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Dance of Shiva Shoulder Exercises

The basic cyclic movements for helping to rebalance Shoulder Flexibility, Controllability and Strength

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Dance of shiva 8 basic positions with one arm. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

These four Dance of Shiva shoulder exercises challenge the shoulders, elbows and wrists.

They can also help to balance upper body portions of the sensory and motor control cortex body maps.

Part of how these movements effect the body maps within the brain is that they are clearly defined and near the limits of most peoples normal range of movement. You have to focus in order to match your doing of the positions to how they are actually defined. And if you can't actually do the positions you can work on a close approximation of the position.

Because these movements are challenging, you (and your brain) are forced to focus on the shoulders, elbows and wrists in order to do the movements (or work towards them).

As the movements are practiced a representation of these movements is created in the brain. The better the movements are performed (on both sides) the better the representation or model in the brain. The more balanced the movements are the more balanced the model within the brain is.

Basic Position Notes

There are 8 basic dance of shiva positions for each arm.

A basic shoulder exercise routine focuses just on these 8 positions and moving slowly into them and out of them. At the same time you can focus on feeling your shoulders, elbows and hands with the intent of making both sides feel the same.

For the 4 symmetrical horizontal hand position pairs the goal can be to have the palms facing upwards, as flat as possible with the fingers pointing directly outwards or directly inwards.

For the 4 symmetrical vertical hand positions position pairs the goal can be to turn the palms outwards as vertically as possible with the fingers pointing either forwards or rearwards.

The height of the hands will vary depending on the hand position being done.

You could further refine hand position by controlling the distance between hands.

Basic Positions

The horizontal positions, one arm at a time, are shown below.

Dance of shiva shoulder exercises, basic horizontal positions. Sensational yoga poses Neil keleher

These are the vertical positions.

Dance of Shiva shoulder exercises, basic vertical positions, Sensational yoga poses, neil keleher

You can practice doing the positions one arm at a time first just to get a feel for them. Then try them both arms at the same time and starting in a relaxed version of each position work at slowly moving into the more refined position, then relax and repeat.

Note the names of the positions.

When using both arms the position names from both arms are combined with the default being the left digit corresponding to the position of the left hand.

There are 64 positions in all.

While just moving in and out of the basic positions can be an exercise in and of itself, a slightly more challenging dance of shiva shoulder exercise is moving between the positions.

Dance of Shiva Shoulder Exercises

For each arm there are 8 basic movements in all (including a "zero" movement.)

A movement connects one position to any other position. A zero move connects a position to itself.

With both arms there is actually 64 different movement combinations.

Forward and Backward Movements

Focusing on one arm at a time the two most basic movements are the Forward and Backward moves.

Starting from any horizontal position a series of Forward moves takes the hand through all four horizontal positions. Doing a series of Backward moves can take the hand through all four positions in reverse order. The same applies with the vertical positions.

ChangeForward and ChangeBackward Movements

One goal of the dance of shive shoulder exercises is to learn how to connect all of the positions to each other.

To that end the Change Forward and Change Backward movement changes from vertical to horizontal (and vice versa) with each movement. Starting from position 1 or a the Change Forward would move the hand through these positions: 1-b-3-d-1 Or a-2-c-4-a.

The Change Backward Movement moves in the opposite direction.

Some basic arm movement combinations include both hands Forwards, both Backwards, both Change Forwards, both Change Backwards.

And these movements can also be combined with each other:

F-B, B-F, CF-CB, CB-CF, F-CF, F-CB, CF-F, CB-F etc.

Here again, the left digit, by default, corresponds to the movement of the left hand.

Systemized Learning

To make learning easier and less frustrating it helps to have some general labels for positions. Positions with both hands horizontal are Quadrant 1, both vertical are Quadrant 2 (or Q2). The remaining two sets are Quadrants 3 and 4 which for balance should always be practiced together.

Movements can also be classified. The movements so far are all cyclic, they pass through four positions before returning to the start i.e.: 1-2-3-4-1, a-d-c-b-a, 2-c-4-a-2.

Non-cyclic or jump movements jump between adjacent positions i.e.: 1-3-1-3, a-1-a-1.

Change movements are those that change plane while non-change plane movements don't.

Movement groups are thus: Cyclic (non changing), cyclic changes, acyclic (non changing), acyclic changes.

Minimizing Frustration

Whether you choose to learn all movements or just choose to focus on a small set, in either case focus on practicing each set of movements so that you can do it without having to think about what move is next. While it is easy to figure out what movement is next, the idea is to memorize the movements so that you don't have to think about them in order to do them.

Once a set of movements has been learned they can be practiced as follows.


For this set of Dance of Shiva shoulder exercises both arms move forwards from all possible positions. Because these movements are cyclic only four starting positions are needed in each of the four quadrants.

In the dance of shiva video below I actually start with the left side as a reference then I switch to using the right side as a reference.


In this set of exercises both arms move backward. The video below shows this movement starting from four basic positions in each quadrant. I also mirror each set of exercises, standing first on one leg using one side as the reference side then standing on the other leg and using the opposite side as the reference.


For this set of shoulder exercising dance of shiva movements both arms do the change forward movement.


For this set of dance of shiva shoulder exercises both arms do the change backwards movement.

When learning, practice the movements to the point that you can do them without having to think about what position is next. Then move on to the next set.

While it can be fun to do the movements quickly, another option is doing the movements slowly and mindfully. With this latter focus it can be easier to use movements of the ribcage to help drive or facilitate movements of the shoulders and arms. Then dance of shiva is not just a shoulder exercise but an exercise for the waist and ribcage also. In addition the movements could be done while balancing on one foot turning it into a balance exercise also.

Sequences of Movements

Another way to give the movements meaning, is to practice sequences of movements. A sequence might have four movements. Depending on the sequence it could repeat four times to return to the start or only once.

A sensible approach would be to practice each movement in isolation first, to the point that you can do them without thinking, and then practice them together in the context of the sequence.

For more on learning the dance of shiva (and its benefits) and tools for learning it, including videos and ebooks, check out the dance of shiva ebook and videos page.

Published: 2020 08 05
Updated: 2023 04 02
Clearly defined poses, exercises and stretches for improving stability, body awareness and flexibility.
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