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How to use relaxation to reduce the negative effects of stress, handle traumatic events, prevent overwhelm, and feel safe and secure.

Polyvagal Theory – Ruby Jo Walker

This chart has been put together by Ruby Jo Walker and is based on the work of Stephen Porges. It clearly explains in visual form what happens to us when our stress builds to intolerable levels as it does in trauma.

Yoga, relaxation, and meditation are powerful tools that are now being used by clinicians to help patients gain control over the residue of past trauma and return to being the master of their own lives.

They have shown that along with talking therapies and the appropriate use of drugs that dampen hyperactive alarm systems, traumatic imprints from the past can be transformed by having embodied experiences that directly contradict the helplessness, rage, and collapse that are part of trauma.

Embodied experiences deal directly with traumatic memories that are held in the body. This is achieved by using systems, such as yoga and meditation, that build feelings of relaxation, of being grounded and safe, of being able to trust the present moment, and thereby enable you to restore your ability for connection and joy. As a result, the old traumatic memories are stripped of their emotional intensity so that you are freed from the past and are thereby able to regain a degree of self-mastery.

All the knowledge in the world is not going to help you unless you develop the skill of embodied relaxation. Without developing relaxation your body will remain stuck in tension and hypervigilance, and feelings of relaxation, safety and intimacy will be vague memories.

Porges polyvagal theory

Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium.

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How Stress Wrecks Your Brain and What To Do About It

Did you know that chronic, unresolved stress can create an imbalance between the self-aware, rational, decision making, and problem-solving parts of your brain (the pre-frontal cortex) and the emotion and memory controlling parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus)?

Long-term (chronic) stress alters your thinking, emotion, and behavior and over time changes the size, structure, and function of parts of your brain. Chronic stress also shortens the length of your chromosomes and interferes with how your genes express themselves, making you more vulnerable to disease.

How your ability to learn and remember shrinks

The hippocampus, the learning and memory center of the brain, shrinks as a result of chronic stress. Neurons die and the connections between neurons in the hippocampus become weaker, which is detrimental to your memory. Memories become fragmented making it hard for you to keep track of what you are doing. You might have brain fog and be unable to think creatively.

Amygdala-hippocampus
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The One Thing You Can Do To Bring Yoga Into Every Situation

Did you know that you can engage in a yoga posture and a meditative state in almost any situation; while taking a meeting, shopping, working out, or socializing?

Here, we define a yoga posture as any position that enables deeper awareness, embodiment, and connection.

This practice needs no yoga props or special conditions. It only takes a decision to perform, and a skill, which can be learned and cultivated.

In today’s world, the majority of people are stuck in states of contraction (tension) caused by stress, strain, overthinking and overwhelm.

Unchecked contracted states eventuate in illness.

Contraction diminishes your life-force by cutting you off from parts of yourself.

  • Physical contraction cuts one part of the body off from another.
  • Psychological contraction cuts off self-awareness which creates anxiety.
  • Emotional contraction cuts off feeling and connection with others.
  • Spiritual contraction cuts you off from cosmic energies, which causes alienation.

Your feeling states, contracted or relaxed, also create a powerful impression which others can sense, for better or for worse.

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Pursue Your Purpose As Though Your Life Depends On It, Because It Does!

Medical science proves that purpose keeps you young, fit, and ALIVE!

One of the great satisfactions in life is to be fully aware of your life’s purpose. Equally, one of the great sufferings is to be ignorant of it.

Although the latter is far more common, many people give up pursuing their purpose too early and settle for less.

The question, ‘what is your life purpose’, can overwhelm us with anxiety, self-doubt, and existential angst.

People can become embarrassed and bewildered when the topic arises. Memories of failed efforts, regrettable life choices and a low opinion of potentialities can make us reluctant to venture there.

It can feel easier and safer to remain gilded to our habits, psychological patterns, and external structures even if they’re working against our best interests.

And it can feel destabilizing and risky to respond to the subtle voice of our inner calling because it almost always wants us to change and grow in an uncomfortable way.

You can resist your life purpose for years (or a lifetime) but, as many wisdom-keepers have advised over the centuries, a higher purpose can revolutionize your life.

Now medical science is substantiating this old wisdom and proving that life purpose directly impacts health and wellbeing.

Purpose as medicine

Various studies over the last decade show that a purposeful life positively influences:

  • Psychological well-being
  • Healthy brain function
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Muscle strength
  • Sound sleep
  • Immunity
  • Longevity
  • Satisfaction
  • Happiness
  • Mortality

The message is clear, life purpose is not something to be pursued at a (leisurely) later time.

Nor is it a luxury or indulgence only available to a talented few.

Life purpose is your individual gift. When discovered and expressed, it brings vitality, meaning, and satisfaction.

Here’s proof:

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Light On Yogi: Siddhi Saraswati – Australia

Siddhi Saraswati is a yogi to the core, but it might surprise you to know that she doesn’t practice classical yoga postures. Siddhi is proof that yoga is more about poise than a pose. Read about how her relationship with life, learning, nature, and multiple sclerosis makes her a true yogi.

Words by Siddhi

In 1985 I heard about an Australian medical doctor who had spent a decade studying with a guru in India and had returned to Australia to teach yoga as the foundation of wellbeing. That doctor was Swami Shankardev Saraswati.

My meeting with him soon after changed my life in a most positive, nurturing way.

It sparked in me a deeper connection to yoga, and I became certain that it was to become my vocation. I traveled to India to further my studies and completed my teacher training back in Australia. I taught yoga in Sydney and enjoyed a wonderful yoga community for well over a decade.

In 1998 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It moved quickly through my brain and spinal cord, damaging parts of the myelin sheath, the neural pathway that sends messages from the brain to the body. My brain, spine controlling balance, proprioception, cognition, voice, and movement were all affected.

I tried hard to retain the life I’d grown to love, but when I could no longer drive or teach I was forced to leave my students, my community, and to find a new way of living.

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Light On Yogi: Bhakati Jane MacRae – Canada

Words by Bhakati

A head-on motor vehicle accident over twenty years ago left me catastrophically injured.

Every bone in my face was broken, and my left leg was in 16 pieces. In the aftermath, I had a bleed in the brain and still have left-sided weakness, without the use of my left hand.

However, I survived the multiple trauma, and I continue, slowly and steadily, to heal and love life!

There have been wonderful healers along the way; my beautiful chestnut horse, K.C., and Big Shakti have been the major factors in my onward journey.

Having been a student of Sri Chinmoy since 1978, I knew the importance of meditation, and especially relaxation, so I began with Big Shakti’s guided relaxation meditations.

I moved away from group meditations after Sri Chinmoy’s death, and I was longing for new supportive teachers and community.

Big Shakti’s online courses and seminars not only helped me to meditate more regularly, but they also gave me a renewed sense of connection to a global community. I felt a strong heart connection with Swami Shankardev and Jayne Stevenson.

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