Moving Meditation Dance of Shiva with Modified Initial Position

 

 

The Dance of Shiva is one way of playing with very simple elements to help us expand possibilities from the seemingly simple and limited. In other words, the practice is a way to re-train our mind-body connections. Like in much learning, once we know the basics we start making changes to keep expanding the options we have. (You may review the basic positions and movements)

Movement Patterns

Remember that we can create 4 variations in the way we move our arms:

  • Both arms flowing forward (1-2-3-4-1)
  • Both arms flowing backward, (1-4-3-2-1)
  • Alternating arms: one arm flows forward (1-2-3-4-1) while the other arm flows back (1-4-3-2-1)
  • Reversing the previous alternation, so that now the other arm that was moving forward flows back (1-4-3-2-1) while the arm that was flowing back now moves forward (1-2-3-4-1)

We can explore deeper focus by varying the initial position from both arms at position 1 to one arm at position 1 and the other arm at position 2. We can follow the 4 movement patterns outlined above from the following 4 starting positions:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

To ensure balanced expansion we can also include a mirror reflection of the starting position, thus starting from the following 9 combination of positions:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 2 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 3 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 4 and 1

Since we know both a horizontal pattern and a vertical pattern we can explore all of these variations of the initial position for both the horizontal (as seen above) and the vertical pattern as seen below.

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 2 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 3 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 4 and 1

Video

In this video you can follow the combination of movements with all of the modified initial positions.

Like any other mindfulness practice, the Dance of Shiva works best when we try to feel clearly what we are doing and when we notice the effects in breath, body and mind. In addition, engage your emotional being by observing the process with little to no self-judgement.

Consider practicing these simple patterns with consistency until they seem quite easy and can be done slow or fast. As usual, trust that taking small manageable steps will provide benefits. When the practice gets easy enough that you can do them at different speeds.

Please remember that there is an excellent instructional DVD created by teacher Andrey Lappa at Pranamaya.com

I hope that you enjoy this exploration.
Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Introduction to Dance of Shiva (Shiva Nata)

 

 

The Dance of Shiva is a form of moving meditation rescued by Ukranian Yoga Teacher Andrey Lappa. The practice starts with two basic patterns, horizontal and vertical. Each pattern consists of 4 simple arm positions. In the Dance of Shiva the practitioner moves the arms between these four basic positions.

This practice is very helpful in cultivating

  • Attention, Concentration & Focus
  • Coordination
  • Expanded mental processing capacity

As usual, as we practice we:

  • Do what we can, not more, not less
  • Let go of all struggle, forcing and strain
  • Favor easeful and fluid movements

Horizontal Pattern

Throughout all the movements the palms of the hands try to remain facing up as if holding tea cups and trying not to spill. Also, each arm-hand avoids crossing the vertical mid-axis of the body.

The four arm positions for the horizontal pattern:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 4

Arm Movements

We start with the simplest pattern, Forward pattern, moving from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and then returning to 1. Notice that this creates a horizontal spiraling motion. Just as in learning anything else, we start really slow to clarify all of the movements. For instance, we can try to ensure that the movements of the arms include harmonious movements of the shoulder blades.

Then we can explore a second pattern, Backward pattern, moving from 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. Gradually we can expand to a third pattern where one arm moves in the forward pattern (1-2-3-4) while the other arms moves simultaneously in the backward pattern (4-3-2-1). Notice that this pattern can be done alternating the arms, so that the arm that starts with forward pattern then performs the backward pattern.

Vertical Pattern

Throughout all the movements the palms of the hands try to remain facing outward as if pressing against imaginary walls to the sides. Similar to the horizontal pattern, each arm-hand avoids crossing the vertical mid-axis of the body.

The four arm positions for the vertical pattern:

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 4

Arm Movements

Just as we did with the horizontal pattern, we start with the simplest pattern, Forward pattern, moving from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and then returning to 1. Notice that this creates a vertical spiraling motion. We start with slow movements to clarify the pattern, and just as we did with the horizontal movements we favor movements of the arms that include harmonious movements of the shoulder blades.

Then we can explore a second pattern, Backward pattern, moving from 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. Similar to the horizontal pattern, we can expand to a third pattern where one arm moves in the forward pattern (1-2-3-4) while the other arm moves simultaneously in the backward pattern (4-3-2-1). Here as well the arms can alternate patterns.

Video

In this video you can see examples of the horizontal y vertical patterns combined in the Forward, Backward and Alternate patterns. You may also see an example of a leg movement pattern.

As with any other practice, after the practice take a moment to notice its effects. Sense the effects at the physical level through experiencing the sensations in your body. Also, notice the effects at the mental level, for instance, was the series of movements interesting enough to capture your attention so that you were not thinking about anything else? At the emotional level, were you able to practice without having to judge yourself when you got distracted or confused?

Consider practicing these simple patterns with consistency until they seem quite easy and can be done slow or fast. As usual, trust that taking small manageable steps will provide benefits. When the practice gets easy enough that you can do them at different speeds, it may be time to add variations to continue growing. For example, it can be fun to play with combinations of starting points, such as one arm starting at 1 and the other starting at 2 and following the patterns outlined above (both arms forward, backward, alternating).

If you like this practice, there is a very complete DVD on the Theory and Practice of the Dance of Shiva by Andrey Lappa on Pranamaya.com.

I hope you find this practice enjoyable and that you share any questions and discoveries you make along the way.

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Free Video Easy Meditation for Beginners

 

 

Meditation is good for us, at many levels. More and more studies indicate that meditation can have beneficial effects on our bodies, minds, emotions and overall health and well-being. It appears that meditation may even contribute to slow the aging process. For me, meditation is coming to meet myself underneath the hustle and bustle of my surface level mind. It feels good to meditate, because it calms the mind, gives us a break from our habitual ways of thinking, moving, breathing and feeling. That’s the reason i practice regularly.

Meditation is simplicity. The video below is a simple and effective meditation session to relax, calm and rest your mind.

Some suggestions:

  • Give yourself permission to take a short break–recognize that the world will be able to survive without you for a few minutes 🙂
  • Sit comfortably with spine erect and relaxed
  • Let go of tension
  • Breathe comfortably, without forcing and without interruptions
  • Let whatever distractions emerge come and go without having to have an opinion about them and without making them into a problem
  • Just observe everything that is happening
  • Enjoy this moment of stillness, that is, enjoy your own company
  • In meditation it doesn’t matter how many times we get distracted. We keep returning to our focal point. Gradually our atention and patience grow stronger. After the practice, notice how you feel. If you feel a bit better, consider giving yourself the gift of meditation regularly.

    I hope that you enjoy this meditation session with the video filmed in Sunset Beach, Florida, USA

    Namaste,

    rubén

    Simple guided meditation with Rubén

     

     

Complete Yogic Breathing for Health, Calmness and Concentration

 

 

If you are alive, you are breathing. A remarkable aspect of the respiratory system is that it can work automatically, that is without our conscious intervention; but the breathing system can also be directed by our conscious mind. In yoga we know that the quality of our breath has a powerful influence in the quality of our life, in the way we feel physically, mentally and emotionally.

As a student of yoga I have been exploring a variety of ways of breathing for a number of years and i remember that it was quite confusing to know how i was “supposed” to breathe during the practice of yogic postures. Most of us, are never trained in the art of breathing and thus it is not surprising that we may not be very aware of the wide range of options that we have for breathing. For instance, on a regular basis I notice that some people, in order to calm the mind and feel peaceful, try to take “a deep breath” as a forceful inhalation into the upper chest, and they experience some confusion when they feel that “deep breaths” seem to have the opposite effect to the one they are looking for. The explanation is that breathing intensely into the upper chest tends to generate a response of alarm and, in many people, it can also create a feeling of anxiety.

When exploring breathing techniques, it is common to come across the word diaphragmatic breathing. However, i have learned that the definition of diaphragmatic breathing is different for different people. Some people even argue that all breathing (with very few exceptions) is diaphragmatic because it involves the diaphragm, the main muscle in the breathing process.

The video below offers a, hopefully simple, approach to breathing that guides you into deep and easeful complete breaths in a way that connects you with the complete range of movement of the diaphragm. I find that breathing in this way can help us improve our general health, it can calm our mind and it can be a helpful tool to focus the mind. Please keep in mind that there is no need to struggle, strain or force. This is important! The breath needs to flow without abruptness and without any agitation. Notice towards the end of the video that there is a way to make this exercise even more powerful.

Since many of us have not been practicing this type of breath,it may take several weeks for us to grow in our awareness of the expansion of the torso. So, this way of breathing can also teach us how to be patient. It is worth giving this exercise your time and attention every day. As you do, notice the effect that complete yogic breathing has on you at all levels. I hope that you enjoy breathing this way and I invite to try this way of breathing during the practice of yoga postures and before practicing meditation.
Enjoy the journey of becoming intimate with your breath.

Namaste,

rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

3 minute simple meditation

tree branches - ramas de árbol

Very often we hear reports about the benefits of meditation at the mental, emotional and physical levels. These benefits include better stress management, lowered anxiety and negative emotions, improved sleep patterns and pain relief.

However, for many of us trying to meditate may seem like an exercise in frustration, especially if we see meditation as stopping all thoughts.

A simple approach to meditation that helped me get started was to see meditation as being with what is. In other words, meditation is cultivating the ability to accept what is happening and to observe it clearly and, to the extent that it is possible for us, without judgment.

Some of the challenges that we face when we try to practice meditation may include:

  • Our the expectations that we should be able to stop all thoughts
  • A tendency to try too hard
  • Disappointment in ourselves when we get distracted

I thought that this simple 3 minute meditation video could be helpful in getting to practice meditation. It is pretty simple, so when you try it, keep it simple.

All you do is keep your eyes open, watch the clouds and listen to the bells. If you get distracted, that is OK, most of us will get distracted. When you notice that you got distracted just return your attention to the clouds and the sounds. That’s all.

Do notice if there is any difference in the way you feel after this practice. If you feel better try it again at another time. Maybe even for a few days in a row, but without letting expectations get in the way. Remember, just observe as clearly as possible what is happening.

I hope you enjoy this practice.
Namaste.

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

The easiest way to start practicing yoga at home.

Movement / Movimiento

It seems that maintaining consistency is a challenge for most, if not all, of us. I would like to suggest a simple and VERY EASY and quite enjoyable way to start practicing yoga at home with more regularity.

Unfortunately many people think that yoga is only a set of postures to make our bodies capable of complex contortions. Authentic yoga is a complete system of practices to help us feel harmoniously integrated and to help us live a more conscious, deliberate, wholehearted life that is aligned with our true purpose.

Every day when as I ask students in my classes to tell me what they need from the practice, without fault the most frequent answers are: relaxation, quieting the mind, serenity. This is not at all surprising. Just look around and it seems that most of us are in a constant process of training our bodies and minds to do more things, to get more things accomplished and to process more and more stimuli. There is a lot of doing and processing, but it doesn’t seem like we are balancing all of our doing with not doing, with surrendering and allowing. No wonder we end up feeling exhausted by the end of the day (and sometimes even after we wake up in the morning)!

In yoga we want to meet ourselves where we are. In other words, we choose the technique or practice that will bring us into a feeling of completeness and clarity. To balance too much doing, it is good to practice not doing. Remember that a yoga posture (asana) is defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (ca. 3100 B.C.E.) as steadiness (sthira= firm, stable, strong) and ease (sukha=pleasant, delight, joy). From this perspective, I want to invite you to try this simple, effective and enjoyable practice.

Cultivating the Skills of Observation and Surrender

Give yourself 1 to 10 minutes to do this — whatever amount of time you can afford.

In the morning, while still in bed, once you notice that you are awake but before opening your eyes and getting up, give yourself permission to not do or process. Allow your to-do list to drift away just for the next few minutes. Focus your attention fully on noticing the sensations in your body starting at the tips of your toes and gradually moving up throughout your whole body. It helps when you are interested in really feeling what is happening in your body. You don’t even need to try to describe or explain, just feel. Give yourself time to scan the whole body and notice what happens, notice just how you feel. When you finish scanning you body, think of something that brings peace, inspiration, love or compassion to your heart and mind, immersing fuly in this experience. (Notice that we are integrating body, mind and heart through awareness )

That’s it. Pretty simple.

Try this exercise once a day, if possible, for 1 or 2 weeks and notice what effect it has in the way you feel during your day and on your general outlook.

One more suggestion, try this exercise also at the end of the day, once you are in bed as a gentle transition out of “doing mode” and into “complete relaxation” mode.

You might be asking: How is that going to help me when I have some many things to do? I cannot afford to do nothing!

When you engage in this practice you can receive the following benefits:

  • Most likely this practice will enable you to lower your levels of stress which might be helping your immune system. Sttress has been found to contribute to “digestive problems, fertility problems, urinary problems, and a weakened immune system.
  • You are developing skills to improve your ‘other’ way of practicing yoga because you are learning to discern more clearly what ease feels like, thus making it easier for you to balance your steadiness with ease the next time you get into a yoga posture.
  • You are cultivating the foundational skills for more advanced yoga practices: pranayama (life energy expansion), pratyahara (inward gaze), concentration and meditation.
  • You are expanding your modes of operation so that you can access the mode that is needed when it is needed.
  • Deeper relaxation allows your body to recover, repair and heal.
  • You will enjoy this practice and its results. Hence, you are more likely to incorporate it into your daily routine.

I hope that this practice contributes to your well-being.
Namaste,
rubén

 

Being Effective: How to stay focused on the present

park/parque

Very often we go into a thought pattern that goes something like this:

  • “I am not where I want to be” or
  • “I am not where I think I should be” or
  • “I am not where I need to be” or
  • “I am not where I would like to be” or
  • “I am not where I was to be”.

This is not unusual. On the contrary is something many of us deal with on a regular basis. Actually, if we observe our mind we will most likely notice a tendency to give our attention to other times and places by going into planning mode, into expectation, speculation and other future-oriented ideas. Another common distraction is giving our attention to remembering or regretting and other past-oriented ideas.

I am not saying that it cannot be helpful, useful or productive at mental, psychological and emotional levels to engage with past or future. However, the only place where we can be effective is in the only place where we can act. That moment is here and now. If we are constantly thinking about other times and places, it is difficult for us to give our complete attention to our current experience. As a result, we may miss some of the details and feedback that help us fine tune our actions.

If you find yourself distracted, you can use this simple and easy technique to help you be effective by focusing on the present. This exercise can be done in a sitting, standing, walking or lying down position:

  • Lengthen your spine
  • Ask yourself, “Where am I? Am I here?”
  • Observe your natural breath and on the inhalation mentally say, “I”
  • On the exhalation mentally say, “am”
  • On the next inhalation mentally say, “here”
  • On the next exhalation mentally say, “now”
  • Repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.

Notice how you feel. Immerse fully in your present moment, circumstances and situation and see if there is more clarity as to what deserves your full attention right here right now.

Yoga is only useful if it helps us show up fully for our lives.

I hope you enjoy this technique and that you find it useful.
Namaste

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

January 2012 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

January 2012 Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica - Enero 2012 Retiro Yoga en Costa Rica

As suggested in every practice is a retreat , when we remove distractions our practice helps us notice our habitual ways of moving, breathing, thinking and feeling. These habitual ways of being tend to limit our level of awareness and clarity. Certainly making each practice into a retreat is a valuable tool for all of us. Obviously, the power of actually withdrawing away from our usual surroundings is unsurpassed because our awareness heightens in response to a new environment and circumstances. In January this year I felt very honored and grateful to guide a yoga retreat to Costa Rica. Our group soon came together with a heartfelt sense of camaraderie and friendship clearly inspired by the beauty of the pristine rainforest, the welcoming people and atmosphere, the inviting practice spaces as well as the delicious food prepared and served with much love. I am happy to announce that we will return to our yoga haven in Costa Rica in January 2012. If you are interested in letting go of the stress and tension of the year and to start 2012 feeling refreshed, balanced and invigorated this retreat is for you:

  • 5 nights/6 days retrea
  • Arrive: Sunday January 1st
  • Begin: Monday, January 2nd
  • Return: Sunday, January 8th
  • Cost: US$1299

This is a retreat that is tailored to participants at all levels, so that each person’s level of practice benefits from a gradual natural unfolding. You are welcome to read some of the reactions to this year’s retreat.

For more information, visit http://stpeteyoga.com/retreats/CostaRicaSamasati2012.html or call 727-894-9642 / 727-458-8664.

Enjoy the day!
Namaste,

 

 

2 minute concentration exercise

Woodhenge

It is quite common for many of us to have a preconceived idea about meditation, what it is and how it works, even before we have ever practiced it. In the Yoga tradition, concentration (dharana in Sanskrit) is a preparatory stage for meditation. Concentration is just the ability to keep our mind focused on the same object, image, sound or idea for a brief period of time. We often price our mind’s ability to connect disparate thoughts, memories and ideas in a variety of ways. However, in many types of yoga practice it seems that the mind is the first aspect of our being that gets distracted. For instance, in asana practice, our breath may be flowing fully and without obstacles and our body be be able to stay in the posture in a perfect balance between firmness and ease but our mind may be the first to move out of the posture into thinking about what posture comes next, or about the activities we were engaged in before the practice or the plans we might have for the rest of our day. In such cases, what might be lacking is not strength or flexbility in the body or breathing integrity but mind strength to keep our focus. Just as we persist gradually in our conscious effort to improve the strength and flexibility of our muscles, tissues and bones, and to increase our breathing capacity, it makes snese to work on increasing our mind’s strength.
Here is a simple concentration exercise to work on strengthen our ability to keep our mind focused. This exercise takes just 2 minutes at a time and consists of looking at a clock for 2 whole minutes while keeping our full attention on the numbers as they change. You can use any clock at an appropriate place. Or you may use the countdown clock below, by clicking on the ‘play’ button.


Just try it and pay attention to what you notice. It is quite possible that you might get distracted. However, if you try gradually and with gentle persistence you might notice your mind becoming better able to stay focused.
Of course, remember that we are never interested in straining or forcing at any level. So give this a try as often as feels appropriate for you, enjoy the process and see what happens.

I hope that you find this exercise useful.
Namaste!

Simple guided meditation with Rubén