Last week I taught Natarajasana, The King Dancer, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As is often the case, I observed the link between the alignment of the body and the intention of the pose. In King Dancer the orientation should be forward, the gaze at eye level, the forward hand and the back leg moving away from each other and upwards. There is no twisting and no sideways movement. The whole thing is squared and parallel, direct and forthright.
There was a student in Monday night’s class who’s first try was exuberant and lovely, and yet quite off kilter and unorganized, not a good foundation for a king. Once I had her pull it back to center, to square her shoulders, get her weight more forward on her supporting leg and close the back hip to bring the leg to parallel suddenly the whole thing “clicked”. Not only was her alignment correct, but also the pose had a new spirit. There was a leader, a dancing one for sure, but a courageous, upright, honorable Royal. As with all of our postures, alignment serves two purposes: it prevents injury and it allows the true spirit of the pose to shine.
Like a good king would, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led with his heart. He made eye contact easily and truly took you in (even if you were a 11-year-old child as I was when I met him.) He was a leader of love and integrity. His message was aligned with the yogic traditions of non-violence, compassion and service. He made connections between people and between causes. He overlooked no injustice - whether it was on the streets, in Vietnam, the schoolyard or the slaughterhouse. When he stood, he stood tall: forward facing and uplifting as Natarajasana is meant to be done.
Julie Lifton teaches Hatha Yoga to all levels at Birchwood Center and is the Assistant Director of Birchwood's 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training.