I played with King Dancer pose today and it immediately helped me acknowledge how organic alignment and misalignment can greatly affect the perception of quality of ‘depth’ in asanas. Dancer pose offers key stretching benefits to the hamstrings (supporting leg), hip flexors (elevated thigh side), abdominal muscles, and chest (elevated thigh side).
When easing towards ‘depth’ of flexibility in this back bending balance, notice how readily the body wants to lift open the hips on the elevated thigh side. This hip shift can significantly allow the back arch to seemingly take shape and elevate the thigh further. However, does this support the benefits mentioned above?
Turning the hip open to one side causes the following:
*the stretch in the hamstrings of the supporting thigh turns primarily to the outer hamstring muscles where there is often more flexible length in the tissues, thus loosing the isolation of the inner hamstrings where we often need to focus more
*some of the hip flexors function as external rotators, so the best way to isolate their stretch is to internally set the thigh and hip bones back to neutral; allowing the hip and thigh to turn outwards greatly reduces hip flexor stretch isolations
*turning the hip outwards rotates the spine which cascades up to the shoulder and pulls the shoulder/chest back, thus preventing the chest muscles to experience the full lengthening action of the stretch – instead, maintain both shoulders forward and enjoy a definitive stretch in the chest and front shoulder regions
Take home message with Natarajasana:
*insure that you do ample warm up and preparation poses that involve these key muscle groups
*work through this pose in a single plane (sagittal plane) where you focus on maintaining a squared forward line of the hips and shoulders even if this ‘reduces’ the depth of the pose
*using this alignment discipline will carry forward enhanced isolation for similar poses like Hanumasana (splits) variations