• Hanaa El Moghrabi, MA Psychology Student

Embodying Polyvagal Theory & Me

I began hearing about the polyvagal theory quite recently from a former high schooler teacher turned friend who thought I would enjoy learning more about it. I started a shallow dive into the world of polyvagal theory, beginning with the founder, Steven Porges, who wrote about it in a gentle and easy-to-understand manner. Struck, I knew I had to attend the workshop, “Embodying Polyvagal Theory,” hosted and taught by Deb Grant, a psychotherapist of 25 years. She fused her work with stretching, dancing, and breathing awareness with the scientific polyvagal theory.

Deb Grant invited us to use the workshop as an interactive space by encouraging us to move around, stretch, dance, and attune ourselves to our bodies. She made wonderful use of the time, by feeling time prospectively, and teaching us techniques to utilize in our own practice. It was engaging, fun, and yet very calming.

The workshop itself ran for an entire day -- spanning just under 8 hours with generous breaks spread throughout. The aspect that stood out to me the most was the vast experts in attendance from all over the world. Perhaps the single acceptable thing that came out from COVID-19 was breaking down barriers to allow experts from across the globe to attend a workshop they would not otherwise have learned about. Now that we are closer than ever before, online workshops, hosted by continuing education providers such as Envision, have been integral to gain more skills, insights, information from other experts that you may not have been privy to otherwise.

As a Master’s student, I would say this workshop is invaluable for practicums, internships, and eventually externships to adopt the theory into our new practice. Indeed, if you are a psychology graduate student but not doing clinical practice, I would argue it is still worth the time to learn more about the theory, as it is transferable into our interpersonal relationships. We can learn more about ourselves through breathing techniques and the relationship of movement to our autonomic nervous system.

Major learning takeaways include but are not limited to learning how to be mindful and aware of your body, and how to be aware of your space, but also how we relate our body to the polyvagal theory. There are several techniques Deb Grant illustrated and invited us to do in real-time. We spent ample of time learning (or relearning for some) about the vagus nerve and the part it plays in our autonomic nervous system. We learned how to apply our knowledge about the vagus nerve into our practice by using unique techniques. The takeaway that stuck with me is feeling empowered to use our bodies, breathing, and awareness to create change within ourselves and our clients. Breathing and awareness is a powerful tool, although innocuous. Because it is so innocuous in nature, it is important to learn how to use it to our benefit. Marrying the hard science concepts of the autonomic nervous system with softer techniques opened my mind to new possibilities to apply my new knowledge to my studies and eventual practice.

If you are looking for an expansive deep-dive into the world of polyvagal theory and imbuing your work as a therapist or a helping professional with unique techniques, then this workshop may speak to you.

In fact, “Embodying the Polyvagal Theory” will run again, graciously hosted by Deb Grant, along with an at-your-own-pace home study program with more information, tips, and tricks.

In the meantime, Envision offers a generous platter of workshops, home study courses, and now more recently, the Envision Academy for EMDR training. If you are looking to develop and grow your skills to help your clients further and expand your repertoire, Envision likely has an offering for you.

Want to enroll in the Home Study? Learn more here.

About the Author:

Hanaa El Moghrabi is a Master of Arts Psychology student, Envision content writer & behavioral sciences author who has several years of experience working in the nonprofit sector, including the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation, Behavioural Sciences Undergraduate Journal, and the Calgary Public Library. She lives in Calgary with her husband and three cats, where she enjoys watching bad 80s horror movies and reading anything she can get her hands on.

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