Dance of Shiva: Combining Horizontal and Vertical

 

 

One of the objectives in yoga is to become aware of what we are doing (in posture, movement, feeling, thinking and breathing), to clarify if we are actually doing what we think we are doing and also to notice if what we are doing (in posture, movement, feeling, thinking and breathing) is helpful or not helpful. In the process, we end up learning a lot about ourselves and about our reactions to what we discover. It is likely that we may want to stay in a familiar pattern because it is comfortable and also because it gives us a sense of accomplishment.

However, in order to expand our choices and abilities it is necessary to move beyond the familiar patterns. This can create a bit of discomfort as we try to navigate new territory, and that is where we get a chance to forge new paths, new connections and new insights. This is one of the reasons we want to try to move into learning new patterns in the Dance of Shiva. So, if during our practice we notice that we are thinking about other times and places, we are getting a signal that the horizontal and vertical patterns have become familiar enough and that it will be beneficial to explore new territory. For instance, we can try to combine the two patterns by doing one whole pattern first followed by the other pattern.

Here are two possible options to explore:

  • Horizontal Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Vertical Backward (4-3-2-1)
  • Vertical Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Horizontal Backward (4-3-2-1)

Horizontal Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Vertical Backward (4-3-2-1)

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

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 1

Of course, We can also play with a second option:

Vertical Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Horizontal Backward (4-3-2-1)

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

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 1

Options

What happens when we try to move at different speeds?

Video

In this video you can see an example of playing with these two options in the Dance of Shiva

As with other practices, staying with the practice may show us some of the habits we may have developed, like an attitude to be unwilling to try something new, or the reluctance to let go of what we have already achieved, or perhaps impatience that emerges when it takes us time to learn something, or maybe even our unwillingness to accept that we are not perfect. Whatever the case, can we try this exploration with gentle curiosity, without struggle and choosing not to judge ourselves?

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’ll be glad to know about your experience.

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

5 useful tips for success in meditation

LightInRedWoods

 

 

A simple definition of meditation is: “Meditation is being with what is.” In meditation we take time to do two things:

  • meet ourselves where we are, right here and now
  • meet ourselves just as we are

Obviously, the attitude we have when we approach any activity will influence how we feel and how the activity will unfold. So, if instead of seeing meditation as a chore, we choose to see the practice as establishing an intimate relationship with ourselves, we may be more likely to enjoy it. This is key to establish consistency, because it is easier to practice something that we find enjoyable.

Favoring the following 5 suggestions can be very helpful in creating an effective and enjoyable practice:

  • Find a comfortable position
  • Choose a focal point
  • RELAX
  • Let go off any and all judgement
  • Persist with gentle curiosity

Often when we try to practice meditation we may find it frustrating to notice that the voices in our head cannot seem to stop. Another frequent challenge arises when we notice how often we get distracted. Noticing our internal chatter and that we are getting distracted are already signs that show that we can witness these activities from a different vantage point instead of allowing them to derail us. This is a sign that our meditation is working because we can separate ourselves from the habitual activites of our mind. I would suggest savoring that as we return to our focal point.

I hope you find many opportunities to enjoy connecting to yourself through your meditation practice.

Peace,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Dance of Shiva : Linking Horizontal and Vertical Movements

 

 

Expanding Possibilities: Linking Horizontal & Vertical Movements

Remember that you can access more Dance of Shiva articles at:

The Dance of Shiva leads us to keep expanding our skills and mental processing capacity. After learning the basic horizontal and vertical arm patterns, one way of growing our practice is by exploring movements that link each position in the Horizontal pattern to each one of the Vertical positions and vice versa.

Dance of Shiva Horizontal to Vertical Links

Horizontal 1 to Vertical
DoS_L1_H1_Links

Horizontal 2 to Vertical
DoS_L1_H2_Links

Horizontal 3 to Vertical
DoS_L1_H3_Links

Horizontal 4 to Vertical
DoS_L1_H4_Links

Dance of Shiva Vertical to Horizontal Links
Vertical 1 to Horizontal
Dos_L1_V1_Links

Vertical 2 to Horizontal
Dos_L1_V2_Links

Vertical 3 to Horizontal
Dos_L1_V3_Links

Vertical 4 to Horizontal
Dos_L1_V4_Links

This is an excellent way to become familiar with moving between the two sets of positions. This practice can be done starting with from the Horizontal or Vertical position and going to each one of the positions in the other pattern. You may enjoy practicing with a wide stance and flexing your knees as you connect the two positions. It can also be fun to try repeating each movement a few times.
As usual, we practice:

  • Without strain
  • Without struggle
  • Without self-judgement

Notice the effects of this change to your:

  • Attention
  • Concentration
  • Focus
  • Coordination

Video

In this video you can see a demonstration of these movements

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 that you enjoy adding this step to your practice.
Peace,

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

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