POLYVAGAL THEORY EXPLAINED: The Science of Feeling Safe
Feeling safe in a complex world.
Now more than ever, the world is a busy place and filled with uncertainty. People of all ages, demographics and geographies are struggling and suffering.
Research and experience tell us that rapid societal change and adverse life experiences are increasingly resulting in physical and mental health challenges for huge parts of the global population, including:
- Social, emotional and attachment disorders
- Auditory hypersensitivity
- Body organization
- Nervous system dysregulation
- Learning, cognition and attention difficulty
- Sensory processing differences
- Stress-related physical conditions
While traditional treatments help some, many with adverse experiences, or conditions such as ADHD, autism or PTSD continue to face challenges.
Polyvagal Theory, or the “science of feeling safe,” is another one of the key research advancements that helps us better understand our challenges and gives us a foundational framework for non-invasive ways to support them.
This affects quality of life, both for individuals and their families. It can impact us internally by how we feel and think, and externally in our ability to connect with others and the world around us.
Ideally, we can…
Respond effectively to
“Respond vs. react”, replacing emotionally-charged reactivity with controlled responsiveness and resilience
Access higher learning and cognition
Learn and retain important facts and concepts that enable greater confidence and societal contribution
Build positive social relationships
Develop relationships and truly connect with others
The body’s response to the world around us:
The nervous system, neuroplasticity, and Polyvagal Theory
Scientific advancements have helped us better understand how the nervous system and brain work and have given us greater insight into what’s happening in the minds and bodies of those who struggle.
The notion that the brain is able to change in response to stimulation, an ability known as “neuroplasticity,” is now so widely accepted it can be called fact. Unyte-iLs programs are based on this principle, providing gentle and specific stimulation in order to activate the neural pathways used in the processing of sensory information. Neuronal connections in these pathways are strengthened and new connections are established through repeated sessions of multisensory input.
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Polyvagal Theory or the “science of feeling safe,” is another one of the key research advancements that helps us better understand our challenges and gives us a foundational framework for non-invasive ways to support them.
Developed by world-renowned researcher and Unyte-iLs Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Stephen Porges, Polyvagal Theory focuses on what is happening in the body and the nervous system, and explains how our sense of safety, or danger or threat, can impact our behavior. Understanding Polyvagal Theory gives us a scientific framework that can be applied through physiological, or “bottom-up” therapies, to help change and improve how we feel, think and connect with others.
To continue spreading the Polyvagal perspective, Dr. Porges, along with Deb Dana, LCSW and Randall Redfield, created the Polyvagal Institute, (PVI), an organization dedicated to “optimizing the human experience by creating a safe and connected world.” Learn more about PVI by visiting polyvagalinstitute.org.
INTERNAL CONTROL CENTER
The mind and body are connected through the vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve in the autonomic nervous system, stretching from the brainstem to the colon. It is our internal control center, allowing the brain to monitor and receive information about many of our bodily functions.
The vagus nerve helps to regulate many critical aspects of human physiology, including the heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, digestion, and even speaking. As the body takes in information automatically through neuroception, the vagus nerve processes the signals and cues from the world around us and, in turn, determines how we react through three physiological states:
- Parasympathetic / Ventral Vagal state — our centered “true self” state, where all social interaction, connection and cognition occurs
- Sympathetic state — feeling of threat or danger, and feeling the need to either “fight” or “flee” from a situation to seek safety
- Dorsal Vagal state — our “freeze” state, when we feel our lives are so immediately threatened that we become immobilized
Continue your learning:
Download the Understanding Polyvagal Theory E-Book
How do the body and mind develop?
It happens gradually, with higher brain skills developing after a solid sensory and emotional foundation is set. Sometimes the sensory foundation isn’t fully developed, sometimes our emotional regulation gets shaken by life’s changes – what happens then?
Well, we don’t function quite as well.
Higher brain functions such as learning, communication, and focus are dependent upon how well we are able to process incoming information at the sensory and emotional levels.
Evidence-based, bottom-up solutions that help transform lives
Understanding neuroplasticity and Polyvagal Theory gives us a scientific framework that can be applied through physiological, or “bottom-up” therapies, to help change and improve how we feel, think and connect with others.
At Unyte-iLs, we develop bottom-up, non-invasive solutions that are practical and accessible. Our mission is to guide every person to train their nervous systems to be more aware, regulated and resilient so they can feel safe, happy and healthy and more effectively respond to life’s challenges.
We partner with healthcare professionals, families and individuals to deliver these multisensory products in-clinic or remotely. Our programs include music, movement, breathing, meditation and language exercises that nourish the nervous system to enable meaningful and lasting changes in physiological state and quality of life.
Interested in learning more about Unyte-iLs?
Our consultants can help to decide what Unyte-iLs programs are right for your clients.
Dr. Stephen Porges
Dr. Stephen Porges is the Chief Scientific Advisor at Unyte-iLs, driving the development of new products, therapies, research and educational programs based on Polyvagal Theory. He is also the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol —a practical application of the Polyvagal Theory—and co-founder of the Polyvagal Institute (PVI) which is a not-for-profit organization focused on the facilitation of Polyvagal research, education, and community building.
Dr. Ron Minson
One of the iLs founders and now Clinical Director, Dr. Minson received his medical degree from UCLA School of Medicine and is board-certified in Psychiatry and Neurology served as Chief of Psychiatry. He learned of the effectiveness of sound therapy after witnessing the successful treatment of his own daughter.
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Understand the Evidence Behind Unyte-iLs
Explore our resource library of videos and articles to learn more about the Polyvagal Theory.
Polyvagal Theory and How Trauma Impacts the Body: Dr. Stephen Porges
The Polyvagal Theory: The New Science of Safety and Trauma
Dr. Stephen Porges explains the Polyvagal Theory
FREE E-BOOK: Why Effective Processing & Regulation are the Essential Foundation for Health
Discover how our brains are deeply connecting to our bodies. The central nervous system, most notably the vagus nerve, is just the beginning to understanding the influence these systems have on our emotional and physiological state.