Not Your Average Book Club
About three years ago I was invited to join a book club with some other movement practitioners. The invitation came from my friend, colleague and mentor Doris Pasteleur-Hall so, of course I said yes. If you’ve worked with me for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve heard me mention Doris. I never stray too far from her because she anchors me in my work. Her enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge inspires everyone around her to do better and learn more. Because Doris is always exploring a variety of techniques she has collaborated with many different types of practitioners in the area, so she assembled a truly amazing group.
The purpose of the book club is to break down some pretty dense textbooks covering topics such as kinesiology, neuroscience and somatics. See what I mean by dense? We go through each book, chapter by chapter, and meet once a month for as long as it takes to get through the book. Along the way we get everyone’s different perspectives and insights. We learn as much from each other as we do from the text.
The Polyvagal Theory and Our Autonomic Nervous System
One recent book was perfectly apropos to the year that was 2020. Has there ever been a better time to try to understand our autonomic nervous system? I mean, seriously! We dove into The Polyvagal Theory, discovered by a scientist named Stephen Porges. This theory looks at the critical role the vagus nerve plays in the different parts of our nervous system that impact us daily. It helps us understand more about our social connections, emotion regulation, stress response and fear response. Realizing that we have all been on a steady drip of stress every single day of this past year, I immediately saw the value of this subject matter. When stressed we operate in our sympathetic nervous systems, the classic “fight or flight” system. I was eager to learn more about how to stimulate our “rest and digest” or parasympathetic nervous system so that I could help bring my clients out of their anxious bodies and into a calmer body during our sessions.
Provided my clients were on board with this type of work, we explored different techniques to get them there. We often started with breath and feeling into our bodies. I would sometimes lay ankle weights across their bodies to invite a tangible sense of grounding, that good heaviness of letting go. If they could connect with that feeling, then they could create it on their own without the weights. When this happened I could see a noticeable difference, they became more deeply rooted in their bodies and would start to move from a more centered place. It really changed the quality and flow of their movements. I also noted that clients were more present and there appeared to be renewed strength of mind and body. I could even detect a change in their tone of voice. It was exciting to watch.
Grateful For Our Network – Yoga Teachers, Naturopaths, Body Workers
I am so grateful that our Book Club has endured through Covid-19. We have continued meeting outdoors or on Zoom to keep the learning, and the community, going. It has served us personally as well as professionally. It is important for us, as practitioners, to use those same skills to bring ourselves to a more centered space in order to be present and available for our clients during this difficult time. This network of yoga teachers, naturopaths, body workers and therapists has bonded over a shared love of learning and a commitment to our work. I feel blessed to count myself among them.
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