Vagus Nerve Yoga-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

A Mind-Body Approach to Wellness

Vagus Nerve Yoga Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The vagus nerve plays a central role in your emotional and physical health. The vagus nerve extends from the brainstem down into your stomach and intestines, enervating your heart and lungs, and connecting your throat and facial muscles. Therefore, any yoga practices that stimulate these areas of the body can have a profound influence on the tone of the vagus nerve. Vagus nerve yoga helps you reclaim balance of body and mind using tools of mindfulness, conscious breathing, and physical postures.

“Healthy vagal tone can be thought of as an optimal balance of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system actions that allows you to respond with resilience to the ups and downs of life. Read on to learn 7 Vagus Nerve Yoga practices that will help you better manage stress and reclaim emotional balance.”
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Grounding-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Connecting to the Earth

Grounding Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Within somatic (body-centered) psychology, grounding refers to our ability to experience ourselves as embodied. Grounding refers to your ability to sense your body, feel your feet on the earth, and as a result calm your nervous system.

Grounding is a key resource for trauma recovery and can help with emotional overwhelm. A simple way to ground is to literally stand outside with bare feet and tune into how you feel. You can imagine the earth is like a sponge and allow any tension to release in a downward direction out of your body. Clint Ober refers to this process as Earthing and his research suggests that grounding reduces inflammation, pain, and stress.

“Grounding invites you to sense your body, notice your tension patterns, and surrender the weight of your physical body into gravity to feel the support of the earth. As a resource for trauma recovery, grounding can help you reclaim a sense of safety, feel rooted in the present moment, and strengthen your resilience.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Speak Truth to Power-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Out of the Shadows

The Complex PTSD Workbook Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Shining Through by Arielle Schwartz

Nowadays, people are talking. Each day we are hearing the latest news of sexual “misconduct” as women (and men too) finally feel safe to tell their stories of assault and abuse.

Why has it taken so long for these stories to come to the surface?

Understanding the sequelae of trauma responses can help us understand why those who have been abused can remain silent, sometimes for many years.  Continue reading

Nonviolence and Self Protection-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Ahimsa and the Open Heart

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I spend a good amount of time in what I call peaceful warrior pose. This posture reminds me of the powerful combination of staying grounded, powerful, and simultaneously open hearted.

In response to the ongoing, daily barrage of news reporting violations and violence, I set my sight on an intention of nonviolence.

I believe that nonviolence starts right here, with me…with my thoughts, my words, my actions. Nonviolence starts with what I say to myself; how I talk to myself in my head. Nonviolence is about finding a capacity to hold myself and others with loving kindness.

Nonviolence is about letting go of my need to be right, for this inevitably makes another wrong. It is about coming to the table interested in listening to another with an open heart. Continue reading

How Does EMDR Therapy Work? Dr. Arielle Schwartz

EMDR Therapy for PTSD

How Does EMDR Therapy Work? Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Traumatic experiences can derail your life unless you have a way to process the event. EMDR Therapy helps you work through these difficult feelings and gets you back on the right track. The developer of this approach to trauma treatment, Francine Shapiro, says that we all have an innate capacity to process information and learn from all experiences, even difficult ones. She calls this process Adaptive Information Processing model. However, trauma can interrupt this natural process and can lead to distressing symptoms unless you have an opportunity to process the emotions and memories related to the event.

How does EMDR Therapy work? In order to better understand this process, we turn our attention to the way that memories are stored in the brain as a form of neural networks. A neural network is a group of interconnected brain cells (neurons) that fire together. Traumatic memories are maintained as maladaptive neural networks that result in a limited ability to adapt, process, and resolve traumatic stress. You can think of this like a record that has a scratch in it. The needle will skip on that spot repeatedly unless we intervene. (If you were born after record players went out of use, you can think of a CD that keeps getting stuck in the same spot).

“EMDR Therapy changes maladaptive neural networks by connecting the traumatic memory with new information. The distressing thoughts and emotions are blended with new positive thoughts and emotions; embodied awareness allows frozen sensations in the body to resolve through healing movements.”
-Arielle Schwartz

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Empathy – Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Empathy (or how to adjust your faucet…)

Empathy Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Water drop by José Manuel Suárez

Empathy is a key element of the work that I do. As a psychotherapist, I am literally trained to not only listen to another but to sense and feel their experience with them. In truth I’ve been this way my whole life—empathy is one of those traits that goes along with being a highly sensitive person.

My sensitivity also defined much of my childhood. You see, when I was growing up I felt everything. If there was an emotion in the room I was sure to pick up on it. Often the emotions would build up in me and then I would start to feel anxious or overwhelmed or sad for “no reason.” It was easier when emotions were named by others. If someone was able to say “I’m sad” or “I’m angry” then I didn’t take it on. But, it was a lot harder with other peoples “unexpressed” or “suppressed” emotions. You know what I mean…when someone has an angry tone of voice and expression on their face but denies it and says, “I’m fine!” This is where things got really confusing!

As a child, empathy was automatic and not something that I had choice about…it was like a faucet left on full stream; I never knew that I could turn it down or off! As a result, there were times when I carried around a whole lot of emotional or psychic material. This could get pretty heavy. Sometimes I’d have big emotional meltdowns and not know why (those were embarrassing). Other times I’d get sick because all of these feelings left my body drained… Continue reading

The Psychology of Hate-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Diversity Matters in Psychotherapy

The psychology of hate

Throughout history, we see acts violence that target people because they are of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. After a recent series of hate crimes, I felt it important to take a closer look at the psychology of hate. Hate is motivated by dehumanization—the tendency to see other people as less than human. This act of making a person or group of people inferior has been a key motivating factor in prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.

“Ongoing discrimination and oppression can lead to Complex PTSD due to the long-term, chronic stress of uncertainty, threat of deportation, poverty, disability, or lack of a sense of social belonging. Therapists are in a unique position to empathically listen to and advocate for clients’ rights. Our actions can extend beyond the therapy room into the world as we advocate for social justice and the needs of people who have been marginalized.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Secondary Gains and Trauma Treatment-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

A Compassionate Approach to Care

Holistic Transformation Dr. Arielle Schwartz

This post addresses a difficult subject matter in regards to secondary gains in the treatment of chronic pain and illness. Hopefully, you will find that I bring a compassionate lens to the topic. A view that recognizes the frustrations that can arise when complex psychological factors are not addressed in trauma treatment and a perspective that does not blame the client.

Traditionally, the term secondary gain has been linked to clients who exaggerate physical symptoms of pain or illness or who fail to improve in treatment in order to receive certain advantages such a financial or housing support. However, clients who malinger or create factitious symptoms are actually quite rare. It is much more common that secondary gains aim to attend to deep unresolved attachment wounds or they are a way to achieve recognition of legitimate suffering. A concept closely related to secondary gains is the understanding that coupled with these gains are their related losses. Such losses are the genuine needs that are not being met in the client’s world currently.

“If you feel frustrated that your symptoms of pain or illness are not going away it can be valuable explore secondary gains sensitively and compassionately. This post attends to the importance of recognizing secondary gains in a way that does not blame you, the client. The goal of identifying secondary gains is to provide clarity about trauma targets that need to be addressed in order for treatment to be successful.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Mind and Body in Trauma Treatment

EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Image credit: Neuthaler

Effective trauma treatment requires a holistic way of addressing cognitive, emotional, and somatic symptoms. Traditional therapy attends to the cognitive and emotional elements of traumatic experience, the somatic experience is often left out of the room. EMDR Therapy uses a structured protocol for the treatment of post traumatic stress and related emotions, beliefs, and sensations. The traditional EMDR Therapy protocol already includes somatic awareness; however, interventions that enhance embodiment amplify body awareness in treatment.

“Therapists trained in the combined use of EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology have advanced tools to work with post traumatic stress. This post describes the importance of working within the “window of tolerance” to avoid re-traumatization in therapy. Read on to learn the difference between top-down and bottom-up processing. This post concludes with a practice of listening to your body for better self-care.”
Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Yoga for Chronic Pain-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Based on the Principles of Therapeutic Yoga

Dr. Arielle Schwartz Therapeutic Yoga

This post is part-two of a series on therapeutic yoga for chronic pain. Part-one provided the science behind the mind-body-pain connection and explored the role of the brain in pain, how trauma exacerbates chronic pain, and why we need to move to heal. In this post, I apply the principles of therapeutic yoga to working with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraines, or back pain.

Yoga is a comprehensive and holistic approach to healing mind and body that involves meditation, breath awareness, spiritual inquiry, and living an ethical life. The word yoga is translated as “union” or to join together the mind and body through disciplined self-awareness. In most yoga classes, a teacher guides you to move with the breath, to focus your mind in the moment, and to cultivate a sense of curiosity about yourself. Within therapeutic yoga, personal inquiry becomes your greatest teacher. There is a decreased emphasis on the directives of an outer teacher guiding the outer shape of a posture and an increased focus on sensory awareness guiding intuitive, healing movements.

“Chronic pain experiences are often debilitating and can be life changing. It is common to feel powerless and overwhelmed. It is important to have predictable practices that offer relief for body, mind, and spirit. The principles of therapeutic yoga for chronic pain provide you with guidelines for your practice.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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