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What do you think of the claims of shiva nata yoga?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 28, 2011 at 5:19 AM

I came across this yoga practice here and here recently, and I just don't know what to make of it and its claims. The idea seems to be a base of 16 lower body and 16 upper body movements that are done in some sort of mathematical variation to challenge the mind. This is the claim:

Shiva Nata is a unique (and visually stunning), flowing yoga-based movement form that actually restructures neural connections in your brain.

Because creating more connections in the brain means more light bulb moments.

And when you practice regularly, you get these moments whenever you need them, generally within 24 hours after practice. They get kind of addictive, which means that you have to keep upping the challenge.

I'm drawn to the practice as something that could exercise both the body and the brain, but I just don't know enough about the human brain and how it developed from an evolutionary prospective to even begin to assess this claim. Can anyone help?

And if you couldn't get past the ridiculous harem pants on the first site or the semi-gibberish writing on the second, I hear that too.

80da9f79e2d79978130925702d4c6092

(105)

on November 09, 2011
at 09:48 AM

The goal of Shiva-Nata is not to "learn something new". It's a system that's designed so that, as soon as you "learn it", it gets harder, so you lose your understanding again. The point of it is to get in a state of confusion and uncertainty, which shakes up your brain. And then you write and new things pop out. If you look at it as something to "learn", you miss the point. It works for a lot of people...you might try it (or try to understand it) before smashing it.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:17 PM

The state of bliss described above is not the same as awakening/Enlightenment. Apparently, it's a spiritual trap, and often observed with people who get too focused on a specific type of meditations (concentration, absorption, samadhi, etc.) Balanced approach is, I'd say, to take care of both mind and body.

E46d4f7e35e46ee4e8211ab4bc852023

(1510)

on March 12, 2011
at 04:19 AM

Thanks for your thoughtful answer, Qrystal. Trying out Shiva Nata has still be on my mind recently, and I think this might be just the push I need to give it a shot.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on March 11, 2011
at 03:08 PM

That may be why I was always drawn to Ashtanga yoga instead, it is all about the movement, and the static poses are not held, they are brief pauses.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on March 11, 2011
at 03:06 PM

@ke: the advert is a bit cheesy, but the program is amazing bodyweight work.

170794d4eef80de2691106c483a31ebd

(96)

on March 11, 2011
at 02:23 PM

Boy that TacFit looks mighty scammy.

E46d4f7e35e46ee4e8211ab4bc852023

(1510)

on January 29, 2011
at 04:45 AM

Thanks for seeing where I'm coming from! Just because an exercise practice is marketed poorly doesn't mean it completely lacks merit.

E1fd3a5ea90cdbceb8a2aa4bcfa1b923

(474)

on January 29, 2011
at 12:57 AM

I kind of feel the same way. Hatha yoga, what we think of as yoga, was meant to be endurance training for long periods of meditation. Asana practice really is not a very natural system of exercise.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on January 28, 2011
at 04:36 PM

truth. yoga is incredible on its own.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on January 28, 2011
at 04:33 PM

yeah, i was going to say something along those lines. yes, it creates new neuronal connection. so does walking backwards, reading a book, or fixing that broken doorknob thats been driving you nuts. doesnt mean its not good exercise that feels nice, but just that the claims are overstated and not exactly accurate. or inaccurate. but misleading, for sure. i say go ahead and do it if you enjoy it, but leave the pseudoscience behind.

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12 Answers

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2
C710162ae8129767a08d668fb5b3b88c

on January 28, 2011
at 07:56 PM

I second the recommendation to read Frank Forencich's books - especially his most recent one "Change Your Body, Change The World." That one touches on this subject quite a bit, and is written for the layperson.

Physical activity does in fact contribute to neurogenesis and synaptogenesis - the processes of developing new brain cells and rewiring neural pathways. Although, I don't think it's been established whether certain activities are more effective than others in this area. So, as far as we konw, it's not that this particular type of yoga results in these changes, but that most types of physical activity do. So, the claims are probably accurate, just not exclusive to Shiva Nata Yoga.

As it has already been said, this is a fairly new area of research, and so there's a lot more speculation than raw facts. There's not much out there, but this recent piece in the NY Times highlights a recent study that shows how strength training activities result in brain development in rats:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/phys-ed-brains-and-brawn/

Yoga may not be paleo (depending on whose version of paleo you adhere to), and most primitive cultures do not practice yoga specifically, but it still has a lot of value - physically and mentally.

PS - Thanks for the plug, Adam - I'm glad you're enjoying TFW.

best answer

2
C7b4a4fba8119d0ebb0e1eacce6e1015

on March 11, 2011
at 01:53 PM

I've been doing a lot of reading lately about Shiva Nata, because I've recently started learning it and I am curious about what other people have discovered. Your question and some of the comments here reflect some of the same concerns I had before starting, but I managed to reason my way into convincing myself to give it a try.

Yes, the Shiva Nata site portrays the practice in an extremely woo-woo way, but reading past that (and reading other posts on that site and others) I managed to extract some useful tidbits that were genuinely fascinating to me. I was drawn in to the idea of having a new physical practice that would challenge my mind, especially since the practice involves number patterns and I am highly mathematical by nature (I am a grad student in theoretical physics). I was extremely intrigued about the claim that the practicing of the patterns of movement could help me get a better feel for connections between ideas (which seems to be what the author of the site calls 'epiphanies'). By 'connections', I just mean the most general sense of the word: any association, or similarity, or opposition, or orthogonality, or way of describing ideas relative to each other.

The practice itself seems to be fairly unique in how its purpose is to trip up the mind: you learn a pattern, then you learn something that mixes up what you had learned originally. When your mind reassembles the lessons into a new way of remembering both, both lessons are strengthened. By extension, the mind's natural ability for pattern-matching is strengthened as well, and this ability can be applied outside the practice as well.

Ideas can be examined in many different ways. Since most ideas have multiple parts or perspectives, it seems reasonable to consider that it could be beneficial to look at the parts of the ideas in different combinations and different orders. It's one thing to just try and see things in a different way, and completely another thing to have a physical sensation of how many different ways things can be done or seen or experienced or analyzed or combined. If the mind has a natural tendency to notice patterns (and this is a claim that has been substantiated by research), and if the body is used as a way to explore variations in patterns, it seems to make sense that physical movements could be used to teach the mind more ways to look for patterns. And how could this not have some sort of benefit to analytical capabilities?

It also seemed reasonable to me to consider that this practice might be able to help me better analyze things about myself. I had already considered myself to be quite skilled in this respect, but there are still behaviours that repeat despite my attempts to understand them and talk myself out of them. However, if the Shiva Nata practice is geared towards seeking new ways of looking at patterns or changing how to interact with them, it seems very possible that it could help me develop insights and techniques to understand and change the patterns in my behaviour, or the ideas that are behind the behaviour.

I'm sure any mental exercise can help with self-analysis and problem solving skills, and any physical exercise can be beneficial to the mind as well as the body, but this particular practice seems to focus on the mental benefits while the physical benefits are just a convenient side-effect. Maybe there are other activities that do this too, but I am quite pleased so far with my explorations into this one. I am still just starting out, but I already feel a lot less stuck in my behavioural patterns, and I think my memory is even getting a good workout, not to mention my arms. Even if some of this is due to the placebo-like effect of "thinking that what I'm doing is going to help", it is pretty convincing, and I have no problem just appreciating the benefits and continuing to apply the practice that seems to encourage the benefits to continue.

E46d4f7e35e46ee4e8211ab4bc852023

(1510)

on March 12, 2011
at 04:19 AM

Thanks for your thoughtful answer, Qrystal. Trying out Shiva Nata has still be on my mind recently, and I think this might be just the push I need to give it a shot.

8
25ed4acfb632d928507f8673bcb0923a

(650)

on January 28, 2011
at 06:14 AM

Big. Load. Of. Crap. You don't need to know anything about the brain to assess these claims, because a claim without any evidence whatsoever can (and should) be ignored. What this tells me is that someone pulled something straight from their ass. The gibberish writing is more than a huge clue.

I mean, "hot-buttered epiphanies"???? If the author is not even going to bother telling you what the hell then this means then..well...i just am at a loss for words.

And on top of everything there are the logic fallacies: appeal to novelty, authority, and secrecy. "There's only person in the entire world that knows...." blah blah blech! And that person is in the Himalayas half a year? And therefore someone with privileged knowledge? Classic.

On a more informative note, anytime one learns anything new, neural connections are restructured. And actually, restructuring can entail the loss of neurons or neural connections as well as developing new connections. The pruning of neurons and neural connections is a major component of early brain development, for example, and allow for efficient communication of the neurons that are used in processes like vision.

"Creating more connections in the brain means more light-bulb moments" is just plain unsubstantiated. Nor do we even know what is meant by a "connection in the brain" or a "light bulb moment." Ugh.

If I were to "exercise" my brain I would do two fun things, both easily incorporated into a Paleo lifestyle: novelty and challenge. Take a hike somewhere new. Climb a mountain. Take a trip to Malaysia. Make a new recipe. Compete as an athlete or musician...

You get some dopamine going in your brain, you feel satisfaction, AND you've stretched yourself and learned new things. Bonus.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on January 28, 2011
at 04:33 PM

yeah, i was going to say something along those lines. yes, it creates new neuronal connection. so does walking backwards, reading a book, or fixing that broken doorknob thats been driving you nuts. doesnt mean its not good exercise that feels nice, but just that the claims are overstated and not exactly accurate. or inaccurate. but misleading, for sure. i say go ahead and do it if you enjoy it, but leave the pseudoscience behind.

80da9f79e2d79978130925702d4c6092

(105)

on November 09, 2011
at 09:48 AM

The goal of Shiva-Nata is not to "learn something new". It's a system that's designed so that, as soon as you "learn it", it gets harder, so you lose your understanding again. The point of it is to get in a state of confusion and uncertainty, which shakes up your brain. And then you write and new things pop out. If you look at it as something to "learn", you miss the point. It works for a lot of people...you might try it (or try to understand it) before smashing it.

5
A089b683ee0498f2b21b7edfa300e405

on January 28, 2011
at 08:29 AM

It is strange but very very few really know the origin of Yoga. Yoga is NOT a form of exercise or a magical cure for anything.

The Ancient Hindu texts describe two ways of life, to be able to achieve singularity, or what is described as a union with God. Existentially speaking, to become one with existence, becoming completely aware of everything around you, from rocks to humans.

One path is the path of denial and the other path is the path of indulgence.

The path of indulgence is known as 'Tantra' where you are encouraged to indulge in everything, fully, that life has to offer - be it fine foods, sex, entertainment of every kind. The idea being that after there is nothing left to indulge in, you are left only with yourself to deal with and when one transcends that, enlightenment is achieved.

Similarly, The path of denial is known as 'Yoga' where you are encouraged to deny all comforts - become a yogi. One is encouraged to live with just subsistence level everything and sit in various positions to keep the body healthy, control breathing, meditate etc. until there is nothing left to deny and once again you are left only with yourself to deal with and when one transcends that, enlightenment is achieved.

Over the centuries both Tantra and Yoga have been bastardized into things that do not even have a resemblance to their origins.

Both Yoga and Tantra are a way of life with a specific purpose and not a fad as they are now known to be.

3
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 28, 2011
at 10:45 PM

Perhaps yoga and meditation were naturally the next step for human beings to create after we went into the agricultural revolution.

Think about it, we were happier as hunter-gatherers but the neolithic food brought about disease, suffering of all sorts because gluten containing grains, malnutrition, and other things we didn't eat during the Paleolithic era.

Maybe meditation and yoga are great things for us to deal with the invisible diseases and sadness we get with neolithic food.

Grains, legumes, milk and many other neolithic foods have directly been linked to depression, OCD, digestion issues(which messes with the brain cause lack of vitamins) and many other "mental diseases" which can't be remedied without avoiding the offending food.

Many Buddhist monks can eat terrible food such as a diet in JUST bread and still remain "happy" and totally centered because they have mastered their meditation techniques and can go "beyond the mind and body" and stay in a state of bliss. Not feeling pain and suffering.

Just an interesting theory I thought of.

A6cffe7397214f338ae098613eea6737

(50)

on March 12, 2011
at 08:17 PM

The state of bliss described above is not the same as awakening/Enlightenment. Apparently, it's a spiritual trap, and often observed with people who get too focused on a specific type of meditations (concentration, absorption, samadhi, etc.) Balanced approach is, I'd say, to take care of both mind and body.

3
E1fd3a5ea90cdbceb8a2aa4bcfa1b923

(474)

on January 28, 2011
at 05:50 AM

This seems pretty ridiculous. It looks like they took some chi kung exercises, made up a back story, and stuck some claims about brain rewiring on them. I wouldn't waste my time. If you really want to exercise your body and brain, then go exercise your body and brain. Take off your shoes and walk on some uneven surfaces. Sprint a little. Do some body weight exercises every couple of days. Read good books. Talk to interesting people. There is too much good stuff going on in the real world to waste your time on pseudoscience.

2
Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on January 28, 2011
at 04:35 PM

yeah, i was going to say something along the lines of bsundes comment. yes, it creates new neuronal connection. so does walking backwards, reading a book, or fixing that broken doorknob thats been driving you nuts. doesnt mean its not good exercise that feels nice, but just that the claims are overstated and not exactly accurate. or inaccurate. but misleading, for sure. i say go ahead and do it if you enjoy it, but leave the pseudoscience behind.

i might avoid talking to too many people in the class, too!

2
B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

on January 28, 2011
at 12:52 PM

Learning any movement or pattern makes new connections in the brain, or you would not be able to learn it. Perhaps certain whole body movements are better at this than just waving one pinky finger, but I'd want brainscans to show me the changes.

That said, whole body exercise does get the blood moving everywhere, including to the brain. So DO something. Whatever exercise keeps you active and limber is good exercise, then go and play outside!

My personal practice, TacFit Warrior has a home over here: http://www.tacfitwarrior.com/ and is well reviewed here: http://physicalliving.com/tacfit-warrior-review/

I did ashtanga yoga for years, and TFW seems to work better for me than that practice. Different systems, different goals.

It also makes claims about brain-boosting, but sticks to a more physical training approach, with a tasty science coating.

Free vids here: http://physicalliving.com/the-tacfit-warrior-challenge-workouts/


E46d4f7e35e46ee4e8211ab4bc852023

(1510)

on January 29, 2011
at 04:45 AM

Thanks for seeing where I'm coming from! Just because an exercise practice is marketed poorly doesn't mean it completely lacks merit.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on March 11, 2011
at 03:06 PM

@ke: the advert is a bit cheesy, but the program is amazing bodyweight work.

170794d4eef80de2691106c483a31ebd

(96)

on March 11, 2011
at 02:23 PM

Boy that TacFit looks mighty scammy.

2
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on January 28, 2011
at 07:59 AM

Olga, just put on your paleo-goggles and try to think for yourself...

Movement and brain (or mind and body, as you like) are so fantastically connected, but yet not fully understood. That leaves room for a lot of speculation and sometimes 'woo-woo' stuff.

Think hunter gatherer movements and know what we probably need. One often cited 'paleo' resource is MovNat, which I like very much. If you don't know Erwan Le Corre, check him out. Another great resource is Exuberant Animal from Frank Forencic (read his books!).

Now, having said that, I do think that yoga has its benefits: It is movement, in all directions and planes, it is controlled movement and for a lot, it is a good anti-stressor.

Are those qualities unique for yoga? Certainly not.

Are they more effective/efficient than doing something else? I don't know.

Is doing yoga enough physical activity for a human organism? Certainly not.

Hope this helps...

2
902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 28, 2011
at 07:10 AM

I don't even... people need to stop bastardizing yoga. It makes me sad.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on January 28, 2011
at 04:36 PM

truth. yoga is incredible on its own.

1
Medium avatar

on January 28, 2011
at 08:19 PM

Yoga always struck me as being highly unnatural. There's something about all of that static stretching that doesn't jive with our design. I'll admit that I may just be bitter about not being able to come close to touching my toes, however.

E1fd3a5ea90cdbceb8a2aa4bcfa1b923

(474)

on January 29, 2011
at 12:57 AM

I kind of feel the same way. Hatha yoga, what we think of as yoga, was meant to be endurance training for long periods of meditation. Asana practice really is not a very natural system of exercise.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on March 11, 2011
at 03:08 PM

That may be why I was always drawn to Ashtanga yoga instead, it is all about the movement, and the static poses are not held, they are brief pauses.

0
31d09396b3b07dd719f04796b0f532de

on September 01, 2013
at 08:28 PM

I love reading your comments... This sequence of flowing movements and the benefits of arranging them in different ways to enhance brain function, create euphoria, and even prevent brain deterioration, dementia, etc... This is called dance :)

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