Shiva Nata: the Dance of Shiva

Shiva Nata is brain training that kind of looks like martial arts, and acts like drugs-that-make-you-smart-and-hot.
It uses movement patterns to generate new neural connections and huge understandings that let you rewrite your patterns.
Sometimes we hate it for being so damn hard – but we get over that because Shiva Nata makes us graceful, coordinated and awesome. And because of the hot, buttered epiphanies.

Another question about arms.

Man. We get a ton of questions about the arm positions and am I doing them right and what about this and hey, inconsistencies!

I’m publishing this one because it’s from Claire and also because it’s the nicest. The nicest and at the top of my pile.

And I’ll try to answer some of the others in the But but but! section at the end. :)

Hi Claire!

The question.

 I have a basic, easy question! On the DVD, when he’s doing vertical position two, it looks like Andrey’s wrists are bent. But he explained earlier that the arm should be straight from elbow to fingertips.

Hmmm, do I do what he says or what he does? Or does it not matter? I’m too new to figure that out yet.


So many ways to answer this!

There is the short answer. And the longer answer.

And a bunch of complicated things in between.

Let me see.

The short answer.

It really doesn’t matter.

Nope. Doesn’t matter.

The slightly longer answer.

The important thing here is making connections in space.

What we care about is every possible way for these four points to be connected with each other. Then these eight points. Then these sixteen points.

It’s math with your body.

We’re training the brain to make all possible connections between all points. We’re internalizing systems of connections and possibilities.

So whether you bend the wrist or not? What exact angle the arm is? Not important.

What’s not important.

Whether or not you can keep the wrist straight.

That’s a question of anatomy (hmm, does your body do that?).

And, occasionally, also a question of practice (mine didn’t when I started, now it does).

Apply the people vary rule, as needed.

What’s VERY important:

Challenging your patterns.

Including the pattern of wanting to get things right.

Including the pattern of needing external confirmation.

Including the pattern of needing everything to be a certain way.

(I’m not even slightly trying to point fingers or to imply that these are *Claire’s* patterns. These are patterns that tend to come up for many people — maybe relevant, maybe not.)

We are always trying to shake up our patterns.

When I have students who like to get things exactly right, I challenge them to challenge themselves and make the practice intentionally loose and even sloppy.

When I have students who aren’t detail-oriented and just want to flail, I challenge them to challenge themselves and pay more attention to where their hands are (fingers together! palms flat!).

The longer and slightly more passionate answer.

We get so many questions from so many people who want to know why I don’t do Shiva Nata exactly the way the worksheet shows the positions.

Why I don’t do Shiva Nata exactly the way Andrey does it.

Why Andrey doesn’t do it exactly the way he explains it.

My darlings. None of this is important.

Shiva Nata is not like Tai Chi or Karate. It’s not like dance. It’s not like gymnastics.

It’s not about exactness. It is about challenging your patterns.

I get why apparent inconsistencies could be confusing or frustrating.

And, if part of your pattern involves a need to get things exactly right, this may be exactly why you have come to Shiva Nata. So you can stop doing that and learn what it feels like to be another way.

Ow. It hurts. I know. Because you’re expanding your consciousness.

Yes, the points and positions do have symbolic meaning.

Which is really interesting. But in practice, not all that important.

What is important?


That’s it.

(But but but #1)

“But Andrey does Vertical 2 in towards the center of the chest and you do it so the fingertips come to the upper abdomen instead!”

Yes, and that’s because:

a) Andrey is a man. He doesn’t have to worry about smacking himself in the boobs. If he were a woman and even slightly busty, he would also be doing it the way I do it.

b) It still doesn’t matter because we’re making connections in space and challenging our patterns. Challenge the pattern that need everything to line up just so, and use this practice to untangle that.

(But but but #2)

“But you show Vertical 2 with palms parallel to the body whereas Andrey shows them quite clearly vertical degree 90 towards the body!”

Actually, I don’t show them that way. It’s just extremely difficult to portray in a drawing. Which is why the Starter Kit comes with a DVD.

However, the more important point is this:

Most of my students
are not physically capable of doing V2 with arms straight, and elbow coming out in front of the body.

If they try to do V2 in that way, they end up moving their shoulders forward and twisting. This makes it much more likely that they are going to hurt themselves.

And since one of my favorite things about Shiva Nata is that it’s practically impossible to hurt yourself doing it, I’m perfectly content to let people do V2 with bent wrists or without full elbow position.

And the really important point is this:

It doesn’t matter.

Because what we’re trying to do is challenge our patterns and make connections in space. That’s what’s important.

Luckily, if inconsistencies tend to really bother you, this practice will help. It will shine some light on what patterns are at play, and give you spaciousness there.

(But but but #3)

“But you write that for V3 the palms should be parallel to the next wall. Quite apart from the fact that its physiologically impossible, Andrey shows his palms consistently parallel to the sky i.e. looking upwards. How does this descrepancy come about?”

Actually, it is not physiologically impossible. I’m doing it right now.

It does require greater flexibility than many of my students have, which is why I would never require it. But it’s absolutely possible. It’s what I often do in my own practice.

When teaching, I do what Andrey does: palms facing up.

The reason for this is that V1 and V3 look very similar to each other, and when practicing at any reasonable speed, most students can’t easily differentiate between V1 and V3.

So I always recommend that for teaching it’s better to make V3 look markedly different from V1.

However … yes, again … it really does not matter. Because (all together now), the most important thing is how we use the mathematical genius of the practice to take apart our patterns and build different ones. Yay.

Bottom line? Really, truly. This is it.

It’s all patterns.


Some people love the horizontals and hate the verticals. Pattern.

Some people love the verticals and can’t figure out the horizontals. Pattern.

Some people can’t even see that there is a pattern. Pattern.

Some people are so involved in how the pattern works that they don’t let themselves have fun with it. Pattern.

The question is, what do we do with this information?

Wherever we are, Shiva Nata can help us deconstruct these patterns and build better ones.

Perfectionism is a pattern. Needing to be right is a pattern. Not being able to proceed until someone sorts things out for once and for all and decides who is right is a pattern.

Similarly, not paying attention to detail is a pattern. Not caring at all is a pattern. Not investigating is a pattern.

None of these patterns are “bad” in and of themselves.

Patterns aren’t good or bad. Patterns contain information. And then it’s up to us — with the help of the practice — to figure out how we’re going to use this information.

And to discover what comes next.

That’s it.

Hope that helps.

Lots of love.

9 Comments on “Another question about arms.”

  1. Yes, very helpful! Aw, thanks for saying my question was nice (I like to be nice; good pattern, I believe).

    I think I get that it doesn’t matter. Most of me gets that, at least. I like doing things right, but only if I understand what the point of doing it right is.

    What I’m getting that I think will help me most is that the arm positions are different from *each other*, so that they can connect more points. As long as I make V1 and V2 different from each other, it doesn’t matter exactly how I do each one (right now they’re a little mushy).

    I don’t know if I’m ready to practice with others yet, but I’d love to connect with Shivanauts in Oakland, Berkeley or SF!

    Claire´s last blog ..Give Your Belongings a Home

  2. This is awesome and totes helpful!

    Claire: I’m in Santa Clara! Yay for local Shivanauts. Maybe if there are others around here, we could do a meetup somewhere vaguely central?

  3. Ealasaid, That would be cool. Maybe we’ll find some likely suspects on Twitter with #Shivanauts + #ShivaNata.
    Claire´s last blog ..Give Your Belongings a Home

  4. “We’re training the brain to make all possible connections between all points. We’re internalizing systems of connections and possibilities.”

    Oooooooh, something just went *click*!

    I love these posts on the principles. :)

  5. Yay! Thanks for taking the time to put some posts up on this blog.
    Katie Hart´s last blog ..Whats on My Mind Wednesday

  6. Connie Wirth

    Your Haviness so kind…Dance of Shiva continues to help me and guide me to write new patterns in my body!
    “I am using weapons of pattern pistols and swords of swirling sounds…cutting the threads that bind them…releasing their hold on me.”
    My family has been in the process of healing…myself, my marriage, our children. I know that we are not alone. We are all veterans of this war that continues to rob us of ourselves and our families. It’s a silent epidemic that nobody likes to talk about or acknowledge that they are casualties. We finally understand that the enemy we are battling is NOT EACH OTHER; but that the enemy is PATTERNS. Old patterns. A plague of patterns. Generations of patterns persisting. We are actively trying to break them, change them, transform them. Recently, my 10 year old daughter came across her old “pirate costume” which included a toy pistol and sword that lights up and has fun sounds when activated. Through playing, we came to call them our “pattern pistol” and “pattern sword”. If someone starts to notice an old pattern showing up, honestly, they will start swirling the sword around that person, or go get the pattern pistol and START SHOOTING. The pattern. Not the person.(It’s only annoying when I find I am the recipient over and over!)It’s actually working. It’s an outward manifestation of what’s happening internally. Utilizing play and silliness instead of pain and struggle. If that’s not proof right there… poof goes the pattern!

  7. This is an awesome post to read right now, because I’m just learning the hand positions (while waiting for the DVD to come to me, yay!) and I’ve been wondering (just a little bit) whether I’m doing them right. I don’t think it’s perfectionism that makes me wonder this (but I’m open to the fact that maybe it is), but I mostly was thinking that since I’m so new to it, I want my muscles to remember it in as correct a way as they can. I was a little concerned about V3, but thanks to the above, I’m not worried anymore because what I do feels good and I expect it will grow more comfortable as I practice.

    Since I don’t know the patterns or anything yet though, I’m mostly just practicing remembering the positions, since that’s hard enough for me right now anyways. Actually, wait, I was surprised to find that the positions are sticking in my memory just fine, which makes me wonder if I’m just not trusting myself to remember… and that maybe my memory isn’t as bad as I claim it is. First mini-epiphany maybe, or maybe just the difference between mind-memory and muscle memory. :)

    Whatever the case may be, I’m excited to keep pushing forwards into deeper challenges. Today, I tried the horizontals in reverse order, which felt intriguingly different! This baby-stepping shivanaut-in-training is going to be so ready for the DVD when it comes! :) (I’ll let myself claim to be a shivanaut once I do my first pattern-y thing. For now, “in training” works for me!)
    Qrystal´s last blog ..Starting a New Dance

  8. […] contortion that is beyond what I am capable of doing.  Luckily, I happened upon a very recent article about arm positions on the Shiva Nata blog, and discovered that the positions themselves are approximations, and that everyone finds their own […]

  9. I like what you wrote about being aware of patterns. It helped me the other day in a breathing practice. I was trying to do long inhales (20 seconds) and I wasn’t getting it. I’ve had days when I could inhale for 30 seconds so it was a little frustrating. I was thinking about patterns and I realized that I always inhaled from the bottom up. (like water filling a bottle.) I wondered what would happen if I breathed from the top down. I poo pood it but thought I’d give it a try. My notion was that in breathing top down, I’d lift my upper ribs first and they could then act as supports for lifting the ribs below. And to top it all of, to start it all of, I’d lengthen my neck and reach my head up.

    So I tried it and I consistantly did 20 second inhales. (I relaxed while exhaling.)
    I was very excited and happy.

    Of course this was just one pattern out of many possible ways of breathing. Not a right one or a wrong one, just one of many possible ways of controlling the breath and because I was very specific, “top down” I was able to practice this method.

    The over all goal, to breath freely. But the next step, 15 second inhales and 30 second exhales. I was focusing on 20 second inhales and relaxed exhales so that when I combined the two, the 15 second inhales would seem easier.
    neil keleher´s last blog ..All Possible Movements of the Dance of Shiva

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