Polyvagal Theory in Yoga Therapy

This seminar will review polyvagal theory and its convergence with yoga therapy both in reference to a therapeutic framework and specific application. The seminar will be both didactic and experiential followed by time for a Q and A. The discussion will focus on the relationship of the neural platforms of polyvagal theory with the gunas of yoga and the significance of this for understanding a therapeutic biopsychosocial framework for wellbeing. Short practices will be utilized for an experiential understanding of these concepts.

Upcoming 4-Module Course with Dr. Stephen W. Porges:

The course will elaborate on how Polyvagal Theory provides a neural foundation for a brain-body medicine that would lead to insights into the treatment of trauma and chronic stress-related mental and physical health challenges. The theory describes how, via evolution, a connection emerged in the brain between the nerves that control the heart and the face. This face-heart connection provided the structures for the “social engagement system” that link sociality with autonomic regulation and explains the important mediating role of physiological state in facilitating either connectedness and intimacy or defense such as fight/flight, hypervigilance, dissociation, collapse, shutdown, and even syncope. The theory leads to better understanding of the relationship between mental and physical illnesses and provides the therapist with a better understanding that calming their client’s autonomic nervous system will foster emergent spontaneous social behavior, more optimally regulated autonomic functions, and reduced hypersensitivities.


Marlysa Sullivan