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.

Dance of Shiva, yoga, chronic fatigue and a question

I wanted to share a bit from an email exchange I had a little while ago.

Because it’s interesting, possibly helpful and also just really sweet.

So please enjoy this charming letter from Nathan in Scotland, who has kindly given me permission to reprint some of our correspondence here, in the hopes that my answer to him may prove useful to others.

And even if not, it will at least teach you something about the art of writing email subject headers:

Shiva Nata, ego pumping, expanding comfort zones and a disabled duck (that’s me)

Now that is a subject header. How can you not love Nathan instantly? I don’t know either.

Here it is:

Hi Havi,

Actually I’m more of an otter than a duck (and I haven’t swim for years – long story), but I thought styling myself as a duck might help you and Selma pop over into my comfort zone for a chat and cookie (but be quick, before I eat them all up).

I just discovered you this week, either through Dave “Procrastibuster” Navarro or your net-crush Naomi and wow, I’m in love.

Not in the creepy, knife-wielding, busting-in-at-3am way, but in the “holy crap, this stuff speaks to me” way. Underline “speaks”, then read that sentence again. Done? Okay, moving on…

I especially liked your post on staying within your comfort zone – as someone struggling with severe anxiety and agoraphobia it really made a lot more sense than most of the stuff out there.

So I’m working on expanding my comfort zone, rather than painfully trying to break through it. Good. Major success: I made 2 phone calls, setting aside for a day a major phone phobia. Wow.

(Ego-stroking aside: I’m just digging into your Dissolving Procrastination course, and today I took a big step and asked advice on a business idea in a forum visited by people I hugely respect. Got good advice too. Yay for both of us!)

Now, to the funkiness of Shiva Nata. It sounds great, but I’m wondering if I can physically stand it.

I have severe Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue. Basically, that means I hurt like buggery – especially when I exert myself (eg get out of bed) – and have no energy at all. Ever.

I can rarely stand without crutches, my balance is screwed (especially if I close my eyes) and I can’t stand for more than a couple of minutes at a time max.

I tried doing a specially adapted yoga for people with Chronic Fatigue a couple of years ago, I was able to do a couple of “just lie on the floor” poses for a few minutes each – then I had to sleep for 2 days straight.

Do you reckon there’s any chance I’ll be able to adapt Shiva Nata to my barely-working body?

PS: I would apologise for the essay, but I like a good natter :)

Wow. Right? I know!

And here’s my response:

Hello my dear,

I like a good natter as well (or I would if I could get away with using charming Britishims) and you certainly know how to grab a girl’s attention.

Ducks + interesting subject headers = WIN.

Also: this is an awesome letter. I love that you made those two phone calls and that you’re celebrating it.

Okay, wow. It sounds like you’re dealing with all sorts of hard stuff. Between the pain and the exhaustion, I’d have to say I don’t think Shiva Nata would be the best thing for you right now, as it can be pretty taxing and also involves a lot of arm/shoulder work.

Even if you were to take the balance part out of the equation by having you just do the arm positions, I still don’t think it would be good.

What I would do is to start for now doing a lot of breathing exercises.

The relaxing kind, not the intense kind. Working on developing a practice of deep, conscious breathing.

Maybe alternate nostril breathing or inhale on a count of four, exhale eight, and then gradually adding very, very short pauses. Breath work will build core strength and stomach strength and focus you a lot as well.

Also tapping on acupressure points — I talk about this type of thing in the Emergency Calming Techniques package, or I can make some other recommendations for you if you like.

Also Yoga Nidra, which is a guided relaxation practice. You lie on the floor and someone talks you through relaxations, and you plan an intention in your subconscious.

Very powerful stuff, very deep work. There’s a good recording by Richard Miller (the famous yoga teacher, not my designer).

So I’d start with that sort of thing and wait and see what you can work through and how it progresses for now.

This is a very interesting theme and a useful question!

Take care and be well, thanks for inviting me into your comfort zone!
Havi (and Selma)

And here’s his response:

More awesomeness: I made a ‘stranger’ phone call today (had to find a random lawyer to notarise some documents) with NO panic or anxiety at all.

I was thinking about what you wrote about procrastination and fear simply being signals from your brain that something isn’t right, and you have to dig deeper to comfort it and find the real problem. Dynamite!

Thanks for your honest opinion on my coping with Shiva Nata (especially since its cost you some money) at the moment. I’m looking into Yoga Nidra and I’ll probably get Richard’s book soon. I’m working on my breathing, especially noticing how my chest moves, and it seems to be helping me calm.

Please do feel free to turn my question into an Ask Havi (honoured I am! blush I will!), my comfort zone now includes your blog, so no problems there :)

And here’s the part that’s for you:

What I love about this whole exchange (aside from what a fabulously amusing correspondent he is) is how Nathan is actively and consciously applying the stuff that I teach and talk about all the time.

  • Bringing attention — in the most guilt-free way possible — to what’s going on.
  • Asking for help and support … but without defining what that help and support needs to look like.
  • Being patient with himself and the limitations that he’s dealing with right now.
  • Acknowledging that hey, stuff is hard sometimes and that he’s allowed to hate it.
  • Celebrating successes in the best way possible.

    (Not “I made the call, but who knows what the outcome will be …” but “I was afraid, I let myself be afraid, I did it, I wasn’t afraid … wow, four things I can be really happy with.”)

It’s really important to me to make the point here that Shiva Nata works even when you’re not doing it. Right now, Nathan is applying lessons from the practice, even though he cannot yet physically do the practice.

He can still practice true yoga: the science of learning how you work and liking yourself anyway.

As Krishnamacharya (the teacher of both Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga Vinyasana) once said — and I’m paraphrasing here like mad — if you can breathe and wiggle your fingers, you can do yoga.

And Krishnamacharya was a badass and apparently quite a hard man in many ways. So I hope it’s clear that the benefits of this practice do not only show up for people who are fit or have a certain body or are mathematical geniuses.

Which is my last point:

The benefits are there for all of us.

And knowing this, what I would also urge Nathan to do is to read the numbers aloud. Just absorbing the sequences.

2-2 3-3 4-4 1-1
4-4 3-3 2-2 1-1
2-4 3-3 4-2 1-1
4-2 3-3 2-4 1-1

Because there is magic in the numbers. And there is logic and beauty in the numbers.

And even though I recognize as I type this how crazy this sounds, just the sequences themselves hold so much power and so much information about what patterns are and how they work.

Everyone send Nathan a hug and wish him care, love and everything he needs!

16 Comments on “Dance of Shiva, yoga, chronic fatigue and a question”

  1. Nathan

    Awww I’m grinning like a madman and blushing like a beetroot – kinda like Selma when I sent her that sextoy site eh?

    *cuddles*

    I’ve done a bunch more since I last emailed you (sorry – you’re on a to-do list!), including a bunch of calls (over 20 at last count) sorting out a broken windscreen on the car with only moderate anxiety. And the anxiety I did have, I didn’t ignore or try to marginalise, I listened to it. And you know what? It made it easier. It didn’t go away any faster, or feel any less sucky but it /did/ feel good to acknowledge the feeling and start working on the core issues.

  2. Havi
    Twitter:

    Right on!

    Hey, and two more Yoga Nidra recommendations from the wonderful Jen Louden:

    Yoga Nidra
    Inner composure yoga which she says is “different but sweet!” and a new yoga nidra CD from Yoga for Depression

  3. Susan Marie

    Oh, Nathan and Havi, thank you so much for sharing this. There’s so much for us to be grateful for as readers here–not least what wonderful writers both of you are. Hooray for the written word and for people like you who can be descriptive, funny, insightful, and challenging with it.

    And I’m so excited about the number suggestion! Yes, the numbers! I was thinking about Nathan today during my Shiva Nata practice (because of your exchange at Havi’s other blog yesterday, where she promised this very post), and even though I’m new and clumsy and distracted, I thought of the idea of saying the numbers outloud. Or–I didn’t think of it, exactly–it just sort of *lit up* in my head.


  4. Yay Nathan!!!

    And thanks to both of you for the info on Yoga Nidra – good stuff – always need to be reminded to just breathe :)

    And the #’s….as soon as I read the sequence my arms almost automatically went into the postures…like a Shiva Nata robot, someone can randomly yell out “2,4” and my arms will go there. Is it always going to be like this??????


  5. (James is currently jumping up and down going “YES! YES!” and needs to calm down before writing the rest of this comment, thanks for being patient with him…)

    Ok, I’m good. But I *really* got excited by the whole saying the numbers thing. Or, in fact, just thinking them.

    There’s two reasons:
    1. I do that.
    2. Recovering athletes do that.

    You see, I watched a program, a while back now, about how athletes, when injured, will rehearse in their mind the precise movements of their practice. And that this helps to prevent atrophy of the neural pathways that control the body, even if the body itself is healing and will need work to return to full strength.

    I’ve used this idea for rehearsing dances when I don’t have space to practice and I’ve used it to do Shiva Nata where there isn’t space (like when I’m lying in bed trying to get to sleep – it actually seems to help me sleep!)

    So, I don’t know if medically this is any use to Nathan, since it’s still pretty darn tiring for the brain, but I’m sure that it will still cause the same patterns to ripple in the brain and so have at least some (if not all) of the impact on the brain as physical practice.

    And don’t think that this is the easy choice – it’s actually a lot easier to do the movements than to clearly and precisely imagine doing them, but the sensation in my head after both is very similar and this seems like such a great way to get around a physical restriction.

    Anyway – that’s my thoughts.

    James | Dancing Geeks last blog post..Knowing when to stop


  6. I haven’t gotten far enough in my DVD to have seen any mixed up numbers yet, but I got SO excited reading the numbers part of this post because I just figured out that I actually have the arm positions memorized!!

    When I read the numbers, and said them out loud, I saw the arm positions in my head!! So, of course, I had to try to do them, right here at my computer, and I DID!

    I’m so excited!!

    *happy dance*

    Caroles last blog post..How to Send a Text or Picture Message from Your Computer to a Cell Phone

  7. Lynn Crymble

    YOU GO NATHAN! What an awesome letter – you do know that you need to have a blog now. You’re funny and warm and fuzzy.
    And Havi, thanks so much for ‘introducing’ us to Nathan.


  8. I second that! Nathan, if you had a blog I would definitely subscribe!

    Caroles last blog post..How to Send a Text or Picture Message from Your Computer to a Cell Phone


  9. I discovered something wacky and wonderful a few evenings ago, and this post inspires me to share. (Who knows, it might be useful!)

    I’ve been doing a lot of traveling inside my head lately, and the other day I spontaneously decided to do Shiva Nata. In my head. So for those who don’t speak Megan, this means that I’m lying on my bed relaxed, like a meditation, and I’m the me in my head who walks around and sees things and does things. And I started doing Shiva Nata positions.

    My physical body wasn’t moving at all, but something fascinating was happening in my brain. It was harder to do each position, because being in my head is super different than being normal waking Megan. But if I concentrated and challenged myself (A LOT) I could do the positions, just the very basic ones. And I had a pretty intense feeling that doing Shiva Nata in my head could result in a lot of the same benefits as doing Shiva Nata with my body. It was like a new way to challenge myself — it felt like starting from scratch again!

    I haven’t tried it again, because I like experiencing the mental and physical results at the same time. But it was a wacky thing to have happened, and when I’m getting more non-Shiva exercise I might try switching temporarily to in-my-head Shiva, just to see if I get crazy BING! effects from it. Because THAT would be INTERESTING!!

    Megan M.s last blog post..Zombie Marketing (My “Ice Breaker”)


  10. I love that you didn’t say, “Oh Shivanata is good medicine for EVERYONE.”

    The numbers thing is exciting. I am going to try that.

    P.S. I have been doing the actual movements (vs. just practicing the arm positions) from the DVD for two days now but still am not good at it. Think I will quit, clearly it is not for me.

    Just kidding.

    Sonia Simones last blog post..Class Tomorrow (Wednesday) Night: It’s All About the Benefits, Baby


  11. Nathan, you are a delight. I want…No, I need to read more stuff like that. Obviously, I’m not the only one.

    Havi, I love you too…in the whole “speaks to me” way, not the freaky stalker way. I love that you posted this exchange. I love that you didn’t try to sell something that wouldn’t help (but then, I expect nothing less from you). I love that you talk about these ideas without being all preachy or high falootin’ (is that really a word?).

    The numbers thing confuses me. I like saying it. I like concentrating on the patterns. Patterns fascinate me. So much that I color mandalas with my son to relax after a stressful day. However, I don’t “get” the numbers.

    Last…YAY for you, Nathan. Yay for doing hard things. Yay for knowing they’re hard for you. And yay for sharing it all with us!

    Sandie Laws last blog post..Tiny Food is Fun Food

  12. Nathan

    Aww y’all are so sweet (this is just a quickie – pardon the expression ladies ;-) – before I nosedive back into a business idea helping out some crafty friends that came to me this morning). Either sweet or psycho-stalker-like, I’m not sure… either way you’re all getting giant fluffy mental hugs from me today.

    Since I’m getting a strong feeling I’ll have a band of yoga fanatics (and you DO NOT mess with women who can wrap their legs behind their ears, just ask my cousin Gerald) turning up at my door chanting 4-2 3-3 2-4 1-1 in the garden all bloody night I’m going to start blogging (for, oh, the 5th time at least! But the shivanauts [havinauts?] will keep me company eh?:) )

    First blog posting in a couple of days… if I can remember what it was supposed to be about (if anyone replies “memory loss”, I’ll come sit on you. That’s supposed to be a threat you see…)


  13. Yay, a Nathan blog!!

    Don’t forget to come back here and give us a link! (Or at least have Havi give us one….)

    Giant, fluffy mental hug right back at you! : )

    Caroles last blog post..How to Send a Text or Picture Message from Your Computer to a Cell Phone

  14. Andrea

    I only recently discovered you Havi, and I am loving it! And I can’t wait to read your blog Nathan!

    I know this is not yoga, so I hope all you yoga fans (I am one too!) will forgive me, but I just wanted to let you know, Nathan, that I have found Reiki to be a great form of energy work for some of the issues you mentioned. I do it myself and worked with one person who had chronic fatigue syndrome and fybromyalgia, and his condition improved noticeably with regular sessions. That was a long time ago, if it had been recent, I would actually recommend learning it. I find it’s best if you address big health issues (with Reiki) yourself, so you can use Reiki as often as you want, regularly, especially for the pain and weakness. In any case, good luck building core strength and getting to a place where you can do Shiva!

  15. Joan

    HI-appreciate your blog and dedication to supporting folks learning this dance. I got Andrey’s DVD and for 2 days followed the double arms practice, about 5 minutes both days. Yesterday and today I have been so sore in every joint of my arms, wrists, hands, neck and upper back. Is this normal? Phew! Have taken a few epsom salts baths! I was actually doing it in a manner that I thought was very gentle. I have had shoulder issues in the past, recovering from a frozen shoulder, definitely felt that going from position 3 to 4 was potentially difficult and cut some corners with form. What think? Thanks from Joan.

  16. Havi
    Twitter:

    @Joan – I think I’m going to put your question in a separate post if that’s okay – just because I kind of have a lot to say about that.

    But short answer:
    — First couple days are the HARDEST by a lot. Everyone hurts the first few times and then it gets better.

    — Women about to get their period OR going through menopause tend to get a LOT more soreness. Sometimes good just to back off then.

    — H3 to H4 transition is the most painful. Especially if you’ve had shoulder issues, soften that up. You can try doing looser, more flowing movements and less exacting ones.

    — If that doesn’t help, take out #3 and substitute an easier position for you. As long as you’re making connections systematically between points, it’s okay if you change the shape until you recover.

    — Yes to epson salt baths.

    — Yes to stretching before after your practice.

    — Yes to slow practice with breathing.

    — Yes to massaging your arms after each round.

    Give yourself a bit of time to recover, and then take it slow. It’s definitely work, and this does happen and yeah, you’re working muscles that hardly ever get used, so also normal.

    Thanks for asking and I’ll add more as I think of it!

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