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Healing Techniques in Somatic and Yoga Practices: Tools to Help you Regulate your Nervous System

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Have you heard of Bilateral Stimulation? There was recently an instagram reel going around that had you listen through headphones and offer beats to one ear and then to the other at different times - this is an example of Bilateral Stimulation.

Bilateral stimulation is one technique that has gained significant attention in recent years. It involves the activation of both sides of the brain by simultaneously engaging both the left and right sides of the body. If you’ve heard of EMDR, it’s a core part of processing trauma assisted by a trained therapist.

Bilateral stimulation helps to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain. Each side of the brain processes information differently, and when both sides are activated simultaneously, it can help to create a sense of balance and coherence. Bilateral stimulation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body's "rest and digest" response, helping to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Regulation of your nervous system is imperative to your wellbeing - we live in an activating and overstimulating society which leads to a chronically stressed state. Feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, stress, depression, inability to make decisions, tense, trouble sleeping are some symptoms that you might experience if in a chronic sympathetic state. It takes intentional and repetitive habits to help mitigate these symptoms, which is why a regular movement practice is so important!

Two women, one blonde, one brunette do a lunge twist in a yoga studio on green mats.

Bilateral stimulation in Somatics

Somatic practices refer to any type of body movement or body-centered therapy that aims to address physical or emotional symptoms by improving body awareness and movement patterns. Bilateral stimulation can play a crucial role in these practices by facilitating the integration of the mind and body.Through bilateral stimulation, somatic practices can help individuals regulate their nervous system and promote a sense of safety, calm, and relaxation. The unification of the right and left hemisphere activation supports focus on what is happening in the present moment.

Give this a try!

One technique is a self hug: apply pressure to the arms and allow for the hands to move from the shoulders to the elbows.

We use tapping, dancing, shaking, eye movement, shifting & orienting, grounding, all great somatic practices that use bilateral stimulation to support the regulation of your nervous system in the Practice. Even walking allows for the integration of bilateral movement when you step from one foot to the other. These movements can help individuals develop greater body awareness, improve balance, and promote a sense of groundedness.

Touch, breathwork, and moving your body are fantastic applications of nervous system regulatory tools!

Bilateral Stimulation in Practice

Yoga is a great example of a somatic practice. Bilateral stimulation can be particularly useful in yoga practices as it can help individuals improve their physical alignment, balance, and proprioception (your orientation of yourself in space and time).. Any movement that requires arms and legs to move in opposite directions, focusing on balancing from one foot to another, or crossing the midline of your body would indicate engagement of both hemispheres of the brain, resulting in a feeling of balance and calm.

Certain breathing techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing which involve inhaling and exhaling through one nostril at a time, and certain frequencies of music can also stimulate both sides of the brain and promote balance.

The Role of Bilateral Stimulation in Trauma Healing

Bilateral stimulation can also be an effective tool for individuals who have experienced trauma. Trauma can lead to a dysregulated nervous system, which can manifest as anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. Bilateral stimulation can help individuals regulate their nervous system and promote a sense of safety and calm.

A technique used in trauma healing (and for many other symptoms such as chronic anxiety and stress) is Somatic Experiencing. SE involves working with the body's natural physiological responses to trauma and promoting greater body awareness and regulation. SE can involve techniques such as gentle touch, movement, and vocalization, which can stimulate both sides of the body and promote integration of the mind and body. While we employ more gentler ways that can help support and ease trauma, we always recommend seeing a specialist. If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you can book a private client Somatic Stress Release session with Laura to further support your healing.

Another method commonly used in trauma healing is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR involves following a therapist's finger or hand movements while simultaneously recalling traumatic memories. This technique can stimulate both sides of the brain and help individuals process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled way. While we don’t practice this at the studio, there are some incredible experts locally who can support you in this and many other practices.

A person standing with green leggings and white cardigan catching a meditation cushion in her hands.

Bilateral Stimulation and Regulation of the Nervous System

Bilateral stimulation is a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of somatic and yoga practices to promote greater body awareness, balance, and integration of the mind and body. This technique helps to regulate your nervous system to promote a sense of safety and calm.

Bilateral stimulation has a variety of benefits for mental and physical health. It can help to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which can be especially beneficial for individuals who struggle with anxiety or panic attacks.

Bilateral stimulation can improve focus and concentration, making it a useful tool for individuals with ADHD or other attention-related disorders. It can also improve coordination and balance, making it a valuable technique for individuals who have suffered from physical injuries or who struggle with balance issues.

It’s important that we take great care of ourselves in this overstimulated society, and attuning inward is just the way to do that. It's important to train your brain for mental fitness, to help you be resilient, especially during times of adversity and uncertainty. This is simply a technique used to regulate your nervous system, but don’t worry, you don’t need to think too much about it. Simply practicing with us will ensure you’re receiving the benefits of bilateral stimulation!

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