Yoga Therapy Tools: Learn how to enjoy your yoga practice again.
Dysregulation-what is it?
Dysregulation can happen sneakily. When I have been triggered or been in an uncomfortable situation, I try to get possession of my mind and think out my emotions…Cognitively I will rationalize what is happening and look for solutions and salve. I feel like I am in control when I can think of scenarios, reasons, solutions.
But then it seeps in, the mind keeps hashing out thoughts and opinions whilst my body moves thru the fight and flight until I can feel the panic, the overwhelm, the distraught tightness and rattled self. Then I shut down, immobilize, frozen by the activation.
Learning how to give myself grace is key here.
Less the downward spiral of self deprecation and self blame swallow me whole. After all, the dysregulation occurred because I didn’t honour what the body felt. So to add insult to injury is pointless but so common.
Having self compassion is a life saver here. Showing yourself consideration, kindness and understanding is how we hack the system to become regulated. It is a form of activating our self social engagement system-giving ourselves what we need. Which is almost always more love and understanding.
What does it feels like to be dysregulated?
A person, place or thing makes you feel a sensation you do not have vocabulary for. But something gets registered in the nervous system as an activation.
You are upset but don't know why necessarily and so you go thru the mental gymnastics of hashing out the rationale, conjecture, thoughts, suppressing emotion and sensation, while convincing yourself that you are fine, it is all fine.
And before you know it is 2am and even though you meditated, took some extra magnesium and watched a show to calm and distract you, the adrenaline is pumping now and the train has definitely left the station?
That is what it feels like for me at any rate. It comes on like a tsunami of sensations.
My breathing becomes shallow, my body will feel tight, needs to stretch and move or be as still as possible. What first presents as a various muscle aches. radiates into my armpit and down my left leg, specifically lodging itself behind my knee. It is then I recognize my dysregulation is developing into anxiety. My body has received impact. She registered the threat as immediate and responded in kind.
My mind was so clever at thinking herself out of it that she ignored the body. And the body always wins. She keeps score of all of it!
This is odd for me to admit as I practice and teach, yoga therapy daily, do breath work, chant and meditate, do jiu jitsu every week and consider myself quite in tune with my body. These have been my body practices for over 30 years. They are my constants and hoorah for that.
But the point I wish to impart is that nervous system dysregulation gives zero fucks - our nervous system stores trauma, it will relive it at the slightest prompting when chronic dysregulation has been a theme in your life.
Forgive yourself and accept this. You are not bad, you are healing.
Are sneak attacks inevitable?
For now I believe so.
The more I heal and understand how to take care of my body so my nervous system can regulate, the less so these episodes will be. Healing is a process and a journey.
Dysregulation doesn’t mean you did something wrong! Not at all!
It will happen over and over again, granting us the ability to be swifter, more inclusive in our strategies and kinder to ourselves, knowing the opportunity for change and growth is ever present.
You see even though I have these practices that have sustained me, it has not been a wholly integrated approach as I never had the language to match the body. Meaning sure, I can get a good work out in, I can move the sludge. But without articulating the sludge and being kind to myself whilst self talking about the sludge and coupling that with conscious movement and intention, it doesn’t all come together.
We have all had the sensation of doing a yoga class and afterwards feeling like that was just what we needed. No agenda or motivation other than wanting to move the body and afterwards we are calmer, clear and feel a whole body relief. Those are good moments.
But what I have learned this past decade as I have studied nervous system regulation in particular, is that it is a purely intentional practice that warrants a system, follow thru and excavation of self to determine what is and isn’t working.
This particular dysregulated sneak attack, I am grateful for.
Because it means I am processing in real time! I have not delayed too badly to tune in and move the energy thru me. For decades I could not real time process. I would respond and react weeks after being triggered or upset and hold onto “it” for much longer than was good for.
Never truly conscious of it. Always finding excuses as to why I was angry, impatient and touchy, sad, depressed, moody…thinking this was normal behaviour.
I see this in others, my family in particular. They will chew over a conversation or interaction with someone, for weeks, months, days, even years….trying to dislodge their own accountability and shirk the carriage of their own disappointment, or anger or sadness.
They run the same conversation with different characters as time moves on, but the story line remains the same. How they were let down by someone’s actions or disapprove of how someone handled something…and the things are trivial and inconsequential but they take it all very personally. Like it was intentional to cause them discomfort when really, it is their own inability to self regulate their nervous systems.
They self blame in a way that is also a sneak attack. They will question what they could have done differently or better or how they were right and the others were wrong. When most times it is just that they want to be in control of their feelings and situations. Never registering the impact on their body when their social activation system let them down, or when they went into hyperarousal activation.
In short, never realizing that they got triggered and dysregulated.
That is not to say people don’t act badly. Or that you can be triggered or upset by something valid. Not at all.
Rather it is an observation of myself and those close to me that I see as a coping mechanism to bypass the real feelings. The sadness and grief that occurs when you are hurt, dismissed, passed over, disrespected and not knowing how to express your feelings or even that it is safe to express those feelings.
Dysregulation makes one feel like it is unsafe to claim your feelings. Those feelings are most likely overwhelming you and it is easier to blame others than to sit within our feelings.
Acting out the play of characters who disappoint you is way safer than saying I am vulnerable because of my feelings. My feelings are unmanageable and causing me to withdraw, shutdown, dissociate, to binge watch, to drink, smoke, get high, shop, be busy and productive.
All signs of hyper arousal in the nervous system that we are not taught to recognize and manage.
It is acceptable to have a drink at the end of your day and binge watch an entire tv series over the weekend, but to talk about how you need to disengage, calm yourself down, cry, write, somatically move and feel safe, is not yet normalized in our culture.
Lets normalize the conversations around dysregulation.
Lets normalize that we all need and want more love and compassion. And let’s keep healing, so we can recognize the sneak attacks.
Healing even more is possible.
Practicing Gratitude is scientifically proven to help us with managing our nervous system so I thought to share with you printable planners you can use. The daily practice of writing out your Gratitude is a wonderful self regulation technique which I link to in this email to my subscribers.
Diane Seamark is co-owner of Sadohana with her husband of 25 years, Michael Seamark. She is a veteran yoga therapist having logged over 5000 clinic hours, is a 5th degree black belt in KoKoDo Jujutsu and a mom to twins.