Nataraj is one of the persona of Shiva. In this guise he is portrayed as a rather imposing figure standing atop a small midget, surrounded by a ring of fire with snakes around his neck. This form of Shiva is about destruction. He beats a drum that is held in one hand, dancing to his own beat as each age of the world comes and goes. Representative of the constant cycle of birth, death and rebirth, Nataraj knows how to let go in order to bring in the new. This is a necessity if we are to evolve both personally and as a species.
Looked at another way, we can see this cycle of destruction as that of habits or patterns in which we get stuck. We need to learn to dance our way out of these habits that often inhibit us from reaching for what we really want or what our soul is demanding of us. Shiva has no fear of the ring of fire surrounding him or of the serpents around his neck. The poison of the snake is representative of avidya, the misunderstanding that we are something other than divine creatures. Shiva has found the remedy for this poison in enlightenment so he does not fear it. He learns to carry the flame in his hand. Ignorance is represented by the tiny dwarf-like creature that Siva stands upon. This creature is normally causing mischief which keeps our minds caught up in the day to day life dramas. Shiva controls this creature and keeps on dancing. Shiva understands that in order to control kleshas, the cause of suffering, we must be willing to accept all changes, even death.
To take the pose natarajasana, king dancer, start in tadasana, mountain pose. Stand tall with the arms at the sides, turning the tailbone slightly toward the floor. Allow the shoulder blades to rest down the back. Remember to use your bandhas. Shift your weight into your right foot to start and engage all of the muscles in this leg. Bend the left knee and bring the left hand to the left foot (inneror outer foot, depending on which way is most comfortable to you). Keep the tailbone pointing toward the floor and draw the left thigh bone back so that it is in line with the right. Keeping that, press the pelvis forward slightly and once again use your bandhas.
Extend the right arm to the sky. You can stay right here or you can begin to tip yourself forward extending the right arm away from the body as the left foot and hand press into each other firmly and extend upward. Parallel your hips to the floor so that the left hip is not turning up. Remember to breath! This pose is demanding as it can be a deep back bend while balancing. Only go as deeply into it as feels comfortable for you. Remember that if you’ve lost the connection to the breath you have likely gone too far into the pose. When you’re ready to come out bring your body back to upright and lower the left foot. Repeat on the other side.
If you are not able to reach the foot with the hand, a strap can be used. Take it around the ankle or foot and hold it in the hand.