There are, of course, infinite ways to challenge yourself and make your Shiva Nata practice hard.
This list of one hundred and one is a great starting place. And it’s also barely the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
Here are the ones I pretty much always use, just as a baseline to start off with:
- I alternate between teaching mode and student mode.
- Rotations in space with each new starting position.
- Using a word/quality/wish.
I’ve been doing these for long enough that they don’t even slightly count as my actual challenge for the practice, which I have to add onto these. But the more challenges the better, and I try to mix these up each time in some way too.
1) Alternating between teaching mode and student mode.
In teaching mode, the left hand becomes the right hand. That is: right hand is the starting hand but you pretend it’s the left hand. In student mode, the left hand is always the starting hand.
This means that when you’re in student mode, 3:5 means left hand at 3 and right hand at 5 (aka Vertical 1).
When you’re in teaching mode, 3:5 means right hand at 3 and left hand at 5. But you basically just pretend that your right hand is your left.
Alternating between teaching mode and student mode means that you have to SWITCH which hand is the starting hand.
For one full set of Level 3, my left hand is my actual left hand. For the next full set, I start with my right hand.
SUPER ADVANCED: If you want to make this really brain-breakey, switch modes with each new starting position (!).
2) Rotations in space with each new starting position.
Each time I move to a new starting positions, I turn one full quarter turn. To the right if I’m in teacher mode, to the left if I’m in student mode.
Sometimes I do a full spiral:
If I’m doing a level with sixteen starting positions, I’ll end up turning sixteen times in the same direction. Then I’ll repeat that level (or do another level with an equal number of starting positions) and spiral out the opposite way.
Other times I’ll do right quarter turns for the first four starting positions, then left quarter turns for the next four and so on.
Other times I create other combinations.
The main thing is that you have another element to keep track of — “Wait, which direction am I turning?”. It adds a nice layer of general confusion.
All those turns also can make balance harder, especially if you’re working with High Legs and core work.
Plus it improves your ability to orient yourself quickly in space.
3) Using a word/quality/wish/affirmation.
In addition to setting an intention at the beginning of a practice, each set gets a word, a quality, a wish or an affirmation.
This is in addition to using words in your practice, if you’re doing that. Or numbers, if you’re doing numbers.
If my horizontals are, say, Trust, Wonder, Patience and Speediness, I can still associate another word or quality with that set.
For example, I might attempt to think Love-Love-Love-Love WHILE I’m cycling through those word combinations.
Or I might experiment with seeing if I can feel or perceive the quality of Love every time I cycle through H2. Or to pulsate it with my body in different places.
Or I might try to imagine that [X part of my body] is getting a healing with love every time I cycle around.
Sometimes I follow the numbers on the iPhone app or the DVD while repeating my sentence the entire time.
To make this extra hard: Don’t Look. See if you can listen to the numbers and say your words at the same time.
Lately I’ve been trying to say my word or statement at each position so that I repeat it the same number of times as there are arm movements. That’s either sixteen or thirty two times per starting position, in the lower levels, depending on your count.
In your own practice…
Your baseline challenges could be completely different, of course.
It’s your practice. See what works for you.
Be conscious of the experience you’re having.
Meet yourself with as much amnesty, permission, and spaciousness as you can muster.
It’s all patterns. All patterns are legitimate. All patterns are information. All patterns can change and transform into the new patterns, which will then transform again. Bring them to the dance and take them apart.
We just show up and notice what’s there. We turn inward. We interact with the experience in conscious and loving ways. We make room for ourselves. Again and again and again.