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.

Doing the Dance of Shiva Slow and Smooth

Slow Warp Warm Ups (Horizontals)
Slow Warp Warm Ups (Verticals)
Warp Math
Slow Warp 1 from 1-1
Slow Warp 1 MCL from 1-1

I’ve recently discovered that doing the Dance of Shiva slowly feels really good. It gives me time to feel what I am doing.

My inspiration for doing it slowly comes from a number of sources, one of the main ones being Tai Ji.

Tai Ji

I’ve been doing Tai Ji for a number of years now and what I now find is, that having learned to feel the movements while doing them slowly, it is easy to carry that “Feeling” into doing those same movements fast. In either case, instead of thinking about what I have to do I feel it. And I adjust what I am doing when I need to so that what I am doing feels good.

While learning to do a Gong Fu sword form which is supposed to be done fast, I’ve been practicing the movements slowly to get the feeling for them so that once I have the feeling I try to then carry that feeling into doing the movements gradually faster and faster. Any time I notice a movement where I don’t yet know the feeling, I simply practice that “segment” until I get the feeling and then I try to string the movements all together again.

The overall feeling can be like riding a wave, allowing the energy of one movement to carry me into the next movement, and so on until the whole routine is done.

This doesn’t come easy. I’ve had to practice. As an example, to learn the sword form, I first play the relavant section of the DVD, watching the same piece over and over again so that I understand what I am supposed to do and so that I can then try to mimic it when I go to the park to practice. Often times I’ll think I understand the movement but I’ve forgotten to look at some key element, perhaps the direction I should be facing in, which foot steps first and where, or even what I am doing with my sword hand and my free hand.
However, I’m now getting better at knowing what to look for. Once I’ve got the choreography mapped out, then I can start to feel the moves, making adjustments according to the way the moves feel each time I do them.

Eventually I get to a point where I can practice in such a way that it feels like my whole body is involved-in such a way that I can feel my whole body in each movement. That doesn’t necessarily mean every part of my body moves, but it does mean that each part of my body supports what I am doing whether that part is stationary or dynamic.

Relaxed and Smooth

Generally, in order to maximize my ability to feel my body I try to be as relaxed as possible given the position or movement that I am trying to do. If I deliberately engage any part of my body it is to provide support, positioning bones relative to each other and the forces acting on them, so that other parts can relax. Staying relaxed and smoothly connecting one movement to the next, I can then use the weight of my body or the weight of the sword, or momentum to carry me from one position to the next.

Smoothness is another important aspect of body learning to flow and flow itself.

Being relaxed is important, feeling the body is also important, but when we move, smoothness is how we transmit energy, how we allow the energy of what we are doing to carry us from one position to the next. Smooth is efficient, and it can also be beautiful. Smooth and Slow leads to Smooth and Fast.

Feeling What we are Doing

Applying this to the Dance of Shiva, if we practice doing it slowly and smoothly we can focus on feeling the movements and positions as we do them. As a result we become present. Doing something fast is another way of becoming present, especially if you have to focus on what comes next. However, if we learn slowly first, then we can carry the smoothness that we learn from doing slowly into doing it quickly. As a result we are less likely to suffer injury or be sore the next day.

In the videos my friends and I are doing the movements slowly. For my friends, the movements are still relatively new. However, because we are doing the movements slowly they have time to feel the movements even though they are still beginners.

As for myself, because I am focused on feeling what I am doing there is little or not sense of “when is this gonna be over with.” All I’m focused on is what movement is next so that I can do that movement smoothly.

Doing the movements slowly, over time we gradually realize the best path for each movement, the path that takes the least energy while still maintaining the shape or intent of what we are doing. And this path may be different from day to day, depending on our body and the environment, but if we now the feeling that we are looking for then we can find the place of smooth movement anyway.

Using slow practice to practice feeling our body, as we practice longer and longer sequences, we can keep the transitions between movements smooth. Better yet we can start to involve our head, neck, ribcage and spine into our movement. The better we can feel what we are doing with our arms the easier this is to do. The next step from there, apart from simply practicing doing it faster and faster, is to add the legs. But for now we can focus on feeling our arms, and in addition our breath.

The Breath

The breath is a movement that we can learn to feel. In the video’s my friends and I do a very simple breathing technique. While exhaling we allow our spines to bend forwards slightly and we allow our ribs to sink down. While inhaling we gradually straighten our spine, at the same time pulling our head and ribs up. Breathing slowly and smoothly in this fashion it is very easy to feel our ribs, head and even the parts of our spine.

The feeling feels nice.

Once this rhythm has stabilized we can then add arm movements, using both our inhales and our exhales to do one movement each.

The Positions

The four horizontal positions are shown below in the first row of pictures. They are the same for both hands. The are named 1, 2, 3 and 4. The four vertical positions are shown in the next picture and are called a, b, c and d. I’ve included them here so that you can recognize them in the videos, and so you can follow along if you wish.

For more details on the positions click here.

The Movements

There are seven basic movements from each position. They are called: Forwards, Backwards, Transquarter, Change Forwards, Change Backwards, Change, Change Transquarter. We can use these movements to connect each position to every other position.

In the videos the sequence is designed so that we we practice all of these moves from each position. So for example, from position 1, we do a Forwards move and then we return to 1 using a Backwards move so that we can then do another move. Then we do a Change Forwards followed by a Change Backwards.

For more details on the movements in general click here.

Sequence Tables

The movement sequences for the first video are in the first row below while those for the second video are in the second row. The left hand column for each table is the movement while the right hand column in each table is the position the arms are in after each move. Notice how after every two moves the hand returns to the starting position.

If doing these movements, I would suggest getting comfortable with the choreography first and then once you are comfortable, focus on feeling the position of your hand, elbow and shoulder while doing the moves. If that isn’t enough, focus on feeling your ribs and spine at the same time.

Try to make the movements feel as connected as possible while also having a clear idea of each position as you move to and from it.

Warps and Warp Tables

Warp 1 from 1-1
Warp 1 from 1-1 MCL

Once we’ve learned the basic movements and positions with one hand we can learn to use both arms at the same time. Slow Warps are one way of practicing positions and movements that use both arms at the same time.

A “Warp Sequence” consists of four movements that we repeat four times in order to return the arms to the position from which they started. In the two tables to the right, the left hand column of each table shows the warp sequence for Warp 1. Each of the other columns represents one repetition of the same warp sequence, going from left to right.

Notice that the bottom table is the mirror image of the sequence in the top table. The actual Warp Sequence for Warp 1 is
which is what we have in the Table 1. This is read from left to right and applied to the body from left to right. If we read or say the exact same movements (and their accompanying positions) but apply them to our body from right to left, then Table 2 is the result.

The advantage of using the same sequence is that we only have to remember one set of movements, then all we do is mirror the movements, from left to right, for a balanced practice.

In the first Slow Warp video my friends and I apply the formula from right to left. However, while watching and doing, you can mirror what we do so that you apply the coordinates from left to right. Then in the MCL (Mirror Cross Link) video, we do apply the coordinates from left to right. You then do the opposite, from right to left.

Warp Math

Now you may have noticed in third video my friends and I writing the tables out by hand. This is one way of practicing or understanding both a Warp and the movements that make it up. Plus we can then use our table as a cheat sheet.

You’ll notice that I write from right to left. That is because I’m writing out the Mirror Cross Link Table while my friends took turns writing out the Warp Table.

As a final note, in the video we are writing out the warp table for Warp 1 starting from position a-a. In the other videos, we are doing the warp and its Mirror Cross Link starting from position 1-1.

Videos-Large Size

Slow Warp Warm Ups (Horizontals)
Slow Warp Warm Ups (Verticals)
Warp Math
Slow Warp 1 from 1-1
Slow Warp 1 MCL from 1-1

The Dance of Shiva-Basic Positions and Movements

Practicing Movements from
Horizontal Position Starts
Practicing Movements from
Vertical Position Starts
Horizontal Positions (right)
and Vertical Positions (left)

Horizontal Positions

Four horizontal positions of the Dance of Shiva are shown in the first column on the right.
In each of these positions the palm is held facing horizontally upwards. In positions 1 and 3 the fingers point out to the sides while in positions 2 and 4 the fingers point inwards.

Vertical Positions

The four vertical positions are shown in the second column. These are called “a, b, c and d.”

In all of these positions the palm faces outwards so that the surface of the palm is vertical. In positions a and c the fingers point forwards. In positions b and d the fingers point backwards. The elbow is straight for positions a, b and d and bent for position b.

Same Plane Movements

If we focus solely on positions in the horizontal plane we can use three movements to connect those positions to each other. The same movements can be used to connect positions in the horizontal plane to each other or positions in the vertical plane to each other.
These three movements are called: Forwards, Backwards and Transquarter.

They are summarized below.

1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and 4 to 1
a to b, b to c, c to d, d to a

1 to 4, 4 to 3, 3 to 2 and 2 to 1
a to d, d to c, c to b, b to a

1 to 3, 2 to 4, 3 to 1 and 4 to 2.
a to c, b to d, c to a, from d to b

Change Plane Movements

So that we can connect positions in one plane to positions in the other plane we need four more moves. These moves are as follows:

Change Forwards:
1-b, b-3, 3-d, d-1,
a-2, 2-c, c-4, 4-a

Change Backwards:
1-d, d-3, 3-b, b-1,
a-4, 4-c, c-2, 2-a

1-a, 2-b, 3-c, 4-d,
a-1, b-2, c-3, d-4

Change Transquarter:
1-c, 2-d, 3-a, 4-b,
a-3, b-4, c-1, d-2

Movement Icons

We can use the following icons to summarize all movements:

Cyclic Moves and Jump Moves

Looking at these icons we might be inclined to class the Forwards, Backwards, Change Forwards and Change Backwards movements as “Cyclic” and the Transquarter, Change and ChangeTransquarter movements as “Jump” moves.

Videos Enlarged

Practicing Movements from
Horizontal Position Starts

A Reference for Change

Starting positions are a reference for change. In yoga a starting position may be a position where it is fairly easy to relax and feel the body. They may also be a position from which it is easy or obvious in how to move towards the end position. If the goal is a complex posture then good starting positions offer the possibility of moving towards the complex posture step by step so that complexity is built towards one component at a time.

They also offer the opportunity for setting up the foundation of the posture. With a stable or solid or good foundation it is then easy to focus on what we are trying to do within the pose. Moving from the start position to the goal position we don’t have to worry about stability, with a good foundation we can simply focus on what we are trying to do within the pose.

With a starting posture and an ending or goal posture we have a goal to work towards. We have something that we can do while we are “doing” the posture, we can move from the starting position to the end position, and if we get to the end position that can be a new starting position for where we want to go to next. We can then figure out what we need to do to get there.

Starting positions are not set in stone. However, we do need a starting position so that we can move on from there. Ideally, starting positions make it as easy as possible to move towards our ending position. With experience, we can modify our starting position so that it is easier or as easy as possible to get to our ending position. We may also find that with experience, we can use different starting positions and we can find the way to get from where we are (no matter what starting position we use) to where we want to get to.

Also, so that we can improve the way we move from the start to the end, we can practice, feeling ourselves while we do the movement. If we do the movements smoothly, and slowly, we can develop our ability to control our body within that particular range of motion as well as our ability to sense or feel our body. We can then correct mistakes in our movements, or make our movements better even as we do the movements, we can correct ourselves or fine tune ourselves in real time.

As well as making our movements smooth, (controlled) we can also focus on creating space in our body and relaxing (extraneous contraction) as much as possible.