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SPEAKING EVENT: Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research – Yoga Through the Lens of the Polyvagal Theory
June 18 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm MDT
Ancient Wisdom Meets Contemporary Neuroscience: Yoga Through the Lens of the Polyvagal Theory
The principles of polyvagal theory provide an innovative lens to understand yoga and other contemplative practices as neural exercises of vagal pathways. By deconstructing yoga into biobehavioral manipulations that challenge specific vagal pathways, contemporary neuroscience can document mechanisms consistent with the historical traditions of yoga. For example, manipulations of posture, breath, vocalization, and meditation engage and exercise specific vagal pathways that provide portals to compassion, improved health, and greater social accessibility and connectedness. Polyvagal theory explains how these beneficial circuits may be retuned during experiences of threat and disrupt bodily processes sufficiently to affect both mental and physical health. The theory further explains how the neural systems recruited in yoga may reset these disruptions to enhance the physiological processes that support health, growth, and restoration. From a scientific perspective, polyvagal theory identifies specific neural pathways that can be objectively monitored and potentially used to validate and explain the positive health effects of yogic therapies. We will discuss how yoga may retune autonomic nervous system regulation to support more efficient and effective homeostatic functions, leading to improved mental and physical health and greater resilience.