Yogasanas help a dancer to achieve better physical and mental fitness. A dancer should at first learn to stand that imparts an aesthetic sense to her stature. Thadasana helps to accomplish it.
In spite of all the necessary competence and experience, many dancers do well either in nritta or in abhinaya during a concert. Youngsters who are more agile naturally find pure dance relatively easier. Yet, the sprightly movements are not sufficient to transform their endeavour into an accurate and graceful one. This is mainly because of the lack of flexibility in their movements. Most of them even lag behind in assuming ardhamandala posture.
It is also true that most of the senior artistes prefer to take up abhinaya as their main forte. The reason is generally physical limitations. Though they were once competent in all respects to enliven the stage through pure dance, they fail later in this area.
Another important factor from the beginner’s point of view is the fatigue which they easily fall prey to. Many youngsters even get disappointed that they cannot come up to the standard and this is one of the reasons for losing interest in practice. When a student cannot get the postures accurately, an element of frustration overpowers her.
The only solution to the above problem is better physical and mental fitness more from an artistic point of view than from the point of view of an advanced Yogi.
The Purpose of Asanas in Dancing
Not only the students but also professionals face the difficulty in flexing the hip (bending forward) keeping the legs straight. Another difficulty is keeping the knee half-flexed (bent) when the thighs are held as in the ardhamandi position. Suppose, by any means these two impediments are overcome, half of the path is cleared for the beginner. For swift and accurate movements of different parts of the body, the dancer needs to be agile and flexible. Regular and proper practice of asanas, in addition to providing these benefits, increases one’s stamina and reduces fatigue.
Whereas for a professional who is expected to get into the physical intricacies of the art form, advanced practices in Yoga postures are a must. Simple asanas, pranayama and meditations are mandatory for all.
The list of asanas with descriptions which I am giving in this series is not exhaustive. The student is free to select any number of asanas of any dimension to suit her purpose and work on them accordingly. But I feel whatever the proficiency the student achieves in performing the asanas, it is advisable to restrict demonstration of asanas on the performance stage. Bharatanatyam should not be converted into an event of presenting Yoga asanas; and of course asanas are not meant for demonstrations.
Along with the description of asanas, I will be relating their applications in learning and also stage performances along with their therapeutic benefits wherever relevant and suitable. The postures are slightly modified to suit the dance postures and practices, yet the principles strictly conform to the Yogic principles.
Thadasana: A Basic Asana
Objective: First of all a student should learn to stand that imparts an aesthetic sense to her stature. The importance of the Yogic principles is that the dancer must be able to hold on to the position without any instability and the breathing involved will help her to remain composed and prepared for the stage activities with a well focused mind.
Method: Stand by keeping the legs straight.
The feet to be close together and the toes of each foot should be symmetrically placed forming a beautiful arch.
Hang the hands freely by the sides of the body.
Keep the palms facing back – lathahastha (as described in Abhinavabharati). The body should be firm but not stiff.
Breathing: Gentle deep breathing is advised. Rhythm of breath should be as slow as possible but should not be a forced activity. It is advised that the breathing pattern is as if in a state of meditation.
After exhalations, give a long pause (may be, two seconds) before the beginning of the next inhalation.
Five to ten breaths are recommended.
Mental state: Maintain calmness; be relaxed; submission to the Lord (Eswara) as Pathanajali had advised helps to attain success by making the mind tension-free.
Application: This posture is called samanakha karana (posture with symmetrical nails) and is the basic stance in all the karanas. Karana are a set of movements and gestures culminating in a definite posture carrying a definite or a set of meanings or focused on a theme. These activities have a defined beginning and ending.
In the present context the posture should not be assumed like attention posture, but need to be slightly bent forward at the hips.
Thadasana has its importance in practicing another karana called Leena. As the name suggests, this karana is employed in sequences where the heroine is pleading with her lover.
There are slight modifications here while practicing this posture in order to conform to the requirements of samanakha karana.
Stand keeping the legs straight. The feet to be paced close to each other and the toes of each foot should be symmetrically placed forming a beautiful arch.
Bend slightly forward keeping the back straight.
Both the palms are joined together (anjalihasta) at the level of the chest keeping the fingers straight. Such a palm with fingers straight is distinguished as pathaka hastha.
The shoulders are raised slightly and the neck is bent forward. (Another variant – the shoulders are slightly lowered and the neck raised).
The abdominal muscles are gently retracted inside.
Mental state: A contemplative mood is maintained. The mental state should be humble and submissive. Keep the ego or pride away. To develop such a mood practice a mudra called shambavi mudra. A simplified version of this involves converging the eyeballs at the point between the eyebrows keeping the eyes closed. This may not be easier for the beginner as she may lose balance. For the beginner it is advised to practice this mudra in sitting postures and later as she gains proficiency, she may practice this in standing posture. In stage performances, this may be practised if the sequences demand it.
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