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Understanding the Polyvagal Theory, your nervous system and Breathwork

Embarking on a journey into understanding the Polyvagal Theory is like unraveling the intricate dance of our autonomic nervous system—a silent guardian shaping our sense of safety and connection. Picture it as a built-in security system, perpetually asking, "Is this safe?" from the moment we take our first breath.


At the heart of this system lie two main players: the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The sympathetic, residing in the spinal cord, springs into action in response to danger, triggering the fight-or-flight response with a surge of adrenaline.


On the other side, the parasympathetic, explored through Polyvagal Theory, is embodied by the vagus nerve.


Named the "wanderer," the vagus navigates two distinct pathways—the ventral and dorsal. The ventral, responding to safety cues, fosters a sense of engagement and social connection. Conversely, the dorsal, triggered by extreme danger, thrusts us into a protective state of collapse—manifesting as feelings of freezing, numbness, or disconnection.


Dr. Porges' exploration reveals an evolutionary hierarchy within our autonomic nervous system. The ancient dorsal vagal pathway, a survival strategy from our vertebrate ancestors, precedes the mobilization pattern of the sympathetic branch.


The most recent addition, the ventral vagal pathway, introduces unique mammalian social engagement patterns.


Grounded in the ventral vagal pathway, we experience a state of safety, calmness, and social connection. However, a perceived danger can catapult us into the sympathetic branch, urging us to take action for survival. It's when we feel trapped, unable to escape danger, that the dorsal vagal pathway takes control, leading us back to our evolutionary beginnings—an immobilized state of survival.


Understanding this intricate dance empowers us to recognize and navigate these pathways, forging a path back to safety and connection when faced with life's challenges.


Enter the transformative realm of Breathwork and yoga—a therapeutic duo that holds the key to guiding us out of the clutches of sympathetic and dorsal vagal states. When life's challenges trigger the sympathetic branch into mobilization or plunge us into the immobilized state of the dorsal vagal pathway, intentional breath and yoga practices become powerful allies.


As we consciously engage in deep, rhythmic breathing—a hallmark of many breathwork techniques—we signal to our autonomic nervous system that the perceived danger might not be as imminent as thought.


This deliberate focus on breath acts as a bridge, redirecting us from the heightened arousal of the sympathetic state towards the calming embrace of the ventral vagal pathway. In essence, we are recalibrating our internal rhythm towards safety and connection.

Yoga, with its mindful movements and postures, complements this journey. By tuning into the present moment through yoga practice, we anchor ourselves in the here and now, disrupting the narrative woven by the autonomic nervous system.


The physicality of yoga postures engages the body, signaling safety to the nervous system and facilitating a return to the ventral vagal state. Together, Breathwork and yoga provide a roadmap—a conscious pathway to navigate the intricate dance between the autonomic nervous system's branches.


As we embark on this therapeutic journey, we discover that the power to shift from survival mode to a state of calm social connection lies within our breath and the intentional movements of yoga—a profound testament to the symbiotic relationship between mind, body, and the intricate rhythms of regulation.


Breathwork and yoga are effective therapies to help people in recovery from addictions and burnout by recalibrateling their nervous system to feel safe and secure.


Yoga therapy and Breathwork is offered by MindfullyPauli to support individuals to recover faster from burnout and addictions.

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