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

Doing the Dance of Shiva Slowly

In any exercise that we do, we can focus on feeling our body.

By practicing feeling our body, the parts and how they relate, we allow energy to flow because to feel our body we have to position it just right.

In anything that we are learning to do we can focus on using our senses to “feel” what we are doing.

Doing math we can use our eyes to see equations.

Driving we can sense the traffic around us.

While in a conversation we can listen to what our partner is telling us.

In the process of feeling our body we position it in a way that feels good or we notice where we feel tight and ask ourselves what can be done about it.

So when we feel our body we aren’t just feeling it, we are responding to what we sense.

Sensation is the Flow of Energy

Initially, we can use our mind to direct our senses, to help us notice what our senses are telling us.

This is like learning to drive and finding out where the speedometer and rev counter are and what they are for. (One tells us how fast we are going relative to what is around us, the other tells us how fast the engine is turning relative to it not turning.)

The feelings are the result of electrical signals that pass from our sense receptors to our brain.

When we feel we are allowing energy to flow. When we finally tune our position so that we can use our senses we send signals from our brain to the appropriate muscle control centers. This too is energy and by fine tuning our positioning we again allow energy to flow.

Better yet, by directing the way we use our senses and the way we control our body we direct where the energy flows to and from within our body.

Elements we Can Sense and Control

What is it that we can learn to feel and control?

We can learn to feel the parts, ideas or elements and how they all relate.

  • We can learn to feel the weight of our bones and how our bones relate to each other.
  • We can learn to feel our muscles and whether they are active or relaxed on in the process of activating or relaxing.
  • We can learn to feel tension in our connective tissue generated by any combination of muscular activity or relaxation or caused by the weight of one bone or another hanging down.

Smooth and Slowwww

So that we can learn to feel the parts of our body, discrete and identifiable bones and muscles, we can practice moving slowly and smoothly and we can focus on feeling and controlling specific parts of our body at a time.

We can focus on basic body elements or we can focus on sport/movement/activity specific movement elements that relate directly to what we are trying to do.

We can also focus on doing clearly defined movements so that it is easy to guide what we are doing and to check what we have done. This is where the Dance of Shiva comes in.

The Dance of Shiva aids in

  • clear thinking,
  • concentration,
  • improving body awareness,
  • equalizing/balancing left/right mobility and range of motion
  • develops or improves mind-body coordination
  • and a few other things besides.

It’s a tool for thinking creatively, for seeing potential and realizing it.

The Dance of Shiva

My own practice of learning to feel and control my body has evolved from my study of yoga, tai ji and the Dance of Shiva.

I’ll talk about the Dance of Shiva in this article because it is relatively simple to begin with and can be learned easily from a book or video.

Plus, practicing it makes learning and doing things like Yoga and Tai Ji easier.

Simple Elements

The Dance of Shiva has 8 basic positions for each arm.

These 8 basic positions can be combined by using both arms at the same time. As a result there are 64 different arm position combinations. (8×8….)

The nice thing about these positions is that they are well defined and simple.

In four of the positions the palms face upwards, as if balancing a small bowl or cup of lobster bisque. (1, 2, 3 and 4 in the picture at right.) In the other four positions the palms face outwards as if holding a spoon or sword but the palm and fingers are flat…. (kind of makes it hard to hold but we’ll forget that for now and move on!)

(a, b, c and d.)

Simple Ideas

The simple idea of Dance of Shiva is to learn how to connect each of these positions to every other position.

If we include connecting a position to itself then we have 64×64 movement combinations.

That is quite a lot of movement combinations but… they are all based on 8 basic movements. I didn’t mention it, but there are 8 basic movements that can be used to connect any of the 8 basic positions to each other.

One of those moves is a zero move.

Why the zero move?

In any situation we always have the choice of doing nothing and that is one way we can think of the zero move, the possibility of doing nothing. We can also think of the zero move as the move that contains the possibility of all other moves.

So how many movement possibilities are there?

64×64 because from any position there is always the possibility of doing nothing!

Zero is potential, non-zero is realizing that potential.

Plus, when using both hands together, if we want to connect two positions that are different by only one arm positon then we need to only move one arm. The zero move takes care of the arm that doesn’t move.

The zero move also makes the math neater.

With the Dance of Shiva we practice seeing potential, perhaps even creating it, and we also practice realizing potential.

And rather than wasting time by thinking about what we can’t do we practice focusing on what we can do. And it all starts with 8 simple positions and 8 simple movements that join those positions.

Sequences of Movement Combinations

With 64 different movement combinations, we can create sequences of movements that repeat four times to bring us back to where we started. By practicing these sequences (called Warps) we can practice the movements of the dance of shiva in a logical and structured way.

This trains us to think clearly about what we are trying to do. With a clear idea of what we are trying to do we can easily check if we are doing or have done it correctly. The sooner we spot any mistakes the sooner we can correct them.

And because we can check each move as we do it we can practice the benefits of checking as we do as opposed to after we’ve done.

Checking as we are doing or while we are doing, mistakes are a lot easier to find and correct before they become big problems. Not only that, we don’t have to look for the source of the problem.

(And that is a large part of what problem solving is, finding the source of the problem.

Only when we know what the problem is can we then go about fixing it.)

Practice Feeling

Learning Tai Ji or a Gong Fu routine (or even Chinese calligraphy) we can learn the basic structure of what we are doing. We can think of this as the choreography or even the script (to a play that we have a part in.) Once we’ve learned the script or choreography or sequence of moves we can practice feeling it.

The nice thing about feeling is that we can vary it slightly depending on what is happening at the time.

What we have learned begins to become alive within ourselves.

By focusing on feeling, and on making micro adjustments based on what we feel we have the opportunity to maximize the flow of energy within ourselves.

Once we’ve learned a movement patterns, a sequence of moves, we can use this movement pattern to practice feeling our body.

As an example, all positions have the palm facing either upwards or outwards.

To begin with we can practice feeling our hands and making sure that they are facing upwards or outwards.

From our hands we can expand our awareness to our elbows and shoulders.

We can feel these parts and position them so that it is as easy as possible to put our hands in the required position.

As we get more comfortable with both the sequences of moves and with feeling our body, we can expand our awareness to include our head and ribcage.

We can practice positioning our ribcage (and thoracic spine) so that it is easy to use our arms and we can position our arms so it is easy to use our hands.

Finally we can expand our awareness to include our waist, pelvis, legs and feet.

What we have then is a way of practicing using the whole body to do what we are trying to do.

This whole body awareness can then be used in any other activity that we are doing. And if the awareness we learned from the dance of shiva is lacking with respect to some other activity that we want to do, then at the very least we have a framework for filling in the pieces that are missing.

Once we can feel one part, or many parts, those parts become references for feeling anything that they are connected to.

Training the Mind

By the way, the Dance of Shiva can be done standing or sitting. It can be done while sitting in a chair. It can also be done in the head or on a piece of paper.

As well as helping us to learn to feel our body the Dance of Shiva is an excellent way of training the mind.

Because we define the movements and the positions, there is no ambiguity as to what we are trying to do. Instead we can focus on doing it and feeling it.

We can learn to connect each position to every other position without ever worrying about what is possible or not possible. Instead, it is all possible and all we have to do is choose.

The Point of Feeling is Flowing

So what is the point of feeling our body in anything that we do? So that we can flow. For myself, by focusing on doing the sword form that I am learning slowly, I can feel my body as it moves.

The better I feel it then the easier it is to move quickly and accurately. Rather than trying to remember the moves I am feeling them. And because I am feeling them my movements have a liquid essence. They flow. And it feels really good.

I used to be focused on memorizing Dance of Shiva and then on doing it quickly.

This does have some benefit but I think true benefits, true inner skill or gong fu comes from feeling the movements.

Carrying this sensitivity into the world outside of our practice, we can then become more sensitive to both ourselves and what is around us.

We become present. Life becomes more joyful as a result.

Practicing slowly we can feel our body and then carry that feeling into doing movements at any speed including fast.

Then we are doing gong fu-practicing with inner skill.

Leading with the Mind

Life Skills

Most of the things that we can practice with the dance of shiva can be applied to anything we do. They include:

  • learning to break complex tasks into simpler ones,
  • sensing and choosing options,
  • knowing what we are doing before we do it.

One of the advantages of the Dance of Shiva is that it provides a good way of practicing any of these skills. Plus you don’t have to figure out how to practice them, you can simply get on with practicing them.

Clear Ideas

One of the things we can practice is “leading with the mind” or “leading with a clear idea”.

In the more advanced practices (I call them “Warps”) we can memorize a sequence of moves. An example would be “CF-T, CF-CF, CF-B, F-CF.”

This is a “generic” formula that can be used to start from any of the 64 different positions of the dance of shiva. Repeating this formula 4 times returns the arms to the position from which they started. So that we use each of these moves from each of the 64 positions we need to practice this formula from 16 different positions.

When practicing this sequence or any other sequence, before we “do” each move we can first see it with our mind.

As an example, starting from position 1-1 the first move is a CF-T which takes the arms to b-3. With enough practice we know the positions so that they are easy to see with our minds eye. As a result we can see our hands in position b-3 before we actually move them there.

From our new positions we can then see what the result of the next move is before we do it. From b-3 we can “see” that the CF-CF move will take our arms to 3-d. Having seen with our mind we can then move our arms there.

Rather than moving automatically and then checking where we are once we get there, we use our mind first and then follow with our body.

Move Mind
then Body

If we move first (automatically) and we move correctly, our hand position shows us where we went. That is not a “bad” thing. However, if we think first then we have to use our mind to draw up the memory of where our hands should go. Rather than relying on our body to give us the answer we use our mind and then we use our body.

We can learn to use our mind quite quickly in this fashion. Rather than waiting for our body to give us the answer so that we can check it, we use our mind and then check that our body has done the move correctly.

This is exactly like the kung fu movies where the adverseries see the fight and what they do in it before the fight actually begins.


Another term for gong fu is inner skill. I like to take this as meaning seeing with the mind first and then doing with the body. Practicing “inner skill” with the dance of shiva we develop our ability to think fast.

Thinking fast, we can do quick movements knowing that we are doing the movement correctly, or we are able to correct ourselves while we are doing the movement if we spot that we have made a mistake.

This “leading” with the mind lends itself immediately to what we do outside of the dance of shiva.

Do we know what it is that we are trying to do? If not what is it that we are trying to do. We can then spend time figuring it out rather than wasting time by doing something we don’t need to do. Then once we are doing something we can do it quickly, efficiently and like a martial arts master.

Practicing Warps, if we use our mind to know where we are going before we get there we can then lend additional brain power to monitoring our arms as they do the movement (since we already know where they are going.) We can make our movements more precis, more exact.

We then not only train our brain, we also train its ability to control the body while training the body at the same time.

To try out a warp (don’t worry, this is for free) click here.


Neil Keleher

Dance of Shiva Level 0: Basic Spirals (from 1)

For those of you who took my class today at Myoga, here are videos for the four basic movements we did today.
Remember that for positions 1, 2, 3 and 4 the palm is held upright (facing up)
For positions a, b, c and d the palm faces outwards.

Forwards from
1 to 2, to 3, to 4 and back to 1
Backwards from
1 to 4 to 3 to 2 and back to 1 again
Change Forwards from
1 to b to 3 to d to 1
Change Backwards from
1 to d to 3 to b to 1