Why Learn to Feel Your Body

Improving strength and/or flexibility can be challenging. One of the reasons I focus on teaching my students to feel their body (and control it) is that it makes it easier to work towards strength and flexibility with less effort. But in addition, it also makes the journey more enjoyable.

For a while I was deeply into learning Tai Ji. I thought that once I’d learned 24 style then I’d practice it forever because it looked so cool. But I didn’t. I went on to learn 37 style, and 108 style and 99 style and various other styles. The fun at the time was learning and imagining that I would continue to practice them. But once I’d learned those styles, what kept me going was a focus on feeling the body while doing tai ji. And the same applies while doing yoga. With the ability to feel the body (and working on improving the ability to feel it and control it) I can continue to learn because I can search for easier ways to do a movement or I can search for the position or technique that feels the best.

After I’d received my drivers license one of the tricks my dad taught me was how to drive smoothly over long distances. Rather than suddenly using brakes or accelerator he would use his toes to gently adjust accelerator pressure to keep speed constant or to make speed changes smooth. And he’d look at the road ahead. If a hill was coming up he’d adjust foot pressure so that speed remained constant even as the car started to go up the hill (or down one.)

I use similiar principles when feeling and controlling the body. Moving slowly and sensing as much as I can I work on smooth transitions within poses but I also focus on doing those transitions with minimal effort or with a focus on effort in key places to make it seem less effortful.

Perhaps a bigger reason for focusing on feeling is that it feels good. One of the reasons that I still do tai ji now is that I can focus on feeling my body within the move. I’m not just doing the movement I’m feeling my way within the movement, much like when driving a car or riding a motorcycle we watch the road and all that is on it so that we can thread through traffic while staying on the same road. In this case the tai ji movement is like the road, and feeling the body allows me to make the slight adjustments that make the movement smooth but more importantly make it feel really good.

Whether doing yoga, tai ji, driving a car or bike, when we focus on using our senses we are able to respond to whatever is happening now. Driving or riding we sense the outer environment, what is going on outside of our body. Doing yoga or tai ji we sense the inner environment, what is going on inside of our body (at the level of bones, muscles and connective tissue). In both cases we respond based on the idea of what we are trying to do, the strange attractor that is known to ourselves. In both cases we become present, not thinking but sensing and responding to whatever is happening now.

And one of the best things about getting into this state, presence or flow, is that it feels great.

I still do tai ji, or my variation of it, and the reason I still do it is because I focus on feeling my body while doing it and as a result it feels good. The form looks cool and all but the focus on feeling my body while doing the form is what makes it feel really good.

I said that what used to get me excited was learning a new tai ji form. With the ability to feel and control my body, I can continue to learn even after I’ve learned the form. I make changes to the way that I do the movement based on feel. I can experiment with small adjustments so that I can feel which way feels best.


Knowing What Muscles To Engage

One of my friends recently posted that

Knowing what muscles to engage is what heals.

(He’s exposed to a lot of yogi’s who focus on stretching).

It inspired me to look at my own yoga practice (and what I teach and do)  in order to use my body more effectively.

It is also inspiring me to go back to the very basics, which includes looking at the possibilities for activating muscle and relaxing it.

Muscle Basics

When activated muscle tissue:

  • can shorten,
  • remain the same length or
  • lengthen.

It depends on the relative force that it is working against:

  • If working against a lesser force then it will shorten,
  • working against an equal force then it will remain the same length,
  • working against a greater force then it will lengthen.

An example of the middle case is holding a half squat with thighs level, the leg muscles work against each other and gravity to remain the same length.

An example of the latter case is slowly lowering into a squat. The quads and/or glute max, for example,will be slowly lengthening even though they are active.

When relaxed muscle tissue will tend to return to some resting length (which assumes that there is some connective tissue within the muscle that has some elastic properties, or that some fibers within the muscle are responsible for returning it to some resting length.)

While relaxed a muscle can be lengthened so that it is stretched. Or the distance it spans can be shortened so that the muscle can relax further, perhaps sinking downwards due to its own weight.

The former case, lengthening a relaxed muscle, is the basis for “relaxed stretching.”
Meanwhile the case where muscle is lengthened while active can one form of active stretching.

Feeling Tension (and Slackness)

To me one of the interesting things about muscle tissue is that with practice we can learn to feel the difference between when a muscle is relax and when it is active. We can also feel when it is being stretched while relaxed or active.

And for muscles that are too thin or too small, or too few in number to be sensible, what we can learn to feel (and control) is connective tissue tension and/or the relationship between bones which that muscle helps to control.

So what’s more important, being able to relax or contract muscle? I’d suggest that both are important. More important is being able to feel and control whether muscles are relaxed or contracted so that we can choose which we want to do.

Posture Affects Tension
(And Vice Versa)

This brings up a problem in that the ability to control a muscle depends on posture while posture or body positioning can also depend on muscle activity.

If you have trouble activating a particular muscle it may be because you need to adjust your posture (which in turn is being caused by another muscle contracting or failing to contract)

If you have trouble with achieving a particular posture (or balancing left and right, it may be because a muscle is activated or because a particular muscle is not activating.

Feel and Control

Rather than saying that muscle activation is better, or that relaxation is better, I’d suggest that the most benefit comes from being able to feel and control the body and respond depending on the circumstances and what the over all goal is.

For myself the qualities that I try to be aware of are tension and bone positioning. (Tension in connective tissue or tension due to muscle activation.) These are qualities that I can control or vary and both can be affected by muscle activation and/or muscle relaxation.

My most recent example is that my shoulders have been imbalanced. It’s felt like my right pectoralis minor tends to habitually contract.

I eventually realized that my ribcage tends to be positioned slightly rightwards relative to my pelvis and this in turn may have been the result of one or the other of my psoas muscles not activating when required. So I focused on aligning ribcage and pelvis, and also on activating the psoas on both sides.

From there I then worked on balancing the shoulders.

(Part of balancing my shoulders included activating the latissimus dorsai on the right side. Whether it was not activating because my ribcage was displaced or my ribcage was in part displaced because it was not activating, I’m not quite sure.)

The things that guided my adjustments where being able to feel or sense my ribcage in relaxation to my pelvis, the pull of the psoas on my lumbar vertebrae, and then tension in the muscles that act between shoulder blade and ribcage, and between shoulder blade and upper arm bone (humerus).


To sum up, the quality that is perhaps most important when learning to feel the body and control it is tension.

Tension enables me to feel the relationship between my bones (for example: between ribcage and pelvis) and it also allows me to feel when my latissimus dorsai or psoas (or any other muscle) is activated (or relaxed).

Foundations-Fixing the Feet

Doing yoga or tai ji or any other activity where we are standing or moving from foot to foot, one basic set of actions that we can learn is how to activate the feet. The purpose in doing so is to create a stable foundation so that we can do what we are trying to do whether it is holding a pose or doing something with our arms or simply balancing on one foot.

At a muscular-skeletal level, any one muscle generally attaches one bone to another, in the process crossing one joint, two joints or many joints. A muscle can be used to change or maintain the relationship between the bones that it connects. So that we can control our muscles and via them the bones that they relate, we may find it helpful to give the muscle that we are trying to activate or relax a stable foundation. If we make one of the bones to which it attaches stable, then we can use said muscle to change or maintain the relationship we desire.

Working from the ground up while standing, if we learn to stabilize our feet, ankles and lower legs, then the muscles that cross the knee joints have a stable foundation from which to act on the thigh and pelvis. We can use these muscles then to position our thighs and pelvis. Our thighs and pelvis then provide a foundation for muscles that cross the hips and span the lower back and spine. Those then in turn act as foundations for the ribs, shoulder blades and arms.

For myself, I have found that making the feet, ankles and lower leg strong and stable makes it easier to release the back of my thighs while doing a forward bend or make it easier to relax my hips or create space in them depending on what I am trying to do. In general, making my feet strong while standing makes it easier for the rest of my body to do what I want it to do with a minimum of effort. I find that just activating my feet doesn’t help. However, activating feet, ankles and lower legs does make it easier to do what I am trying to do.

Generally the first step I teach in activating the feet is rolling the shins outwards. While initially I thought this happens mainly in the ankle, I recently realized that what I am actually teaching people to do is rotate the shin at the knee joint. In so doing the two lower leg bones act like a wrench on the ankle bone (talus.) The back part of the foot including the instep are then forced into a shape where the inner arch is naturally lifted. I think I came about this action as a way of dealing with my partially flat feet.

To practice this action I normally have people slowly and smoothly rotate their shin outwards and inwards with their feet about hip width, parallall with knees slightly bent. The slower and smoother the action the more you improve control and the ability to feel your feet.

The next action I add on to this (and it can be done in time with the breath-rolling outwards on the inhales, release smoothly on the exhales) is to press down through the outer edge of the foot. Do this without lifting the inner edge. The next step is to then add on the inner arch. This means pressing down through the base of the big toe. You can focus on pulling back and down on the base of the big toe while rolling the shin outwards and pressing down through the inner arch. Practice by moving with the breath.

As you do this action notice how your shin and knee move together. At the end of the action you may find that your knee points in roughly the same direction as the toes. As a game you might try aligning your knee with your big toe, second toe and then third toe all by feel. Do first and then check afterwards to calibrate your senses.
Once you have the hang of these actions, practice holding the foot active. Now do it with the minimum effort necessary. See how much you can relax the feet while still engaging the arches.

One final action for the feet is to lift the center of the outer arches. You’ll feel this along the side of the lower leg.

These actions all together involve muscles within the foot as well as muscles that cross the ankle. To make the foot and lower leg solid, stable, practice then squeezing the bones of the lower leg from all four sides using the muscles of the lower leg.

Practice activating and releasing in time with the breath (inhales activate, exhales release) and then practice holding for about five breaths.
the goal is to be able to do this at will without having to think about it or try too hard.

Then you can use this action as part of any standing pose or standing movement.


In warrior 1 (virabhadrasana), parsvotanasana, revolving triangle (pravrtta trikonasana), you can activate your feet and try relaxing your hips to allow your pelvis to naturally face the front.
In warrior 2, side angle (parsvokonasana), triangle (trikonasana) you can try using your front foot as a foundation for rolling the pelvis open.

In any pose where you are grabbing a foot it may be helpful to make that foot active, particularly if it is not on the floor.

Going Slow to Flow

The other day my calligraphy teacher took me to her teachers class room for my lesson.  While I was painting he quietly commented to her in Chinese that I was painting too fast.

Initially I resented his observation but kept it to myself. After class I thought about what he said. I also thought about how I’d been doing Tai Ji recently; very slow, very focused, pausing at points to feel my center and my connection with the earth, checking to see how they were aligned, taking the time to organize my whole body in whatever posture or action I was in at the time. Then thinking back to before that calligraphy class, I’d been a bit put out by a girl I thought had given me a P.T.A.

(“Permission To Approach…” It’s actually  a reference to a line from an Iain M. Banks novel called “Matter”, where a ship’s Avatar uses a signal laser in his eye to signal to another culture agent requesting permission to open communications. A very cool book though a little sad at the end as most of his books can be but none the less they have some sort of meatiness that is really nice to sink your teeth into. One thing, take the time to read them slowly. You need to read his books slowly, especially near the end, to allow his text to sink in. The easy tendency is to read too fast and then you miss it.)

I thought she’d given me an indication of interest and perhaps even an invitation but then she seemingly blew me off, or I was just being too sensitive.

Anyway, I was in a mood while painting and was trying to hide from it by painting fast, and without feeling.

There are times when I can paint fast and with feeling. This wasn’t one of them. I was painting fast but not feeling the brush and not focusing on what I was doing.

Moving slowly we have to notice what we are doing and what we are working with. In the case of using a brush I could focus on feeling each brush stroke from start to finish and also on feeling where to place each subsequent brush stroke.Moving slowly, painting slowly, it is easy to make our body and mind act like one so that our body does exactly what our mind asks it to and our mind can sense exactly what our body can do.

Moving slowly we move out of our head and into the world around us. We use our senses and as a result are no longer thinking. It’s a good way of forgetting about the things that bother us. And if we are having difficulty using our senses or controlling what we are doing, like when cleaning we can focus on little bits at a time, and repeat those little bits until we get it right-like vacuuming the same piece of run over and over again to get that one annoying piece of lint…
We just may find that in the process we get into a sort of flow. The we know we are present in what we are trying to do.

Handstand Demos-Failing to Stay Up

Handstand demos-Failing to Stay Up

In this collection of video clips I jump up to handstand (or try to) from downward dog, or pull myself up starting with my feet between my hands.

In most of the clips I don’t succeed.

The point of these exercises in failure is to show you why I didn’t get up.

The key points to watch out for is the relationship of my shoulders to my wrists and the relationship of my pelvis to my wrists. In most cases, when I balance my shoulders are in front of my wrists (look at the angle of my arms.)

Warps, Change and Little Ideas

Dance of Shiva Warps are a way of practicing change. The change is in the form of the Warp Algorithm itself.
Instead of the same movements, each movement is different… to an extent. We use the same moves over and over again but from different positions. So it is a way of practicing to handle change on a small scale.

Handling Change

Driving a car or riding a motorbike, we learn a small set of skills or ideas, braking, accelerating, steering, changing gears.

On a road with traffic, we use those skills according to what is happening at the time. We sense changes in the road or on the road and we make changes so that we stay connected to the road. We notice intersections, cross roads, on roads, off ramps, rest areas and we act depending on how we feel now and where we are going to.

In the Dance of Shiva, we can think of the movements as the idea elements that we can use to practice responding to change.

The change comes in the form of the algorithm that we have memorized. Although the algorithm is memorized, it has to be repeated four times in order to return the hands to home (to where they are going) and in addition there are 16 different starting positions we can use so that if we are practicing them all one after the other, the feeling can be the same as trying to handle external change. Because there are 64 possible arm positions, at any point in the algorithm we have to know where we are within the algorithm as well as where our arms are and then based on where we are in the algorithm we decide where to go next.

With enough practice, all movements of the algorithm become familiar, they become a part of us in the way that the basic movements are a part of ourselves and so we move on to the next algorithm so that we can continue to grow.

Generally, with driving, riding, or any other activity that we do regularly, whether work, passion, hobby or past time, the more experience we have doing it and handling it in different circumstances, the better we get at it. And the better we get at doing it in any circumstance. The experience helps us to understand the essence of what we are trying to do as well as the options for doing it.

Part of our experience may be that we become familiar with the little tiny details of what we are doing and that familiarity with the details allows us to become more flexible in the ways that we can do what we are doing.
And so one way of making experience more efficient is to try various combinations and prior to that pick smaller and smaller elements so that we have greater and greater flexibility. Then working at understanding those elements in different circumstances.

Driving the same stretch of road over and over again, even if the patterns of traffic are different every day, we eventually gain enough experience that we can handle all possibilities on that road. We know the ins and outs. If our goal is to improve our driving, then we try out different roads or even tracks, different settings so that we constantly grow, constantly improve and get better.

If we get down to the basics, driving is a simple set of skills that can be used in a variety of circumstances. Driving in different settings is what enables us to practice those skills in all their possible combinations.

If we look at using the brakes, gear box, accelerator and handle bars from another perspective, we can say that we have speed control and steering. With steering we learn to handle right turns and left turns. There are various types of turns and various sequences. The better we become at speed control and turning the bike the better we become at riding in any circumstance.

Looked at from yet another perspective, both of these functions, speed control and direction control, are a result or our interface with the bike or car. The better we can control our body and use our senses the better we can ride the bike or drive the car and the better we can handle change while doing so.
Dance of shiva is a way of practicing working with elements in different circumstances. It is also a way of learning to break down or think in terms of systems/complexity and the small/simple ideas that make them up. In addition it is also a way of practicing sensing the body and controlling it.  As a result practicing the dance of shiva allows us to do anything else with more sensitivity, control and intelligence so that we gain experience and understand faster. It can aid in learning, doing and understanding.

The Organs and the Chakras-One Set of Possible Correspondences


Learning the parts of our body and how they relate we can use the parts of our body that we know as references for mapping the parts that we don’t know. If we can feel our ribs we can use them as a reference for sensing where our lungs and heart may be. Using the bottom of our lungs as a reference we can then put our awareness in the right place for sensing our diaphragm while belly breathing. Feeling our diaphragm we can then figure out the location of our kidneys, liver, stomach and so on.

The better we know some parts of our body the easier it is to learn to feel the other parts that we don’t know. As we get to know the parts of our body we can then sense how those parts relate to each other. One set of relationships we can learn is that between the organs and the Chakras.

The Organs

One way that we can affect the organs is by putting our awareness on them. This is like listening to a friend when they are talking but the friend is inside of ourselves. So that we can listen to our friend that we need to know where they are. When we learn our organs and how they relate, we can then learn to feel how they are affected by actions like breathing and twisting and bending the spine and ribcage.

Lungs, Heart and diaphragm

Our lungs fill the volume of our ribcage. If we can feel our ribs, the sides, front and back, then we can infer the position of our lungs from the position of our ribs. The bottom of the lungs sit on top of the respiratory diaphragm. We can feel this muscle when belly breathing or when going to the bathroom to do a number 2. It provides the “pushing down” feeling that we use to push stuff out of our exit orifice.

Attached to the front of the ribcage and situated between the lungs is the heart. Behind the heart is room for the trachea and esophogus as well as major blood vessels to the abdomen and lower limbs.

Next time you have a bite to eat take time to notice the swallowing sensation that connects your mouth to your stomach and takes food from your mouth to your stomach. This can give you an idea of where your trachea is located. Your heart sits in front of this passageway.

While breathing using your ribcage, take time to notice the sensation of your back ribs lifting and lowerering. Adjust your mental map of your lungs and heart accordingly.

Moving your diaphragm while breathing take the time to notice the downwards pressing feeling that happens when you inhale. Because the diaphragm moves down and up the bottom of our lungs and heart move up and down with it.

Kidneys, Liver and Stomach

Directly below the lungs on the left and right sides of the spine are the kidneys. In front of the kidneys are the liver and stomach (and spleen.)

The liver is attached to the bottom of the diaphram directly beneath the right lung. The stomach is to the left of the liver and slightly below it. It attaches to the bottom of the diaphragm and to the bottom of the liver.  The spleen is to the left of the stomach between it and the side of the ribcage. These organs are all suspended (or attached to) the bottom of the diaphragm. They in turn support the organs below them. When our diaphragm lifts, these organs lift with it. When the  diaphragm descends, these organs move down.

Externally we can use our belly button to fine tune our awareness of where these organs are. The spleen, stomach and liver are all above the horizontal plane that passes through the belly button.

Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Gall bladder and Bladder

The small intestine is coiled up below the stomach and liver while just below it in the bowl of the pelvis is the bladder.

The bladder rests on top of and a little between the psoas and illiacus muscles. My own experience indicates that the psoas can be used to lift the bladder and tip it forwards. If this is indeed the case we can use an awareness of where our bladder is (learn it next time you really have to go for a pee) to reference the location of our psoas.

The gall bladder sits below the liver.

The large intestine starts at the lower right side of the abdomen. It passes up the right side of the body to the right of the small intestine, passes up over the mass of the small intestine, and moves down the left side of the body and from there connects to the rectum. It is suspended in part from the stomach.

Pericardium and Triple Heater

The pericardium is like a bag that surrounds the heart while the triple heater is the container that contains all of the above organs. For myself, I relate these “organs” to the sides of the brain.

The Organs and the Chakras

The organs are associated with one of the five elements as follows:

  • Stomach and Spleen-Earth
  • Kidneys and Bladder-Water
  • Lungs and Large Intestine-Metal
  • Liver and Gall Bladder-Wood
  • Heart and Small Intestine-Fire

My own tendency is to associate these elements with the chakras as follows:

  • Earth-Root
  • Water-Sacral
  • Metal-Solar Plexus
  • Wood-Heart
  • Fire-Throat

The two non-elemental organs can be associated with the third eye and crown chakra.

The following Chakra-Organ correspondances then result

  • Root-Stomach and Spleen
  • Sacral-Kidneys and Bladder
  • Solar Plexus-Lungs and Large Intestine
  • Heart Chakra-Liver and Gall Bladder!
  • Throat-Heart and Small Intestine
  • Third Eye and Crown Charka-Left and Right Sides of the Brain

Quantum Evolution

Creationists argue that life is by design. Darwinists or evolutionists argue that life is by evolution. What if both views are right.

Einstein proposed that light could be both a particle and a wave when up to that point the argument was that light was like one or the other. To explain the fact that light can act like both a particle and a wave he proposed a unit called a quanta that contained both properties.

My own opinion on the subject stems from the work of engineers who designed artificial software environments within which components could evolve. Within this environment reproduction and mutution where built in. The environment was also biased in such a way that the desired components where more than likely to evolve. The results are “designs” that probably would not have come about if they had been intentionally thought out.

So how is this an argument that there is a “conscious” design element in life. Simple, it is in the environment itself.

Before I progress further it would be useful to have a unit, an equivalent quanta that encompasses the two aspects of design and evolution. I would suggest that unit be called an idea.

Exercising Consciousness-The Dance of Shiva

Dance of shiva is a physical exercise that helps to unify body and mind improving coordination, concentration, awareness, range of motion. It also develops clear, creative and positive thinking.

The practice is made up of 8 basic positions for each arm so that when both arms are used together there are a total of 64 arm positions combinations. The goal is to develop and practice the ability to connect all positions to each other. This can be made easier by first learning the positions and movements one arm at a time.

These one arm movements then become the building blocks for movements with both arms at the same time. Because both the movements and the positions are easy to define and recognize, this practice is easily done independently of a teacher. It is easy to self check and also easy to detect mistakes. It is an excellent tool for becoming more conscious.

Unifying Mind and Body

Order Shiva Basics

The Dance of Shiva is a physical exercise that works on unifying the mind as well as the body.
At the most basic level the Dance of Shiva involves moving the hands in continuous spirals. There are two basic spiral patterns. In one movement the palms are kept facing up at all times. This basic pattern is called a horizontal spiral. In the other movement the palms are kept facing outwards. This movement is called a Vertical Spiral.

For the horizontal movement you could imagine moving your hands while balancing oil candles on them. The goal would be to move the hands in such a way that you don’t spill any oil nor do you cause the candles to blow out.

In the second movement it is a bit more difficult to balance something on the hands and so you might imagine holding a sword or knife and moving it in such a way that the cross section of the blade always stays in the same plane (the vertical plane from front to back).

While we don’t actually hold anything in our hands in this version of the Dance of Shiva the intent of keeping the palms facing upwards or outwards is a part of what makes it so powerful. It gives our hands a purpose. Having a purpose for the hands we can sense our hands and correct them when necessary. In the process we practice sensing our body and controlling it.

As we practice doing the moves we get better at getting our body to do what we want it to do. We correct less and simply observe our body doing the movements we’ve asked it to do.

Key to observing is first having a clear idea of what we are trying to do. Moving our hands in spirals, whether horizontal or vertical, gives us that idea-a clear purpose to unify our ability to sense and control our body. Having a clearly defined idea we can practice being conscious of what we are doing.

Defining Clear Ideas

To make the dance more complex we can break down the basic movements into four segments each. We then get eight positions for each hand: four where the palms are facing up and four where the palms face out.

The goal of the Dance of Shiva becomes that of learning the necessary movements to connect each of these 8 positions to every other position. With this new intention the Dance of Shiva is then not only a physical exercise, but a mental one also.

Initially the mental work may come in memorizing movements so that we can move without thinking. We can learn the movements using one arm at a time and then once we are comfortable we can practice moving both arms at the same time.

With practice we won’t have to think about what each position is in order to move our arms there-we can do it without thinking. We know the positions and our mind and our body become unified in what we are trying to do.

We may get to the point where as soon as we think of the move our arms move to the position.
It is as if we are watching ourselves do the moves.

To get to this point we first have to memorize and learn the moves.

Basic Positions

If we consider only one hand, there are eight positions for one hand in the Dance of Shiva. We can call these positions 1, 2, 3, 4 and a, b, c and d.

  • 1, 2, 3 and 4 are names for positions in which the hand is held facing upwards.
  • a, b, c and d are names for positons in which the hand is held facing outwards.
  • We can call the positions 1, 2, 3 and 4 “Horizontal” positions because the hands face upwards. a, b, c and d are then called “Vertical” positions because the palms face vertically outwards.

    dance of shiva basic positions with one arm
    In Position 1 the hand is level with the top of the head, elbow bend ninety degrees, with the fingers pointing outwards. In Position 2 the hand is level with the belly button with the fingers pointing inwards. In Position 3 the hand is again level with the belly button (or there abouts) but the fingers point outwards. In Position 4 the hand is again level with the top of the head but with the fingers pointing inwards. In all of these positions the palm is held facing upwards.

    In Position a the arm points forwards with the forearm rolled inwards so that the elbow points outwards. IN Position b the elbow is bent and the fingers point towards the sternum. In Position c the arm points forwards but this time the forearm is rolled outwards so that the elbow points inwards. In Position d the arm reaches back behind the body. In all of these positions the palm faces vertically outwards.

    (Where possible. It may actually take some practice to get to this stage. That is one of the ways in which this practice can be used to help open and balance the body, by slowly working towards the “Ideal” positions.)

    Basic Movements

    Having defined these positions, we can then begin defining movements between these positions. The goal in doing so is to define enough moves that we can connect each position to every other position. We define a single movement as a movement that connects one position to another position. A single move connects only two positions.

    First of all we can consider movements that connect positions in the same plane. We can call these same plane movements.

    • The Forwards move connects 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and 4 to 1. It also connects a to b, b to c, c to d, and d to a.
    • The Backwards move does the exact opposite connecting 1 to 4, 4 to 3, 3 to 2, and 2 to 1 as well as a to d, d to c, c to b, and b to a.
    • The Transquarter move connects non-adjacent positions, (positions that are not right next to each other.) With the Transquarter we can go from 1 to 3, from 3 to 1. We can also use it to go from 2 to 4, and from 4 to 2. In the vertical plane we can use it to go from a to c, from c to a, from b to d, and from d to b.
    • For completeness we could also consider a “Zero” move that connects a position to itself. If we include the Zero move (and it is necessary) then we can say that we have Four “Same Plane” movements.

    Next we define the “Change Plane” movements. These allow us to connect positions not in the same plane.
    The assumption for these moves is that: a is equivalent to 1, b is equivalent to 2, c is equivalent to 3, and d is equivalent to 4 (and vice versa.)

    • The Change move connects a to 1, 1 to a, b to 2, 2 to b, c to 3, 3 to c, d to 4, and 4 to d. We can consider the remaining three movements to be combinations of the Change Movement and the Three “Same Plane” movements (Forwards, Backwards and Transquarter.)
    • The Change Forwards move connects 1 to b, b to 3, 3 to d, and d to 1. It also connects a to 2, 2 to c, c to 4 and 4 to a.
    • The Change Backwards move connects 1 to d, d to 3, 3 to b, and b to 1. It also connects a to 4, 4 to c, c to 2, and 2 to a.
    • The Change Transquarter move connects a to 3, 3 to a, b to 4, 4 to b, c to 1, 1 to c, d to 2, 2 to d.

    Practicing the Movements and Positions

    In the video below is a practice set for practicing all the movements and positions. We start with “cyclic moves”
    Forwards, Backwards, Change Forwards and Change Backwards doing the right arm and then the left.

    We then do Transquarters, Changes, and Change Transquarters.

    As well as being a good practice for learning the positions and movements, the exercises in this video are also a nice practice for warming up prior to doing more advanced practices.

    Self Correction

    The nice thing about the Dance of Shiva is that the movements and positions are clearly defined. As a result, once we understand these basic movements and positions, we can easily check that we are doing them right. We can start by practicing the positions so that we know them without having to think about them. We can then practice the movements between those positions, again to the point where we can do them without thinking about them. Once we know the positions and movements while doing them with one arm at a time, our job is then that much easier when we use both hands at the same time.