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.

101 ways to do Shiva Nata

Today’s post is from the lovely Elizabeth Borchert who did Shiva Nata with us at the Destuckification Retreat in California last year, and at the January Rally in Portland.

Endless variations and possibilities is one of my most beloved shivanautical themes. Thank you! .

A little while ago I was on a brainstorming kick, and challenged myself to come up with 101 Shiva Nata variations.

I thought you might enjoy them — so here they are!

101 ways to do Shiva Nata

  1. Saying numbers aloud
  2. Saying the direction of movement aloud
  3. As fast as you can
  4. So slowly your arms hurt
  5. While music is playing (so many possibilities with music)
  6. In silence
  7. While keeping your mind as silent as possible
  8. While having a conversation with someone
  9. Balancing on one foot
  10. When using your leg, not letting your moving foot touch the floor
  11. Jumping with each arm movement
  12. Moving arms smootly through the positions
  13. Staccato – stick in each position and move between them as fast as possible.
  14. One arm legato and the other staccato
  15. While lying on the floor
  16. While lying on the floor with your abs engaged in a crunch
  17. While hanging upside down (use a chair, monkey bars, inversion table, strong friend)
  18. Assign the positions words, and say the words (Havi has some great ones)
  19. Assign the positions notes, and sing the notes (Shiva Nata solfege)
  20. Now play those notes on an instrument
  21. Let your torso move – dance with it
  22. Singing your favorite song and flailing to the beat
  23. Focusing on beautiful form
  24. With rice crispy treats on your hands
  25. Hopping on one foot
  26. Writing the numbers on paper
  27. With eyes closed
  28. Not moving, but imagining yourself moving
  29. From the instructor’s perspective (right hand becomes your first hand)
  30. When you’re stuck on a problem
  31. When you’ve been doing some deep work and want to let it sink in – or move to another level
  32. Pretending you’re someone else
  33. For 30 seconds while waiting for something else
  34. Under a forest canopy
  35. In public
  36. Saying the numbers (or words or colors or notes) and NOT moving
  37. Assigning each position a color and saying the color
  38. Mixing up the order of starting positions using Shiva Nata cards or Willie’s charts
  39. Play with Shiva Nata cards
  40. Put dots on a piece of paper, assign them positions, and point to them instead of doing the positions.
  41. Move your arms, but not your legs, and imagine that you’re moving your legs. Now move your legs and imagine the arm movements
  42. With waltz rhythm
  43. With tango rhythm (slow, slow, quick, quick, slow)
  44. With dotted rhythms (slow, quick, slow, quick)
  45. With the DVD
  46. With a partner standing facing you. You can mirror each other (yes, one of you takes the instructor role to break your brain), or not (aah! Not doing what I’m seeing!)
  47. In front of a mirror
  48. With the numbers on a piece of paper in front of you
  49. Think about the transitions instead of the movements
  50. In a group, all facing the same direction
  51. In a group in a circle facing inward
  52. In a group, taking turns
  53. In a group, each starting at a different starting position
  54. In a group, taking turns calling out a position and everybody goes to that position
  55. While walking
  56. Watching someone else and not moving yourself
  57. Doing just one position, or just one spiral, or just one sequence
  58. Doing only two staring positions’ worth
  59. Taking up as much space as you can
  60. Taking up as little space as you can
  61. Breathing with a particular rhythm
  62. Generate a random string of numbers, and use that as your sequence
  63. While contemplating a mandala, flame, flower, or other meditation focus
  64. While praying
  65. Naming the positions in a foreign language
  66. Assign the positions to verb forms, and conjugating verbs in a foreign language
  67. Imagining that you can draw in the air as you’re moving, and seeing the patterns you make
  68. Adding a stomp to your leg movements any time you come back to center
  69. Teaching it to someone else
  70. Teaching it to several people at a time
  71. Alternating with a form of expression (writing, painting, etc.)
  72. Considering maybe flailing at some point in the future
  73. Consciously deciding not to do Shiva Nata today
  74. Visualizing movement along the cube Andre draws in the theory section of the DVD
  75. Wearing unusual footwear (whatever is unusual for you), or none at all
  76. Underwater
  77. Expressing an emotion of your choice with your arm movements
  78. On the roof of a building
  79. In a cave
  80. Deciding on how much you’re going to do ahead of time and sticking with it even after you get bored or feel your brain is fried
  81. When you don’t want to
  82. When you’ve just gotten some exciting news
  83. When you’re frustrated with how something is not working out
  84. While riding a wave on a surfboard (please share a video if you do this!)
  85. In a place you feel uncomfortable
  86. In a place you feel safe and loved
  87. Instead of the usual leg sequence, number the leg positions and do one arm and one leg
  88. Slowly, carefully, one position at a time, with full focus and intention on moving your arms (and leg) to the correct position with the smoothest possible movement
  89. Locate spots on the floor and assign them numbers. Using your legs, step on the numbers in sequence, like you’re playing Dance Dance Revolution
  90. Posting a position on Twitter or Facebook every half hour
  91. While watching children play
  92. While concentrating on a particular chakra
  93. Imagining energy flowing from one chakra to another along the paths suggested by the numbers, using the air around you for 8
  94. With small weights (or cans of soup) in your hands
  95. Imagining the air around you is thick
  96. Standing on a balance board
  97. A train! A train! Could you, would you, on a train?
  98. Clock face Shiva Nata. Point up (12), right (3), down (6), and left (9) instead of positions 1-4. Now, if you left hand is the hour hand, and right hand is the minute hand, instead of saying the numbers you’re pointing to, say the time indicated by your arm position.
  99. Sitting on a chair, use two arms and two legs
  100. Watching the DVD and imagining you’re moving along with it
  101. Reading about other people’s practices, or talking about your practice (okay, I’ll stop now)

Here’s the thing.

There are a bazillion different ways to do Shiva Nata, more than anybody could ever think of or list. I’m sure Havi could rattle off a whole bunch more (please, please don’t flail while operating heavy machinery).

The trick is not in how you ultimately flail (though some ways sure are a ton of fun – I can’t wait to do Shiva Nata in a group again). It’s in the willingness to be open to possibilities.

To experiment and see what a different approach has to offer. To bring awareness to the practice. And I’m sure Havi would add – the willingness to make it hard.

None of which, of course, applies just to Shiva Nata.

9 Comments on “101 ways to do Shiva Nata”

  1. Whitney

    This is exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it! My whole body is in pain today and so I struggled through very easy and half-hearted level one arms…I wasn’t even thinking about all the ways to do Shiva Nata without moving. Perfect!

  2. Kalyani

    This post is HEAVEN! Years of practice ahead!! LOVE! BIG LOVE!!

  3. When I saw the headline, ‘101 ways …,’ I thought, must be from Elizabeth the Bee! You always have 101 great ideas for anything and everything.

    Thank you!

  4. Carey


    I have a couple, too:

    – On the recovery boards at Curves (30 seconds flail, 30 seconds machine; repeat, repeat, repeat through the circuit, changing starting position/direction/etc. on each board)

    – Assign a consonant sound to each position of the first hand, and a vowel sound to each position of the second hand, and say the syllable as you flail (Ta Pe Ji Koo…) until the string of nonsense babble makes you giggle too much to keep going.

    – (extra crazy nutty cryptolinguistic geek bonus: if you use the right consonants, these syllables each form a single glyph in Sanskrit. You can write them out if you dig Devanagari calligraphy [wouldn’t that be gorgeous as a border or mural on a wall?]. Or flip through a Sanskrit dictionary to see if there are any WORDS flowing out of the babble.)

  5. Elizabeth’s brainstorming superpowers in action! Thank you, my dear, for sharing this most fabulous list!
    Josiane´s last blog ..Lessons from a wise little guy

  6. Fantastic! I can’t wait to start playing with this.I totally want to do it on a train. If I ever do, I’ll be sure to record it (Shiva Nata of course, not the other “it”).
    Christine Myers´s last blog ..Mad Love Monday 42

  7. What should I do to get out of the rut when my meditative/ Buddhist practice fizzle out, get dull, and feels uninspired at times?…

    Do it slightly differently. Only a couple of days ago I saw this post (101 ways to do shiva nata) about how to put a twist on your shiva nata practice and keep it vibrant and alive. While shiva nata is a movement practice, many of these 101 ways will a…

  8. This is perfect! I’ve been getting stuck in my practise lately as I think I’m between levels – finding 3 too hard, bits of 2 too easy, all of 1 easy.. and just getting stuck. Just reading through these, i ended up doing about 5 minutes of mental-imagining-myself-doing-it practise.

    Thanks so much for posting this; think I might print it to stick it on my wall and use a random number generator and use that tip number to guide my practise. =)

    Rose´s last blog ..Morning Habits

  9. Sari O.

    Awesomeness! Thank you!

    I’m just slowly crawling back on the daily Shiva Nata bandwagon, and this list is exactly what I needed! I’ve been doing some of these already (like the balance board and words – and last week I did a round of Level 1 without moving, with colours for horizontal positions, as I was sitting at the dentist’s waiting room), but I might have to write these on index cards and start a daily Shiva Nata raffle. :)

    And for the record, I just did 11 (since after reading it I could hardly sit still long enough to read the rest of the list, but I succeeded ;) ) and yes yes yes thank you thank you! :D

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