now that you know how to do dancer pose in yoga, let’s look at a few modifications to the pose.
Hold the outside of your foot. Holding the outside of your foot makes Shiva pose gentler. In step three (above), instead of turning your palm outwards, turn it inwards. Grab ahold of the outside of your left foot with your left hand.
Use your opposite hand. Use your opposite hand and leg to open your chest even further and to keep your balance centered. In step three (above), reach your right arm behind you, instead of your left. Turning your palm inwards, take hold of the inside of your left foot. In step seven, raise your left arm above your head.
Use a strap to help pull your leg closer, extending your stretch.
Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana)
Full lord of the dance pose includes a challenging arm twist, which is why the preparatory variation of the pose is more widely practiced than the original in Western yoga. In step three (above), reach your left arm behind you, elbow crease pointing outwards. Take hold of your left big toe with the peace fingers of your left hand. In step five, swivel your left shoulder as you lift your leg, so that your elbow points upwards.
This variation incorporates the mermaid arm variation from pigeon pose (eka pada rajakapotasana). After completing step five (above), bend your left arm. Slide your foot down your forearm until it catches in the crook of your elbow. In step seven, bend your right arm. Raise it above your head and catch your left hand with your right. Press your left root against your arm to push it higher. Before step ten, release your right arm. Slide your left foot up your forearm and take hold of the inside of your foot once again.
If full lord of the dance pose comes easily, deepen it by holding your lifted leg with both hands simultaneously. In step three (above), reach your left arm behind you, elbow crease pointing outwards. Take ahold of the outside of your foot. Then, reach your right arm behind you in the same way. Take ahold of the inside of your foot with that hand. In step five, swivel your left shoulders as you lift your legs, so that your elbows points upwards.
Gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. Lord of the dance pose stretches the gluteus medius and minimus, while the gluteus maximus does the heavy lifting.
Hip flexors. The hip flexors are a large group of muscles located deep in the thighs, hips, and buttocks. They connect the leg, pelvis, and abdomen and allow you to lift your upper leg towards your body or bend your body over your upper leg. Sitting for long periods of time weakens the hip flexors, making it difficult to lift the upper legs and bend over. Lord of the dance pose stretches the iliopsoas and the psoas in the inner hip/groin area.
Rhomboid muscles. The rhomboids in the upper back are responsible for retraction of the shoulder blades. Keeping upright and rolling the shoulder blades back in lord of the dance pose engages the right and left rhomboid muscles.
Triceps brachii. The triceps brachii is the large muscle on the back of the upper arm responsible for straightening it. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk. Reaching the arm behind the body, as in lord of the dance, stretches the tricep muscles, making them longer and more supple.
Latissimus dorsi. The latissimus dorsi muscles are located in the mid-back. They rotate and extend the shoulder joint. Reaching the arm behind the body in lord of the dance pose also engages the lats.
Erector spinae. The erector spinae is a bundle of muscles and tendons in the back that control extension and rotation. Because they are responsible for straightening the back, the strength of the erector spinae muscles are closely linked with posture. The backbend in Shiva pose strengthens the erector spinae muscles deep in the back.
Trapezius muscle. The trapezius muscles extend from the back of the head to the shoulder blades. They are partially responsible for the gross motor movements of the head and neck. When you roll the shoulder blades back in lord of the dance pose, the trapezius muscles engage.
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