Polyvagal theory

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1 month 1 week ago #117005 by Kate Gowen
Polyvagal theory was created by Kate Gowen
My contemplative life has been, continues to be an adventure in serendipity.

It is perhaps surprising that the spiritual interests of one brought up in a religion that denies the reality of the material world— PARTICULARLY the body— would focus so keenly on physiology as both the expression and source of what we call “spirit.” Maybe just another example of my characteristic stubbornness.

Anyway, I’m listening to an audiobook, “Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve” by Stanley Rosenberg. And saying, wow, wow, wow as the correlations between experience (of dysfunction) and his explanation of the basic physiology of the cranial nerves.  The wows are expressions of wonder at how “fearfully and wonderfully made” these human bodies are.

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1 month 1 week ago - 1 month 1 week ago #117009 by Chris Marti
Last edit: 1 month 1 week ago by Chris Marti.

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1 month 1 week ago #117013 by Kate Gowen
Replied by Kate Gowen on topic Polyvagal theory
Thanks again, Chris, for added information.

Expanding on the OP, I  was musing this morning that this psycho neurobiology interest got started when I took up my late life meditation/yoga exploration. At a really powerful moment, I heard one of those “wisdom voice-overs” that happen from time to time: “Trauma is a hard school of yoga.”

This was prompted by noticing how common a history of abuse was in my fellow seekers— and how many of the body-based spiritual practices replicate trauma and/or exercise the innate responses to it. Fasting, extreme states of physical activity or inactivity, breath manipulation…

Polyvagal theory provides the schematic for how these practices work.

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1 month 1 week ago #117032 by Kate Gowen
Replied by Kate Gowen on topic Polyvagal theory
An excellent run-through of some basics—

https://youtu.be/4bisa3dYf7U

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1 month 3 days ago #117089 by Kalle Ylitalo
Replied by Kalle Ylitalo on topic Polyvagal theory
This is very interesting. I listened to Charlie Morley talk (
) about coherent breathing and chi gong in treating PTSD-related anxiety and insomnia in veterans and got very curious about coherent breathing, which is supposed to balance the nervous system. Morley reported positive result in just a couple of weeks of 20-minutes per day. Coherent breathing sounds like a great tool because it's much more simple than many meditation techniques and can be done while walking around or doing everyday activities. The idea is to breathe evenly for 4, 5 or 6 breaths per minute, depending on the individual.

I found an interesting article on the matter. ( www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/neurobiolo...ces-psychiatric-care ) Here are a couple of bits of information from it:

Studies have shown that voluntarily regulated breathing practices (VRBPs) can significantly improve symptoms of anxiety disorders, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, depressive disorders, and other conditions.3 VRBPs can also be used to restore feelings of meaningful connection, bonding, and love for patients who experience states of disconnection or emotional numbing-common sequelae of trauma and loss. Certain breathing practices can facilitate the psychotherapeutic process by reducing anxiety and defensiveness.4 Patients with long-standing psychological and somatic PTSD symptoms responded to VRBPs after years of no response to traditional psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.5,6 Their sexual function, body perceptions, sense of self, pain syndromes, and other symptoms normalized.

Breathing practices enhance conventional treatments. The following are a few examples. Many people have difficulty learning mindfulness and other meditation-based techniques because their level of anxious ruminations is so high that they cannot focus productively on anything else. One advantage of breath practice is that it does not matter what the mind is doing. If the person simply paces his or her breathing to 5 cpm using a sound track, the anxious ruminations will quiet down and cognitive functions will improve. Once the mind is quiet and calm, it is much easier to focus on mindfulness, meditation, and psychotherapy.

Although cognitive behavioral therapy is beneficial in many cases, it has some limitations. A top-down cognitive approach is not always able to control anxiety. It takes many sessions and considerable effort to control intense fears and other emotions. Coherent breathing, as a bottom-up approach, is more effective because it bypasses intellectual processing and utilizes more rapid and powerful pathways between the brainstem and the emotion regulatory circuits.

Alex, a 20-year-old college junior, consulted a psychiatrist for help with anxiety, limited symptom attacks, insomnia, and inability to focus on preparing for final exams. He appeared to be on the verge of tears, and his right leg jiggled up and down continuously. The history revealed a pattern of low-grade anxiety with increased severity in reaction to academic pressures.
Previous treatments included benzodiazepines and sertraline. Alex did not like to take medication and was eager to learn a breathing practice that was offered as an alternative. He was taught coherent breathing paced at 5 cpm with a CD chime track. Within 5 minutes, he appeared physically relaxed and his leg stopped shaking. After another 15 minutes, he resumed normal breathing and opened his eyes. Alex said that the anxiety was gone, the worry thoughts stopped, and he felt calmer and more relaxed than he had in a very long time. He agreed to practice the breathing for 20 minutes twice a day during stressful times and otherwise once a day. The psychiatrist also encouraged him to do shorter periods of coherent breathing whenever he felt stressed, such as waiting for a test to begin. She also advised him that doubling the length of his exhale when he practiced at bedtime would help him fall asleep. The following week Alex came to the office smiling. He had downloaded a breath-pacing app on his iPhone and used coherent breathing to manage stress and quickly fall asleep.

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1 month 3 days ago #117090 by Kate Gowen
Replied by Kate Gowen on topic Polyvagal theory
Wow!
Thanks for further info.
The thing about this exploration that really lights up the whole board for me is that every yoga, meditation, qigong, and other Asian mind-body practice I know about uses the cranial nerve functions— particularly the vagus nerve-system— as the physical “wiring” to create and change states of being, functioning, and awareness.

And this is the same wiring everybody uses everyday for eating, seeing, hearing, digesting, resting, becoming alert…
Which means, bringing loving awareness and skillful guidance to the functions and actions of our ordinary lives is a complete and sufficient, unsurpassed spiritual practice.

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1 month 2 days ago #117107 by Noah
Replied by Noah on topic Polyvagal theory
When I hear vagus nerve & dharma, I think of tummo, which uses breath retention, visualization, body “locks” & movements to stimulate the vagus nerve, produce & circulate certain neurotransmitters & more.  This practice was very healing for me over a couple years ago, when done consistently for a year.  I know healing is not the main point of it , but I thought of that here. 

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1 month 2 days ago #117108 by Kate Gowen
Replied by Kate Gowen on topic Polyvagal theory
Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan systems of spiritual practice have had no problem using advanced knowledge of body functions. Only in the west do we seem to prefer to sharply divide mind, body, and spirit. It certainly creates unnecessary difficulties.

Asian systems refer to subtle winds, energy flows, subtle nerves, spatial nerves, circuits…
Imaggine me reading this stuff mapping out piezoelectric effects, and the mental as well as physical states governed by the vagus and other cranial nerves— and saying, “Oh! When they said subtle nerves they meant NERVES!” 

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