We’ve discussed in previous posts that knowing the story behind an asana may allow you to more fully embody a pose, and instil it with the energy with which it was intended. Natarajasana is just such a pose. In Sanskrit, “nata” means dance, “raja” means king, and “asana” means pose. Nataraja is one of the names of the Hindu God Shiva when he is in his form as the cosmic dancer and he is often depicted in sculptures in this way. In these sculptures he is seen surrounded by a ring of fire and standing on a demon. The ring of fire is said to represent the cycle of births and rebirths that the soul must go through before attaining salvation or enlightenment. The demon that he is standing on represents his victory over ignorance. The dance that Shiva performs is called an ananda tandava and symbolically this dance is said to represent the source of all movement within the universe. Shiva is said to dance while he creates the universe and also dance during his destruction of the universe at the end of each cosmic era. The purpose of the dance is to release all of our souls from the snare of illusion, and it takes place at the center of the universe, which is actually within our hearts. So, the next time you find yourself in Natarajasana, think about the powerful intention behind this pose and allow yourself to really embody the cosmic dancer.