Natya Yoga is an integral yoga that envisages the spiritual enlightment and transformation of the entire human nature: one's body, heart, mind and soul. A fundamental text of Natya is the ancient Gandharva Veda, a supplement to Sama Veda. A section of gandharvas called apsaras are the celestial dancers at the court of Indra (the world of the higher buddhi). The occasional incarnations of apsaras helped bring Natya to the physical world.
Elements of Natya Yoga can be found in the contemporary systems of the orthodox Bharatanatyam and, so some extent, Odissi, which are often referred to as the most ancient forms of the classical Indian dance theatre. The introduction to the Natya Yoga elements in Bharatanatyam is presented in DVD Volume 1
Natya is not of human but of divine origin, and was initially revealed to some highly enlightened sages, rishis, in their meditations. Natya Yoga is often confused with a generic name of Yoga Dance or Dance Yoga, that most typically describe modern systems of dance-like exercises that have been created and promoted by some western aerobics instructors many of whom mistook the hatha yoga asanas for a form of gymnastics similar to Pilates. Dance proper, nritta, is part and parcel of Natya, but it is nevertheless much more than merely dance movements. Apart from nritta, there is natya, which can be translated as mime, and which is an intrinsic element of Natya Yoga. A combination of nritta and natya is called nrithya. Although it does involve attaining to some trance-like states, Natya has nothing to do with what is popularly known as trance (or psychedelic) dance.
Natya Yoga's approach to the preparation of the physical body is very similar to Hatha Yoga's: the practitioner is supposed to do the traditional static asanas and breathing exercises. However, Natya Yoga is not limited to these static asanas, and contains a set of dynamic exercises, some of which can be found in martial arts. While the classic asanas, bandhas and pranayamas have already been covered and demonstrated by numerous authors, the additional exercises used in Natya Yoga are introduced in detail in DVD Volume 2.
Another distinction is that the Natya Yoga uses certain types of the Carnatic music that awakes and elevates the body's consciousness so that it responds to the music spontaneously. One of the Tantric texts, Saundarya Lahari, says that Kundalini hidden in Muladhara chakra can be raised by the raga punnagavarali. This is the reason that the Natya practitioners are encouraged to learn the instrumental and vocal music. The Upasana of Brahman thru Sama Gana (Udgita Upasana) has been pointed out by rishi Yagnyavalkya: "Singing of the Samans to the accompaniment of Vina makes one obtain the boon of Moksha effortlessly". The mystic dimensions of the Carnatic music, which originates from Sama Veda, are explained in DVD Volume 8
conditioning of the body is essential for it to become a purer
channel for the divine light.
Performing a set of 108
karanas, or key
that punctuate a full-fledged Natya recital, helps the dancer's body
discover the 108 primal divine energies, or the fundamental modes of
existence, and to learn the intimate
links between the movements of the physical, emotional and mental bodies.The
key points in many karanas are
considered to be very similar or
identical to the corresponding asanas.
Natya Yoga contains practically all elements of the path of action, Karma Yoga. The key concept of lila, the divine play, and the perception of the illusoriness of the manifest existence are the fundamentals of Natya Yoga, the advanced stages of which require the practitioner to perform items in front of the audience. These stage performances are an opportunity for the dancer to learn how to remain indifferent to the spectators' reactions, and shifts the dancer's perception of the reality. The reason that there were no public Natya performances in Satya Yuga was very simple: Natya was there in people's daily life's every action. A Natya Yogi learns how to control each part of his nature, and whatever is learnt is applied in daily life's every act: in the waking state first. The practice provides the practitioner with a set of various situations where he is taught how to act without being attached to the fruits of one's action, and how to offer every smallest act of his body, every emotion and every thought as an offering to the Divine. The elements of Karma yoga in Natya are dealt with in DVD Volume 5.
The transformation of life, - not shunning away from it - is the purpose of Natya, and here it is very similar to the Tantric approach, with its visualisations, invocatory practices and emphasis on establishing various godheads and divine powers in the human being. While often mistaken for a form of shamanistic dance, Natya focuses on bringing the dancer in contact with the higher realms rather than making the dancer a medium for the lower spirits. The practitioner of Natya Yoga will ideally focus not only on the transformation of one's individual life but on the transformation of the life of the people around him. One of the tools to achieve it is the public performance of Natya, as a form of collective meditation. The elements of Tantra, as well as Raja Yoga's meditation and concentration practices used in Natya are highlighted in DVD Volume 6.
Most of the Natya items are devotional items. While most of the themes embody symbols of Hinduism, a growing number of dancers are adopting the Christian and Muslim themes too, proving that - just like any other yoga - the Natya Yoga too goes beyond the religious boundaries. Each item is to be performed as an act of worship, which is to culminate in the dancer surrendering himself to the Divine, the trance-like states which are also similar to what sufi whirling aims at. Those practising Natya Yoga believe that the fastest way to realize all the intricate truths on the path of devotion and different types of Lilas is easier and faster attained not so much by merely singing bhajans but by enacting various devotional songs, which require one to master one's emotional states, relations and attitudes, embodied in the concept of 8 Nayika bhavas. Achieving a complete detachment from the workings of one's mind is a first step towards such a perfect control. The elements of Bhakti in Natya Yoga are elaborated in DVD Volume 7.