Updated: Jun 8
Modern vinyasa yoga allows for a creative expression of fluid movement; with a combination of clever yoga sequencing and mythology we experience a dance of asana that is both flowing and graceful. It is this dance that fuels discovery in my own personal practice of asana, and one that I turn to in both in times of joy and happiness and also in times of unease and change.
Part of the reason I started teaching yoga was to provide a space for others to find their own expression of freedom, to honour their inner dancer - even if they can't dance! I love that yoga provides a platform to explore, feel, question, and seek more...though this starts out initially as a physical connection, it gradually becomes so much more.
Life can move us along smoothly, then all of sudden something out of our control steers us off our path; we fall, we struggle, we cry. What was once easy is now hard, it's as challenging as it confronting. These same struggles exist for all of us, our practice being a metaphor for these struggles in life as well as on the mat.
This life is a constant repetition of birth, life and death - sometimes literally and more often than not - figuratively. This cyclical pattern in which we are all 'stuck' is called samsara. We are creatures of habit and find comfort in patterns that can inhibit us, rather than propel us forward.
Yoga is both an inlet and an outlet; through practice start to realise our habits - both good and bad - and start to 'burn away' those which no longer serve us. Asanas can provide a pathway to help navigate this dance of life, and this month we meet Nataraja or 'King of the Dance'.
Nataraja is one of Lord Shiva's many guises. The karmic life cycle of Samsara does not bother Shiva, rather he sees it as an opportunity to dance to a different rhythm! He is unfazed by the poisonous cobra that dangles from his neck as he dances - the poisonous cobra represents the toxic nature of avidya, the poison that we as humans have towards ourselves; we misunderstand our own divinity. Shiva knows the remedy for the torment of avidya is enlightened knowledge, which he has found through yoga. Yoga seeks to rid us of the ignorance of avidya by reminding us that we are all, in fact, divine in our own unique nature.
That bliss comes in the physical form of NATARAJASANA, both a backbend and a balance. Physical elements elicit their own fear because one requires an open and willing heart and the other requires bravery - the ability to stand tall and free.
This asana offers us the opportunity to let go of any fears that come with change while also overcoming the fear of falling. We embody the pose as our own, finding bliss as we bend and balance with the same liberty that Nataraja embodies as he dances; finding freedom in our hearts and minds.
Shiva dances on our altar in the room:
To dance like Shiva we must feel free - a freedom that comes from knowing that we are not bound to any one thing or situation. Nataraja is born out of liberation that comes from fear of change, he teaches us to ride the waves of change toward our own bliss.