For about eight months, now, I’ve been in love with a relatively unknown form of yoga, Shiva Nata (“the dance of Shiva”). I stumbled into it, impulsively ordering Andrey Lappa’s DVD through Havi Brooks’ site, www.shivanata.com. I’d followed Havi’s blog The Fluent Self (www.thefluentself.com) for about ten months, learning lots of gentle, unintimidating ways at creating a habit of approaching my life with an attitude of possibility and play, rather than self-judging and idea negation. She mentions occasionally how much more effective pattern-shifting has been for her clients who practice Shiva Nata, as opposed to those who don’t. Eventually I decided to jump in. I ordered the DVD. I unwrapped it, popped it into my laptop, and watched twenty minutes of it without following along, promising myself that I was creating a comfort zone for REALLY doing it… next time. I did little bits here and there, but honestly, I also ran into one of my biggest patterns of resistance. I equated it with an exercise DVD and spent more time resenting its presence in my home than I did trying to follow along. Still, I thought that it could potentially be really neat and helpful and wonderful, if I could just get past my initial inertia.
I decided to try something bigger. I needed a deadline, and one that would make it obvious to people I respected if I hadn’t done my work. (Oh, my patterns… you’re so obvious to me now. Bullying, bribing, and bargaining — so much self-manipulation!) I saw a post for the next teacher training, just over a month later. Noticing that experience wasn’t strictly necessary to attend the training, I signed up. I bought a plane ticket. I arranged a couch surfing accommodation. And then I tripped over a piece of elevated sidewalk while trying to navigate around some unmarked construction and tore the labrum in my right shoulder. I spent the next several weeks with my arm alternately velcroed to my torso or suspended in a sling.
Considering that Shiva Nata is a series of patterns of spiral arm motions (and square patterns with the feet), my renewed determination to immerse myself in practice was derailed. I watched the section of the DVD where Andrey discusses theory, hoping it was an okay substitute for actual flailing. I downloaded Havi’s Shiva Nata app, assuring myself that investing in more tools would make me more apt to practice once my arm was back in action. (See my patterns? Can you relate?)
And then I flew to Portland, still aching, completely anxious over feeling like an imposter, but eager to be launching into the unknown on another great adventure (I’d spent the previous year hopping around Europe and was craving another paradigm shift, that sick-tummy elation of being entirely out of my element.) I spent the next four days trying desperately to keep up with the number two practitioner of Shiva Nata in the world, Havi Brooks, as she led us through dozens of approaches to teaching and practicing Shiva Nata. I wore costumes, journaled, flailed, made lots of mistakes (yay! turns out, mistakes are good! mistakes are great! if you’re making mistakes, your brain’s making new connections!) I also — and this may very well be the most important thing — met some truly amazing people, all committed to pattern-shifting and play. It’s the connections I made, more than anything, that drew me back to Portland two months later, for the Great Ducking Out, an extended Rally (Rally!) held over Thanksgiving.
At the GDO, I met a whole new crew of amazing people (turns out, ordinary people making the extraordinary choice to permit themselves to play and make mistakes are ALL extraordinary. Just sayin’. ALL of them. And you, too.) Among them was Rhiannon Laurie (http://rhiannonlaurie.com/), an infectiously exuberant, playful pixie. I had the great fortune of being among her first few Skype Shiva Nata students. Rhiannon teaches around Portland, and Skype is a way of being able to work with people who aren’t local.
Rhiannon and I met up online during a break in my massage schedule for an hour of one-on-one mirroring. She started by guiding me through a grounding exercise, planting my feet, stretching through my spine, breathing deeply, consciously filling my body, and stretching into the space around me to remind me to fully occupy my body and my space. We set intentions for the practice, back-burner ideas for Shiva Nata to work through while we were busy concentrating on positions, arbitrary words, and math games connected to the patterns. We flailed together through Levels 1-3, giggling gleefully at points where we either failed or succeeded brilliantly. We shared our stuck-places with our own practices and played with approaches to them. After sufficient brain-melting confusion (it’s the objective, I promise), we took a moment to rest, allowing ourselves time to process, as Rhiannon phrased it, “at the eye of the storm.” Continuing from this state of calm, Rhiannon had me pull out my journal and asked a series of questions related to the intentions we’d set at the beginning of the session, speaking them slowly and repeating them, and then providing me time to do some free-form, stream-of-consciousness writing.
I have found that community has been essential in my sticking with a Shiva Nata practice. I find myself least resistant to making mistakes when flailing within a group, which I find interesting, because I typically hate publicly making mistakes. The atmosphere of play and and creativity and camaraderie in a Shiva Nata group, though, is wonderfully permissive and joyfully challenging, and I found my Skype session with Rhiannon to provide a similar feeling of connection. I think that it’s a wonderful service to have access to and feel so fortunate to have experienced Rhiannon’s one-on-one teaching despite being states away!