By guest blogger Taryn Blake
THE FIRST TIME I attempted Shiva Nata it was so completely impossible I dissolved into a giggle-fit.
What on Earth had I gotten myself into?
It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been warned that the practice is insanely difficult. Looking back, I can only conclude that a large portion of my brain was in denial.
What is Shiva Nata?
Shiva Nata is a system that is based on yoga, but it looks more like martial arts. Yes, there is physical exercise involved, but mostly Shiva Nata is exercise for the brain.
There are eight arm positions, and the idea is to go through a series of combinations of these positions. If that sounds simple . . . remember the childhood challenge of learning to pat your head with one hand and rub your stomach with the other? Now multiply that by about a million.
You can watch a demo here:
So, why do it?
After watching the video, you may be wondering why I would even consider such a thing. Valid question. I do it to rewire my brain.
Maybe you’ve heard of neuroplasticity. It’s a fancy word for the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways. What are those and why would anyone care? Think of neural pathways as the brain’s roads. New behaviors are difficult because we are chopping our way through an overgrown forest. Things we’ve done a zillion times are easy because we’re using a freeway with plenty of lanes.
Neural pathways are both helpful and harmful. I’m grateful that I’ve been through my morning get-ready-for-work routine so many times I can do it while half-asleep. I’m not nearly as happy with the food choices I make while on autopilot.
Shiva Nata causes the brain to form new neural pathways. And, for reasons I don’t fully understand, new neural pathways are magic.
How does this relate to writing?
Shiva Nata helps me recognize and change unproductive behavior patterns. For example, I realized recently that I’ve been repeating the same sections of the DVD for far too long. Perfectionism and reluctance to leave my comfort zone are patterns that crop up in other areas of my life as well. But, with Shiva Nata, hopelessly lost and flailing around like a chimpanzee on a triple espresso is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Once a section becomes possible, it’s a sign that the neural pathways have formed. Time to move on to new ones.
So I deliberately moved way ahead to a section guaranteed to break my brain. Somehow, this helped me move past the comfort of endless brainstorming and drafting for posts for my website and get on with the business of putting the posts into WordPress.
Another very welcome effect of a Shiva Nata session is that after I stop, for a few glorious minutes, my brain is so busy trying to absorb what just happened to it that it has no leftover capacity for thought. There is silence. Beautiful, beautiful silence. This makes it one of my favorite ways to take a break during a writing day because it shuts down my inner critic. I’m not sure if it’s the absence of the chatter or the neural pathway magic but, frequently when I go back to writing, I find a way out of the stuck spot that caused me to want a break.
Did I mention that it also loosens up my shoulders? The movements between the basic arm positions are large enough to get rid of the creakiness I get when I spend too long sitting at the computer. Add a Downward-Facing Dog and a Child’s Pose to stretch out my back (those are yoga positions), and a few neck rolls, and my body is ready for another block of writing.
If you think you’re too uncoordinated to even attempt Shiva Nata, this is the post to read. (Lots of other great posts on this site as well. You can also order a Starter Kit from this site.)
Printable PDFs of the positions:
From an experienced Shivanaut – scroll down to the sections “What You Could Gain” and “How It Works”:
TARYN BLAKE writes surrounded by a large collection of gargoyles and is assisted by a Cairn Terrier and a rescued cat. (She uses the term “assisted” loosely.) She describes herself as “pretty gothy—except for all the pink stuff” and plans to move to the Pacific Northwest just as soon as she wins the lottery. Her website launch will be announced on Twitter later in the summer. She tweets as @tarynblake71.
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