Shiva Nataraja: Lord of the Dance
Inspired by a recent article in Yoga Journal with a combination of a grief relief workshop I took this past weekend—a look at this pose with a little more depth.
Shiva derives from the Sanskrit root, meaning “liberation.” “He cannot stop the passage of time or the fire that surrounds him, but he can find bliss amid the chaos.”1 In one image, it combines Shiva’s roles as creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe. It conveys the conception of the never-ending cycle of time.
Shiva’s dance is set within a flaming wheel. The god holds in his upper right hand the damaru (hand drum beating the first sounds of creation). His upper left hand holds agni (the god of fire which signifies immortality). With his lower right hand, he makes abhaya mudra (the gesture of fearlessness). The dwarflike figure being trampled by his right foot represents apasmara purusha (illusion or ignorance, which leads mankind astray). Shiva’s front left hand, pointing to his raised left foot, signifies refuge for the troubled soul. The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides. 2
This symbol shows us the fearlessness that comes from knowing the impermanence of life and the world around us. At one moment we feel happy, then sad. One moment anxious, the other calm. Another moment angry, then content. We have light and the absence of light. Life and the absence of life. If we can be with the notion that all life is on a continuum, then we can be in each moment, completely.
The image of Shiva Nataraja reminds us that though we are mortal and will eventually die, our energy transforms and lives on. “We celebrate life’s ups and downs, knowing that part of you is connected to all the pulsations of time and space.”1
So when you feel the churn of the chaos around you, harness that wind by steadying the breath. Steady flow in, pausing to retain the inbreath (“controlling the extra ‘charge’ of life”3) and steady outbreath. Find balance on your foot, “into the toes that allow us to ‘grip’ into our own reality – the ones that give strength and grounding to our steps.”3 Opening up the chest, allow the neck (“where what we feel about reality meets with what we think about it”3) to be free. Extend the arm out (an extension of your heart3), placing the fingers and hand (the “fine tuning devices of the desires of the heart”3) in abhaya mudra to demonstrate your fearlessness of the impermanence. There is impermanence in this pose, in your next thought and even in the next breath that you take. Life is full of change and transformation……that we know, is the only constant.
“I don’t even know if I am or I am not.When I think I am, I find myself worthless.When I think I am not, I find value.Like my thoughts, I die and rise again each day.”–Rumi
I welcome your feedback and hope that if you find this helpful, you will share with your colleagues and your friends. Click here to Contact Tianna to see how she can help you with tools to reduce the experience of pain in this moment, knowing that this moment is impermanent.
- Kaivalya, A. (2013). Joy to the world. Yoga Journal,Dec(2013), 68-89.
- Shiva as lord of dance (nataraja). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/39328
- Teachings by Antonio Sausys, www.yogasat.com or www.yogaforgriefrelief.com
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