Dancing Shiva: Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana
This month, we highlight Dancing Shiva or revolved hand-to-foot pose
— A favorite yoga pose of many of our teachers here at Modern Yoga. This powerful Asana will test your balance. As you root down with your standing leg, you stretch the hamstrings and IT band of the lifted leg. Engaging in a twist helps digestion and improves postural awareness, opens the chest, builds focus, and raises energy.
the Mythology of Nataraja Shiva
This Asana is named after Nataraja Shiva, a Hindu sculpture that depicts the mythological god Shiva as the divine cosmic dancer. This representation binds Shiva’s three roles as creator, protector, and destroyer of the universe in a single image to convey the Indian concept of the never-ending cycle of time. The creator holds with his upper right hand the Damaru, the hand drum that stroked the first sound of the universe. He carries Agni, the fire, as the destroyer, with his upper left hand. Preservation is represented by the lower right hand, held in the abhaya mudra, indicating “fear not.”
Shiva performs two more actions that relate specifically to the soul: obscuring grace, the power which hides the truth from us, allowing experience and growth to happen, is represented by His right foot upon the horizontal person. The uplifted left leg is revealing grace, which grants knowledge and releases the fulfilled soul from bondage.
How to get there…
Dancing Shiva Asana
Dancing Shiva Asana is an advanced yoga pose, and the journey to getting it can be incredibly empowering. In its full expression, you stand on one leg while extending the other leg parallel to the floor; holding on the big toe of the lifted leg with the opposite arm, you twist and look behind you, opening your arm.
However, we can deconstruct this complex pose and work our way up from simpler asanas and drills. Let’s look at which physical foundations you need to enter Dancing Shiva comfortably.
Advance balance – standing on one leg is a challenge per se; in Dancing Shiva, we stand on one leg while also looking back.
Core and Twist – We need to be able to twist, keeping our spine straight.
Hamstring and hip flexibility – hamstrings, and hips need to be open enough to extend the leg parallel to the floor.
Strength – this Asana requires strength in the standing and, especially, in the extended leg quadriceps.
You’ll build strength, mobility, balance, body awareness and face your fears head-on. If you’ve decided you want to learn to Dancing Shiva, you’re probably eager to begin. As in right now! Learn drills and other poses to help you build the strength and flexibility necessary to accomplish a beautiful Dancing Shiva Asana.
Build your balance with more accessible poses
Balancing is a complex task; the more elements you add, the harder it becomes. Like in the tree pose (link to the article), you can use your hands to challenge your balance further; likewise, we can break down the balance from “easier” to more articulate in revolved hand-to-foot. Get down to the basics, and start adding one element at a time. Begin by practicing Dancing Shiva with the knee bent – you can begin incorporating the twist without the challenge of extending the leg.
Here are some other poses you can use to build up to dancing shiva…
Half Lord of the Fishes or Ardha Matsyendrasana is a seated twist where one leg is straight and the other is bent; the upper body rotates in the direction of the bent leg. After you find it possible to twist without rounding the spine, you can start modifying this pose and turn it into a seated variation of our Dancing Shiva.
Revolved Half Moon Pose is also a standing yoga pose that combines the challenge of balancing while twisting. It’s an advanced variation of Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana), and it resembles the same difficulties of Dancing Shiva. However, you have two points of contact (your foot and your hand are both anchoring you to the ground). Use a block under your hand and press the floating foot against the wall.
After building a solid foundation, attempt the full pose again and notice what has changed and where you are now. Again, note what you can still improve and keep practicing while having fun!
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