An avatar of yoga that combines dance, yoga asanas and music is the new fitness preoccupation

Yoga has been the rediscovery of the decade. Now, Natya yoga, which blends dance, yoga, and music, is having its moment.

What is it?

Natya (dance) is a sampoorna (complete) yoga as it activates all the senses. “In natya, we have karanas, which are basically yogic poses in rhythm. Yoga is essential to any dancer, as it helps build stamina, flexibility, concentration and overall energy,” says VP Dhananjayan, a Bharatanatyam exponent.

In fact, Thiruvananthapuram-based danseuse Daksha Sheth begins her day’s lessons with a yoga session. “Yoga helps us become aware of our body, breath and mind. As a dancer, it can help in increasing body awareness, building the deep flexibility needed for dance, and supporting the strength required to practise any form of rhythmic movement.”

Who does it?

Physical fitness expert and contemporary dancer Deepti Martolia recalls that while learning the asanas was challenging, “what attracted me most is that I knew that each posture was properly aligning my body”. She was surprised when her classmates noted how she seemed to perform the asanas like a dance, especially while doing the surya namaskar. And that got her thinking. “Dancing and yoga are two very similar disciplines; both provide an opportunity for self-expression and body awareness.”

In natya, we have karanas, which are basically yogic poses in rhythm VP Dhananjayan

And so came Lyrical yoga, a style that blends the ‘flow’ of Vinyasa yoga and the ‘fluidity’ of dance. “We coordinate our movements with our breath, as we flow from one pose to the next in tune to music,” says Deepti, who has been holding classes and workshops on Lyrical yoga in Bengaluru for the past four years.

India Dans Theater in Delhi has been conducting regular classes in Dance yoga (a blend of dance and yoga), for the past six months. According to Rekha Rani, an instructor at the institute, “Dance yoga is a form of art that is based on applying the principles of yoga to dance. Students, especially those between their 20s and 40s, seem to prefer Dance yoga, as the movements aren’t rigid and are moving to music,” she says.

In Thiruvananthapuram, Natya yoga, an adapted version of yoga introduced by classical dancer Vidya Pradeep and nutritionist and yoga instructor, Uma Kalyani, blends Hatha yoga and Indian classical dance and music. “In dance, although we use yoga poses in adavus, it is never static. However, in yoga, you absorb the energy in a static pose. Our version focusses on Hatha yoga postures,” says Vidya.

Who can do it?

The moves taught by these various classes are easy to follow for even non-dancers. “I enjoy doing yoga and have always wanted to learn dance. When I heard of a kind of yoga that fuses both, it piqued my interest. The dance moves are easy to follow even for non-dancers like me,” says Dr Neetu Gupta, a paediatrician and student of Natya yoga. Gynaecologist Dr Anupama R concurs, “If you love to dance and swear by yoga, then you are sure to get super excited by this form of yoga.”

Yoga helps us become aware of our body, breath and mind Daksha Sheth

How does it help?

As the choreographed moves are set to rhythm, the classes offer a form of music therapy. According to Dhananjayan, “Music relaxes the mind and enlivens all five senses of your body; it also enlivens you spiritually.” Pairing yoga with dance, according to Vidya, helps you burn more calories than yoga alone, and also teaches you what dance actually is. “And while yoga comes in various avatars, all of them offer potential health benefits and help in reducing stress and improving flexibility,” adds Deepti.

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