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Jill Miller: Yoga & the Polyvagal Theory / ep33 & 34 show notes

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Jill Miller! The perfect person to help me understand the connection between yoga and Polyvagal Theory! Links to resources, including her personal yoga brand equipment and books are at the bottom. Links to Amazon, where I get a portion of the sale at no extra cost to you.



Some of yoga practices are extremely uplifting and energizing and others are literally putting you into safe shutdown.

The corpse pose

Your body lies in perfect stillness… utter and complete stillness and your body replicates that of a corpse and you're deliberately attempting to slow down your metabolic processes… it’s lauded for its restorational, regenerational aspects, in that it should replicate the experience of sleep, though its lucid sleep.

Making stillness in yoga safe

When I have people who have stress-induced relaxation… I will [give them other] options. They can roll onto their side in the fetal position, which is a much more protected position and be supported - have their neck supported, have their waist supported, have [bolsters and blankets]... laying face down (crocodile pose) so your genitals, your viscera, your face are not exposed to the unknown of a strange teacher… self massage work or work done previously done in the class… or opting out. It’s totally a free will thing… There are choices.

Cues of safety are critical… veering toward invitational and less commandful.

Body blind spots:

Overuse, underuse, misuse, abuse or confuse (confusion)

Develop more acuity, proprioception and interoception

Through using position, breath, mindset and novelty

4 part breath wave: inhale, suspension/breath hold, exhale, vacation

Breath is so important. Most yoga formats place a heavy emphasis on breathing and breathing mechanics… breathing directly changes autonomic state… when you start manipulating breathing, it can make you feel very… queasy, dizzy…, but that discomfort eventually can be titrated.

"We all have our home base with our breath… we tend to concentrate our breathing in one of three places:" subdiaphragmatic (dorsal zone), supradiaphragmatic (sympathetic zone) or supraclavicular zone (ventral zone).

A sedating breath… is a breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale. An upregulating breath is where the inhale is longer than the exhale.

If dorsal/upregulating - “amplify inhale and breath holds after inhalation and have shorter exhale with the pause after exhale be shorter than the sum total of inhale plus the breath hold.”

If dorsal/upregulating - “employ movements that the person feels challenged by but comfortable and playful.”

Sankalpa - ’a deep resolve… like, “I touch light” or “My motion is moving.”

Sankalpa is a Sanskrit term in yogic philosophy that refers to a heartfelt desire, a solemn vow, an intention, or a resolve to do something. It is similar to the English concept of a resolution, except that it comes from even deeper within and tends to be an affirmation.


:40 Yoga vs Yoga Therapy

Yoga therapy is where... the clinical nerds gather to use the application of yoga to help people with different conditions in collaboration with other teams… We are not diagnosticians. We are there to give holistic support.

3:40 Finding a yoga therapist

I would say some really noble, amazing work being done out there by the trauma-informed community, subset yoga.

5:10 Isolation & Yoga

7:25 Identifying safe yoga providers - recommends the Matthew Remski book -

8:30 Why/how does yoga work?

It’s about polyvagal neural exercises - breath, chant, position, connection

Depending on where you’re studying, you will be engaging all of your senses and you’re going to be probably breathing consistently in a patterned way for almost the entire class in a way that is down regulating.

You’re going to be having a sympathetic tone to the muscles while ‘cooling the flames’ with this down regulating breath and potentially with chanting and with mental recitation of your sankalpa (intention).

You'll be cycling through this concentration exercise as you go through different positions that will impact your musculature and physiology. By the end of the class, you will have climbed from dorsal to sympathetic and maintained this titration between dorsal and sympathetic and the occasional ventral exchange with a teacher or a partner exercise with somebody else… And in the end, you do this long held, safe relaxation pose… that feels like sleep and is deeply regenerative. And then you come up for a closure, which is an eye to eye… or eye to heart connection with those around you.

12:50 Going up and down the polyvagal ladder

There might be parts of the class that are extremely upregulating and exhilarating and thrilling. After that would be met by a breath practice or a position that literally cools… I think in the nature of yoga practices you have these oppositional forces that you’re working with at all times.

The wins for the students are that they are now sensing a connection between different parts of their body that were asleep before. Maybe felt lost in the dark and didn’t know there was a connection between their rib cage and their shoulder… or their pelvic floor and their feet. Or didn’t realize they were breathing more into their right lungs instead of their left lungs.

15:32 The Dr Porges Story!

20:45 The connection between the facia and the ANS

Facia = “seam system” that gives you your form and your shape, tissue that surrounds and supports every structure in your body

Your facial tissue is the thing that interconnects everything. When you get a message you’re mobilizing your facial tissues. When you move, your facia moves with you… It is what allows for differential movement. You know your facia is problematic when is over stiffens and you can’t move well.

I’m giving myself a facia facial. Let’s face it.

What that [face] massage will do is it will trigger pressure reflexes that are gathering information... in that ventral vagal pathway and its deeply relaxing. So you can immediately have a state change and you can do this with your fingers at your desk.

25:10 Three different best places for massage

Vagus Voyage video from Jill

Face, neck, rib cage and chest

29:00 Tune Up balls and somatic healing

Buy her yoga tune up balls for yourself! -

31:30 How to start listening to your body

The first thing is definitely the breath. Reclining, typically. And then watching the way your body breathes.

The recline already gives me a physiological preset. As soon as I’m upright, I’m sympathetic… when you recline, there is no postural tension and the tension on your heart is gone.

A second thing… is to have people become aware of their pulse… because you can really entrain yourself to watch that homeostatic interplay of respiration and heartbeat.
34:25 What is pranayama yoga?

Pranayama - exercises that challenge your respiration thresholds.


The Matthew Remski book she mentioned - Practice and All is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, And Healing In Yoga And Beyond -

Jill’s book - The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body -

Vagus Voyage video from Jill -

Breath and Bliss Immersion November 8-10 Los Angeles -

Roll Model Practitioner Training December 4, 5 London, UK -

International Association of Yoga Therapists -

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