You guys! This weekend is Roller Derby Championships! And I’m there. In Denver.
Which also meant I got to do two hours of Shiva Nata yesterday with twenty seven wonderful people in Boulder. Awesome.
Okay. Here’s Demon Llama!
It began by accident.
I was recently asked to take on some coaching duties for my derby league.
And I’ve started teaching them Shiva Nata.
When I introduced this practice to the league, one of girls asked how it was useful for derby. I wrote up some notes to share on our league’s board. … and here’s what I’ve got:
How is Shiva Nata is useful for Roller Derby?
The answer is this:
I’m pretty sure that EVERYTHING about Shiva Nata is useful when you’re training for derby.
But here are a few specific things that come to mind, although I’m sure there are many more.
Basically the whole idea of Shiva Nata is that if you aren’t screwing it up constantly then you aren’t going to get that much out of it.
Making mistakes and moving through them are part of your experience, but it’s also one of the hardest things to adapt to at first.
In any bout situation, mistakes are going to happen.
You’re going to look one way and the opposing jammer is going to fly by you on the other side.
Maybe you’re jamming and you trip over your own feet.
If you’re beating yourself up over this stuff, it’s hard to adapt to what is actually happening.
Shiva Nata helps you get used to the idea of not getting attached to the screw-ups; just moving through them and trusting that you will get better each time.
Shiva Nata also shows you the patterns behind the screw-ups. Also the patterns behind the self-recrimination. And what to do about it.
The ability to take in multiple things going on at once.
In Shiva Nata, you’ve got one arm spiraling in one direction, the other arm spiraling in the opposite direction, trying to say the numbers out loud too, oh and for good measure you can throw in a leg going in some other direction.
In derby, look forward, you look backward, play offense, play defense, communicate with your team mates, and stay on your skates (among other things).
Shiva Nata trains your brain to be able to handle multiple different kinds of information AND to communicate that with your body.
To think & move at the same time.
Especially when you’re just starting out, mirroring someone else lets you attune to what their body is doing and trust that they are showing you what to do.
This is a great way to get used to the idea of physically working with your teammates — like when you need to form a wall that is capable of staying together and stopping an opposing player.
Even when practicing on your own, you are asking separate parts of your body to cooperate with you, to respond to the messages you are sending them.
The better you are able to communicate with your own body, the better you can communicate with your teammates, and more intuitively too.
Using one part of your body in one way while simultaneously using another part of your body in a different way is useful cross-training for jammers — being able to fake in one direction, while simultaneously getting your legs moving in the other direction.
Shiva Nata is great for core & upper body strengthening.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of taking a hit on skates knows how important core strength is, so anything you can do to build on that = awesome.
Also, I think upper body work tends to get forgotten in the focus on legs & core, but one rotator-cuff strain and you won’t forget it again.
I’m always surprised by how easy it is to fatigue my arms doing Shiva Nata, and unlike weight lifting (which is awesome too) Shiva Nata keeps your muscles dynamic, so they aren’t just strong, but they move with strength.
And being dynamic is fundamental to derby — we’re on wheels!
Shiva Nata teaches you to stay out of “the middle”.
“The middle” is that dangerous place where you think you don’t need to improve anymore. Shiva Nata celebrates mistakes because that’s where you are pushing your mind and body into new territory, forming new neural connections.
Bringing that to your derby training helps you remember to actively seek out the challenge when something has become too easy for you.
Shiva Nata is also super useful in small doses.
You don’t need to spend an hour doing Shiva Nata to get major epiphanies. I usually do it in 5 minute increments, and have really started to appreciate that a consistent strong effort over a short period of time can yield amazing results over the long term.
Learning new strategies and then replacing them with different ones.
Shiva Nata gives your mind a major workout just learning the basics of Level 1, and then suddenly you’re on Level 2 and everything you thought you knew is now totally different.
In roller derby you may go into a jam with a solid strategy, but suddenly your jammer gets a major penalty and now you need to control a power jam: you have to adapt instantly.
Practicing different aspects or levels of Shiva Nata one after another is super useful in developing your ability to adapt instantly.
Shiva Nata improves your ability to recognize patterns and then look for the gaps.
As a jammer it trains your eye to see the paths through the pack, not the people in the pack.
As a blocker it trains you to identify the other team’s strategy quickly — and counter it.
This is one of those things that is pretty hard to explain without experiencing it.
There are always multiple patterns at play, and they are constantly changing. Developing this kind of vision is one of the greatest gifts of Shiva Nata.
Just do it. And keep doing it. And keep making it harder. You’ll feel and see what happens. And it will be brilliant.