Have you ever had a moment where an itchy pattern in your life (a habit, an avoidance, or just somewhere you feel stuck) simply dissolved, without effort on your part, leaving you free to rewrite it however you chose?
Brilliant, isn’t it?
Would you like to have such moments regularly? Like, more or less whenever you want one?
A teacher of mine, Havi Brooks, calls these moments “hot buttered epiphanies”. She and I, and thousands of others around the world, generate them by practising Shiva Nata.
What is Shiva Nata?
Imagine the rebellious love-child of yoga and t’ai chi, make her ludicrously epic at sudoku, and you’re somewhere in the right arena.
And then explode that image in a shower of cheap-special-effect stardust, because it’s really nothing close.
Shiva Nata is contradiction and it’s synthesis. It’s ancient and it’s modern. It’s eastern and it’s western. It’s mystical and it’s neuroscientific. It’s sublime … and it can be profoundly ridiculous.
Shiva Nata turns order into chaos, sense into nonsense – and then helps you find the secret patterns of order within the chaos, sense within the nonsense.
It’s a dancing puzzle, an algorithm for your limbs, a four-dimensional mathematical poem.
But … but … what actually IS it?
OK, enough of the abstract flourishes.
(Shiva Nata is abstract and it’s concrete…)
Shiva Nata, as I learn and teach it, is a modern, westernised form of the Indian Dance of Shiva, developed by Ukrainian yoga master Andrey Lappa and further elaborated by his student Havi Brooks.
It’s a physical practice: to perform it, you move your arms and legs through a sequence of positions – the sequence becomes more complex as you progress through the levels – resulting in a highly stylised, visually beautiful dance. (Also, depending on how often you do it, enviably toned arms.)
It’s a mental practice: each arm position has a number and may also be assigned a word; each section of the dance uses a specific formula. Implementing the formula, following the numerical sequence or exploring the semantic possibilities of the words, adds a cognitive layer to the dance.
It’s difficult – and that’s the point. Shivanauts are constantly dreaming up ways to make the dance harder, because that’s when the learning happens. The physical and mental challenges combine, and the idea is that this stimulates your brain to form new neural connections across the midline between the right and left hemispheres.
New neural connections? Always useful.
After a good Shiva Nata session, you’ll feel melty, buzzy, deliciously scrambled. You may need a few minutes of complete rest (the shavasana pose from yoga is ideal).
As the day goes on, you may find yourself suddenly understanding things you’d never quite got before. Your pattern-spotting abilities are likely to soar. I often find my own patterns of behaviour, and those of others, becoming almost embarrassingly clear. You may have big or small insights (bing!) that can help you make great leaps towards achieving your goals.
(I should mention that not every effect is of immediate practical use. A few months of regular Shiva Nata made me alarmingly good at tongue-twisters…)
Shiva Nata is, incidentally, the most powerful anti-perfectionism tool I know of, for the very straightforward reason that getting it wrong is the aim of the game. The more mistakes you’re making, the harder your brain is working. The more you flail around in confusion, the more intense the effects are likely to be. I’m a chronic perfectionist, myself, and I’ve made genuine strides in this area since taking up Shiva Nata. (I’ve even dissolved my fear that I might not be “getting it wrong” well enough…)
It’s not so much fun on your own.
You can certainly learn and practise Shiva Nata by yourself – for instance, using some of the resources I link to on this site (this is where I started).
All the same, there’s nothing to compare with a group experience of the dance, which is why I’m bringing live Shiva Nata to Ireland for the first time.
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