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Posts Tagged ‘working with the polyvagal system’

You may not want to hear this… (famous first words?) 🙂

I also share this reluctantly. Please keep in mind that I am not a spiritual teacher – yes I dabble in leading meditation groups, but that is typically from rote, not from realization! Therefore, when deciding when and how much meditation you should engage in, you definitely should seek out a qualified spiritual guide. So many of us here in the West want to do spiritual practice our own way – looking for good books to guide us. We are basically feeling around blindly in the dark, searching for resourcing nectar in all the wrong places if so. Independence – insistence upon our selves, “I know what is best for me (from the get go)!”, attempting to control our spiritual path – is a binder and a blinder, especially when it comes to spiritual practice.

With all that said, I have had private interviews with Tibetan Lamas who tell me that someone who is suffering from a gross (vs subtle) nervous system issue like anxiety or paranoia or OCD or significant depression, they cannot meditate. Why? Probably because once you start to push your mind and stretch a little out of your comfort zone, this nervous system dysfunction will be right up very uncomfortably in your face.

Recently, in the Somatic Experiencing training I participated in back in March, they had a conversation about how meditators are often the best at checking out of their bodies (not all – some of us meditate in such a way as to stay present in and as a body). But the issue is that someone who already has a tendency to dissociate or check out or day dream or numb out who begins to meditate, will usually just transfer their dissociation into this new habit. In other words, making a new-looking groove for an ancient, ingrain habit!

I would argue however, that according to some definitions of meditation I have heard from Tibetan Lamas, this checking out while sitting is also not technically meditation. Yes it may look that way from the outside, but inside their bodies, these people are in a state of freeze, collapse, shock or overwhelm (or a combination of two or three of these!).

I’m not saying “Don’t Meditate” if you have one of these issues. What I am saying is that you need to do something efficacious to work on settling your nervous system. You need to find a skillful practitioner to help you co-regulate, to build resilience in a proven manner and to do the healing / release work to clear these obstacles causing your nervous system to be dysregulated in the first place!

Yoga is a decent place to start. Find a good teacher – someone who allows for modification of poses (not everyone is alike and can handle a harsh or strict form of discipline). You want to find someone who walks their talk – they can be kind and yet have solid boundaries. Maybe you prefer tough love – but make sure you are really experiencing lasting benefits! (How many of us know someone who looks the part of awesome Yogi on their mat but their blind spots are outrageously obvious to the rest of their world…?)

Other options are to work with a Somatic Experiencing practitioner. This is an awesome body-centered therapeutic modality that works with whatever is up in the moment and it tracks very specifically where the client is in their nervous system.

Yet another modality is Working with the Polyvagal System – based on Stephen Porges’ work on the Polyvagal Theory. Kathy Kain’s work on Touch for Trauma is an excellent way to come into your body in a gradual, kind, stable manner.

And then there is always the moving meditation modalities – Chi Kung (Qigong) or Tai Chi (Taiji). Or walking meditation or walking a labyrinth etc. These are excellent starting places (and you can go very deep for a lifetime of learning with Qigong or Taiji).

However, if you have a difficult time staying present in your body and as a body. Then starting out with a shamanic journey may or may not be the best place to start. Yes some people might require a soul retrieval type of session to make progress. But for the vast majority of clients I have seen, this is not the case.

Most of us want to choose the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, that means we have been very adept at sweeping uncomfortable emotions under the carpet as it were. Choose a modality (but not too intensely cathartic) that helps you to gently feel those less-than-comfortable emotions in a manageable, gradual, stable, trackable manner. Like Somatic Experiencing, or Craniosacral Therapy, or Working with the Polyvagal System, or Dream Therapy, or Art Therapy, or Dance Therapy etc.

If it is too cathartic all at once, then that is too intense on the nervous system – it literally can’t digest that much of an emotional outburst in one sitting. So some people get addicted to the feeling, the rush of catharsis. But when it comes to moving out of less-than-healthy grooves and into healthier nervous system rhythms, then a very cathartic modality is NOT the way to go. These look like heavy emotional processing without a lot of time for integration – let’s do four big pieces for four different people in under two hours for instance. I don’t want to name modality names here for obvious reasons – but leave a comment and I will share more 🙂

What I am trying to say with all of this is, Keep Meditating! If you notice other things arising, like persistent anxiety or chronic agitation or chronically tight upper back / shoulder muscles or depression etc, then get additional support! And keep in mind that it is possible that your meditation teacher does not have the knowledge or the experience to recommend that you get nervous system regulation support (most Tibetan Lamas have not done efficacious somatic psychological training). So keep moving forward, but allow time for integration of new big learning, new big experiences. And as always, always lean into support when possible!

Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment.

km

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I should start out by saying I am not a doctor. I do not treat, diagnose, cure or even prevent any diseases outside of my scope of practice (I’m a licensed massage therapist).

With that said, I have been working with the Polyvagal System – treating nervous system dysfunction and lack of regulation since 2012. And I’m currently taking Somatic Experiencing training – getting more specific knowledge and skills about how to work with the CNS and ANS.

Recently I have treated a few clients who have the symptoms of hiatal hernias – discomfort, acid reflux, pressure up into diaphragm, etc. Their doctors have diagnosed them as having these hernias.

And I should note (immediately and with some insistence) that having a hiatal hernia is complicated. It most likely took some years or even decades (of stress and challenge) to develop. Therefore there is no easy fix. Especially if there is a tear in the tissue around the hiatus – the opening in the diaphragm which is allowing some abdominal tissue to sneak up into the upper thoracic cavity. Ouch.

People with these hernias are often prescribed medicine for the acid reflux and then are given exercises to pull the tissue down from around their stomachs. And their doctors will watch them to make sure they don’t develop serious GERD (potentially damaging acid reflux) or other complications.

I wonder what else can be done for these life-altering types of diseases?

It looks like there is a significant Vagus (ventral vagus) nerve component to the esophagus. The ventral vagus branch innervates the upper third of it, and when working properly, it allows for some appropriate slack in the tissue when taking deep breaths so the diaphragm can descend. When the esophagus is stuck in a tight, shocked, frightened, or feeling less-than-safe pattern, there can be problems with the proper tension in the esophageal tissue. If we are taking deep breaths with a really tight esophagus, then eventually some lower abdominal tissue might start to slip through the hiatus – the opening in the diaphragm which the esophagus passes through. This is where the hiatal hernia begins to develop.

Ideally we want the dorsal vagus and the ventral vagus branch to be on the same page and sending the same messages to the brain. Often times though, in times of stress, the ventral vagus branch gets disrupted. This has many side effects, but one of which is to disrupt communication between the ventral and dorsal branches of the vagus system and to possibly have the sympathetic chain stay “stuck” on – being activated, tense, or anxious for days on end.

It also turns out that if hiatal hernias get bad enough, they will start to affect the breathing capacity – as the diaphragm can’t descend properly. There seems to be evidence that some COPD cases may involve hiatal hernias as well. 

I appreciate all the learning and study and wisdom of Western medical practitioners. They know how to treat the biological body and most of the bio-chemical systems in it, to patch it up, to tweak neurotransmitters, to balance pH, to replace organs, to set broken bones, etc. And yet I wonder if the healing actually happens in the biological body – or does it happen in the psycho-spiritual body? And if it is the latter, why don’t they teach more about this in contemporary medical schools?

So speaking of psycho-spiritual concepts.. working with the autonomic nervous system – building resiliency, tracking where the client is in their nervous system (sympathetic, parasympathetic charge, fight or flight, freeze or collapse, etc), assessing the client’s capacity – how refined is their window of tolerance? – are all necessary competencies to know and understand before putting hands on and saying, “I can resource the nervous system skillfully.”

There is a very easy technique to resource and settle the ventral branch of the vagus nerve. It is called the Basic Exercise. This plus Visceral Manipulation techniques (balancing the sphincters, working with the visceral organs) and other forms of nervous system resiliency building can be really good for potentially managing hiatal hernias (and I suspect in preventing them). What I’m trying to say is: “Go see your doctor if you have unexplained symptoms or pain (especially around the upper left quadrant of your abdomen and which might include acid reflux).” You may also want to work with a complimentary medicine practitioner as well. Continue working with a doctor you trust for sure – you do not want this condition to get worse.

Ideally, you want to calm and soothe your nervous system before the stresses on the tissues, openings and sphincters becomes so great that a little tear develops. If you have pain, try to figure out what is going on, same for acid reflux. The old adage – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – can get people in trouble.

So go see your doctor or nurse practitioner first. And then do something healthy and positive (and hopefully efficacious) to reduce your stress. Somatic Experiencing, counseling, meditation (find a good teacher), yoga, qigong are all techniques and modalities which can do this. Having a competent teacher is important however – if they aren’t walking their talk, walk away 🙂

Even if you have a hiatal hernia, you can still manage and soothe your nervous system. You can reduce the stresses and strains on your body. And I wonder – they say that a hernia NEVER improves or gets better (unless you have surgery) and not that I am disputing that (!).. but I wonder what would happen if you did a 30-day yoga-type retreat where you eat extremely easy to digest foods (think zero stress on the digestive tract), you receive shirodhara sessions daily (very relaxing oil treatments coming out of the Ayurvedia tradition), and you have daily access to Ayurvedia doctors and yoga teachers. “Miracles” can happen..

I offer bodywork treatments – Working with the Polyvagal System, Craniosacral Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, Integrated Massage and Asian Bodywork in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. Visit my website www.mkirbymoore.com to schedule an appointment.

Thanks for reading!

KM

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This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Thank you for respecting my creative property! And I’m very grateful to have you visiting this blog! You can visit Kirby’s site here: Wisdom Healing Arts website

I’m not attempting to brag or boast here, but when you put the causes and conditions into place, the results typically follow. And this can be true for conducting powerful healing work as well – when we work on ourselves, learn multiple techniques and modalities which lead to actual, lasting transformation, then it would follow that we could produce powerful healing sessions when we work with others.

And this is starting to happen with me. I won’t say too much, as it is my intention to walk the fine line between being modest and looking to promote my work.

I have been practicing Craniosacral Therapy since 2005, Polyvagal Therapy since 2012, Birth Process work since 2013 and other modalities as well – including Acupressure, Shiatsu, and a potent and effective Hot Stone massage treatment. Oh and I am starting to learn Sports Massage along with a number of other massage techniques.

But it might be time to specialize. And I know upon what I want to focus!

This might be a good time to take a few mindful, rejuvenating deep breaths… as I’m about to plunge into heavier waters.

This is what it all boils down to (hear me out: subtext read to the bottom of the post): when we have unmet needs, early conflicts (double binds) and unresolved psychological wounds, then we have shadow material. This makes sense – nearly everyone has some unresolved stuff – meaning everyone has shadow material. This can show up as blind spots, uncomfortable subjects, or meeting people who really hook and irritate us just by being themselves, certain emotions being very difficult to express, etc.

With this shadow material comes a lot of psychic energy required to keep it contained. Most of us want to appear normal, we want to assure our friends and family that everything is fine. So we become extremely skilled at containing, deflecting or suppressing our shadow material. And this requires large amounts of psychic energy! Huge resources are going into the darker nether regions of our psyche to keep our fears, terrors and even misunderstandings at bay. (Some of those fears though may just be illusions or confusions – they might be easier to remedy than you think!) Hence is it is easier to contain and deal with our subconscious underworld when we are younger – we have more psychic energy in our 20’s than we do in our 40’s!

As we get older however, these reservoirs of psychic energy start to decline. And then the compensation for our shadow material becomes harder and harder. Some of it starts to bleed over into our daily conscious lives – maybe we become more irritable without meaning to, maybe our anxiety is now impossible to hide, maybe we start having nightmare problems, perhaps we stick our foot in our mouths with more regularity – we become more raw, etc. And this is why many diseases start to show up around age 40 – especially those funny idiopathic diseases that the medical community cannot pinpoint the cause of. Can you image a Western doctor saying, “Oh your royal chi is declining which is allowing your skeletons out of the closet. That’s why you are sick…” That’d go over well! I can say more about this at another time – or better yet, sign up for one of my classes or webinars.

Kathy Kain – one of my teachers of Polyvagal therapy – says about the above topic: “moving toward equilibrium, it becomes easier to sustain healthy self-regulation… energy is no longer spent maintaining disequilibrium which allows us to focus on [healthy] other functions.” ~in her paper entitled Touching Trauma.

The healing facilitation work that I offer looks to gradually get to the root of the problem. And therefore this is slow patience-requiring work. But by going slower, we get to our destination faster (truly transforming suffering and getting to the root cause of illness). Do not expect instant results – you wouldn’t want that anyway (can you imagine a nervous system that took 40 years to get to where it is now, to shift radically in two weeks? No? I can’t either…) 🙂 But after 5, 7 or 10 treatments, you will definitely notice lasting results, greater insights and liberated shadow material. See the last few paragraphs!

We work with psychological double binds from the early pre-verbal stage of life, where we are literally building a body around whatever we encounter (if we are born in a tension field, then it would make sense that we take that tension into our bodies and get fooled into thinking that that is the only choice we have!! Ouch!). This is extremely powerful work. It is not for everyone. But someone who wants to do their healing work, who wants to transform for the better, who is willing to be uncomfortable for a few days while their body starts to transform (we can literally re-orient our brains and nervous systems by doing this work).

We walk the fine line between healthy self-regulation and activation as we repattern it – Ray Castellino, a pioneer in the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Trauma resolution fields and founder of BEBA – building and enhancing bonding and attachment, calls this fine line, the Leading Edge – where we stretch ourselves as we build resiliency and restore healthy responses to stress.

You have to have good support. That is pre-requisite. Asking for help is one of the traits of a grown up. As a healing facilitator I want to be part of your health team – I want to be one of several people supporting you (I don’t want to do it alone). I will ask you about the support in your life – friends, family but more importantly counselors, health care providers, people you can really go to with your issues and be heard.

The benefits of liberating this shadow material are immense. When you were conceived, there was an initial blueprint of who you are / were meant to be. But then various imprints (misunderstandings, unmet needs, unresolved wounds) covered that up – obscured your highest potential. This work seeks to reconnect you to your original blueprint, gradually. By liberating your shadow material, you also simultaneously liberate the psychic energy that was required to keep it tamped down, suppressed, contained. And guess what? When you have all this psychic energy freed up, you become more spontaneous, more creative, more joyful, more resilient, clearer and having a sharper mind. Who doesn’t want that?

Oh and it might also have health ramifications – in Chinese medicine and other complimentary medicine theories, emotions play a major role in disease (especially unconscious, repressed, tangled emotions). The A.C.E. study has shown enormous levels of correlation when it comes to early trauma leading to adult (inflammatory) disease. What happens when we resolve and repair these early unmet needs and repair and resolve the trauma? It would make sense to assume then the idiopathic (unknown causes of) inflammation would also go down! And this is another reason why this work takes time – true, lasting, joyous transformation takes time but it is well worth it!

The brief uncomfortable journey is well worth it in the end! The key is getting beyond that typical Western saying of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I would change it to, “If I can transform it for the better, what am I waiting for?!”

Thank you for reading!

Kirby offers sessions in person in Central Virginia (Charlottesville). He also offers webinars on various alternative bodywork modalities, working with the autonomic nervous system, and Spiritual Astrology classes. In addition he offers distance sessions by phone or Zoom / Skype. You can reach him at kirby [at] mkirbymoore {dot} com

Comprehensive Natal Chart Interpretation

Kirby will spend 90 minutes interpreting your Natal Birth chart. You can chat about any area that you like. This includes printed charts and it also includes about 30 minutes of preparation time! These are typically done on the phone, via Skype or in person if you happen to be in Virginia, USA.

$150.00

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