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: (1) Parasympathetic/Ventral Vagal state — our centered “true self” state, where all social interaction, connection and cognition occurs, (2) Sympathetic state — feeling of threat or danger, and feeling the need to either “fight” or “flee” from a situation to seek safety, and (3) Dorsal Vagal state — our “freeze” state, when we feel our lives are so immediately threatened that we become immobilized.
Developed in 1994, 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. 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.
Deb Dana, a leading Polyvagal Theory author and practitioner notes, “Polyvagal Theory offers a roadmap to work with autonomic activation and build regulation and resilience.” Some of the community integrating healing benefits of this may be a feeling of connection, safety with vulnerability, having flexible options in times of stress, consciously communicating, and a greater capacity to authentically receive and offer love.