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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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Should Your Passion Be Buried Or Reborn?

Christine, a 40-year-old Australian artist, now living in the US, almost fell into the wrong career and surrendered her passion. But a conversation with someone she greatly admired re-orientated her life.

Words by Christine

Art and the artist’s life were my passion all through my 20s, but my 30th birthday and a broken 8-year relationship gave me a harsh reality check. Then, a steady income became more important to me than anything else.

I’d worked part-time in aged care homes. With my new aim, I trained to gain a better income, and I soon turned full time.

I planned to paint in my spare time, but it became unsustainable with a hectic social life that involved a lot of wine (and other substances), art openings, parties, celebrations, etc. Although I continued to call myself an artist, life was fun, and pleasantly uncomplicated without actually making art.

Watching Success

Years flew by without a single painting being completed. Then over a 6-month period, I noticed a fellow artist, Lucas (whose work I respected), turning out an astounding amount of work – a solo show one month, a group show the next, paid commissions the next.

“Have you hired a secret helper,” I joked at one of his exhibitions? “Oh yes, ten little fairies,” he joked back. “Seriously, what has changed”, I pressed.

“I did a course about life purpose, and it messed with my head, in the best possible way,” Lucas said.

I remember his words because, although I was happy with my therapy work and doing more training to advance my career, the fact that I did not know my life purpose made me quite sad, and very curious.

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The Nine Nights Of The Goddess – Navarātri

Yoga and tantra provide maps and paths through the maze of complex existence. They aim to transform the body-mind from raw, mundane states of existence to refined, exalted states of experience and realization.

Within many yogic and tantric traditions, certain seasons, months, and times of the day are given special importance.

They are ‘auspicious’ times when cosmic energies are heightened and, as such, support psycho-spiritual practice. These auspicious moments in time assist us in achieving positive results. For example, dawn and dusk are said to be ideal times for yoga and meditation.

The festival of Navarātri or Nine Nights (‘nav’ is nine and ‘rātri’ is nights) is one of the great ceremonies in the lives of Hindus in India. The exact time of this celebration varies according to the lunar calendar. It begins on a dark moon in the Indian autumn (in the month of Ashwin, usually in October) and ends ten days after. In 2018 Navaratri started on the 8th of October (depending on which part of the world and time zone you live in).

This period of The Nine Nights is devoted to invoking The Great Mother Goddess, The Divine Creative Power, or Shakti, the creator and supporter of the universe. She is most closely identified with Durga, an exquisitely beautiful goddess who rides a lion, and who wields in her many hands’ awesome weapons, including the ‘shul’ (pike), ‘chakra’ (wheel), ‘parashu’ (ax), and ‘talvar’ (sword).

Durga is said to be the manifestation of the power of all the goddesses that, long ago, faced a terrible and irresistible demon called Mahishasura.

Mahishāsura is a mythic representation of the human ego in its demonic form

Many yogis do not see Navaratri as a religious process, but rather as a psycho-spiritual one, and a unique opportunity for yogic practice. 

They adopt certain practices and rituals to understand their psychological shadow and to confront their egos.

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Why Your Shadow Makes You Say And Do Things That Are Not ‘You’

We all do it.

Things are humming along nicely, then — from out of the blue — something triggers us.

We lose our filter. Honest feelings rise and pop.

We say or do something that surprises or shocks us, and everyone within earshot.

Someone gets hurt, and we feel lousy.

When this happens to you, you probably spend the rest of the day scrambling to fix the mess. “I’m sorry.” “I wasn’t thinking.” “I’m under a lot of pressure.” “I just wasn’t myself.”

You beat yourself up, vow to get a handle on yourself and never to let loose again. You don’t want to be like that, ever.

The fallout of your sudden outburst can be a hiccup or a hurricane.

A sarcastic comment, a disgruntled rant, and a punch in the face will each elicit a different response. As will a teary outburst, a jealous accusation, and a racial slur.

Those caught in your line of fire may easily forgive you, never speak to you again, or see you in court.

If you weren’t yourself, who were you at that moment?

Where did the other you come from?

That other you is another part of you. It’s the unwanted you — the part you keep hidden, most of the time.

You keep this part of yourself hidden because you find it unattractive, unacceptable, or abhorrent. It’s not how you want your family, friends, and co-workers to see you.

The unwanted you corrupts your self-image and is a blight on your ego.

The psychological term for the unwanted you is the shadow.

Your shadow is the refuge for all the traits, behaviors, feelings and impulses that your ego rejects.

How Your Shadow Is Created

“Everything that is, casts a shadow.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

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