Polyvagal theory, applied

I’m summarizing polyvagal theory, originated by Dr. Stephen Porges, from a 10:48-minute video interview of him. I’m doing this for my own understanding, and I want to share because it’s a new way of thinking about traumatic responses. It has major implications for my work, and I’ve added my own comments in brackets. I am sure I will continue to refine my understanding.

Dr. Porges says that polyvagal theory is the understanding of how our body reacts to various challenges. The autonomic nervous system [involuntary, like heart beat] has evolved in vertebrates, changing and adding new circuits that function in a hierarchy. The newer circuits can inhibit older circuits. The older circuits were circuits of defense. Continue reading

Improving vagal tone

When do you feel safe? When are you on guard?

If you feel safe except when there is an actual threat to your safety, then you have high vagal tone.

If you feel guarded most or all of the time, even when there is no actual threat to your safety, you have low vagal tone. Low vagal tone can be raised. Continue reading

Ecstatic dance in Austin, Texas

I’ve been doing ecstatic dance since 1995. It’s brought me many gifts: a community of friends, inspiration, playfulness, release, deeper embodiment, awareness of my body/others/the space, a place to experiment with movement and energy, sweetness, connection, and the natural high that comes after dancing for an hour or two.

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The availability of ED in Austin has increased over the years, and the community is always evolving. I want to list current opportunities here and update this blog post with changes when they occur.

At all of these dances, we dance barefoot in clothes we can move and sweat in. A facilitator puts together a program of danceable recorded music. These dances take the form of a musical wave that at least somewhat follows the 5 Rhythms (flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness) of the late Gabrielle Roth, a manifestation of the idea that each dance is a journey into yourself through different terrains.

The dance space is nonverbal — we take our conversations outside the space.

Boundaries are important. Not everyone wants to dance with a partner all the time or even to be touched. We read and use body language to say yes or no, and we don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want to dance with us. They may be more into self-expression, or they may be processing something at that moment. Some of us use movement to get right with God.

The safety of all is important too. Some allow contact improv or acro-yoga (usually on the edges of the space) and others don’t.

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Courtesy: The New Yorker

Some facilitators offer a theme for the dance after a warmup. Some may offer a guided warmup, while others provide guidelines for newcomers.

All ages are welcome at most of these dances. I’ve danced with people that are nearing 80 and with babies in Snuglis on their parent’s chest. If you are considering bringing children, it’s probably a good idea to connect with the facilitator first. If you bring them, you will need to make sure they and the other dancers stay safe. Also, most facilitators make earplugs available for those sensitive to loud music— and you can always bring your own.

At the end there’s always closing circle, where OMs or a silent meditation may happen, people share their first names, and there may be some shareback about the experience and/or announcements from dancers. People often hang out afterwards to schmooze. 

All of the founders and facilitators listed below are on Facebook, and some of the dances have their own Facebook page or website, listed where known.

  • Tribal Joy meets Sunday mornings from 10-12 at The High Road, 700 Dawson (just south of the river with views of the downtown skyline). O’skar Madera is the founder and most frequent facilitator. $12, or buy 10 dances for $100. Tribal Joy and Ecstatic Soul Sessions honor each other’s 10-dance purchases.
  • Ecstatic Dance Austin (click here for website and to join email list) meets at Dark Clan Fight Lab, 1106 Smith Road #106 (near 183 and Bolm Rd. in east Austin). David Baker and Ellen Evans are the founders, and David facilitates with others occasionally stepping in. $12.
  • Reset meets every Monday, 5:15-6:45 pm, at Dance International, 2417 Buell, in north Austin. It was founded and is facilitated by Lisa DeLand, a 5 Rhythms teacher trained by Gabrielle Roth. $15.
  • Ecstatic Soul Sessions meets Tuesday evenings from 7-9:30 at The High Road. Mia E. Pem is the founder and frequent facilitator. On the first Tuesday of every month, there’s live music from Spirit Lab Music. $12 per dance, or buy 10 dances for $100. Tribal Joy and Ecstatic Soul Sessions honor each other’s 10-dance purchases.
  • Rhythm Sanctuary is new to Austin, having taken root in the Boulder and Denver area. Shannon Gill-Jones is the founder, and Russ Ohlhausen facilitates. Dates TBD.
  • Kundalini Ecstatic Dance is held on Fridays, 6:30-8:30, at Yoga Yoga Westlake Westgate. It starts with a guided meditation during warmup and offers a 5 Rhythms-based wave. Amparo Garcia-Crow is the founder, with Lisa DeLand and Elissa Shapiro filling in for her during spring 2019. $10. 
  • Step into Yes, for women only, meets the first Saturday of every month from 10:45 am-1 pm at the Life in the City sanctuary, 205 E. Monroe, off South Congress. Created and facilitated by 5 Rhythms teacher Lisa DeLand, Step into Yes includes a facilitated-by-a-dancer creative interlude sandwiched between a warmup and a 5 Rhythms wave. Sliding scale $15-25.
  • Dance, Dance, Evolution offers ecstatic dances occasionally at Indra’s Awarehouse, 7904 FM 969 (take MLK Blvd. east of Austin). Randi Southard is the founder and facilitator.