Archtypes & Mythology: Nataraja – The Dancing Warrior

By Mark Stephens on Mon, 02/11/2013 - 15:56


Shiva is usually represented in Indian iconography as immersed in deep meditation or dancing the Tandava upon the demon of ignorance in his manifestation of Nataraja, the lord of the dance (Zimmer 1972, 151–157). As an ancient form of magic, dancing induces trance, ecstasy, and self-realization. Shiva manifests in the form of Nataraja to gather and project his frantic, endless gyrations in order to arouse dormant energies that are the creative forces shaping the world. Leading a class through a linked dance-like series of warrior asanas and vinyasas awakens students’ creative energy as body and breath are synchronized in flowing movement. But Nataraja is also the god of destruction, manifesting the element of fire that symbolizes the destruction of illusions we hold about life and the world.

In the balance of the dancing Shiva, we thus find a counterpoise of destruction and creation in the play of the cosmic dance, offering a pathway to enlightenment and equanimity.