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What is Polyvagal theory?

The Polyvagal theory highlights the correlation between
our nervous system and our behaviour.

A dysregulated nervous system can be caused by a threat response from the past that does not complete a full cycle, so it stays in our system causing thoughts, feelings and behaviours that would be consistent with a threat response even though there is none.

Since our inception in 2010 when we were “Equine Learning Experiences Australia’, we have always recognised the importance of the connection between mind and body. 


The body, what we hold within it and how we hold it, has a significant influence on the mind and vice versa. The horses are perfect for highlighting this. When a horse is tense in its body, its mind will start looking out for danger. When its relaxed in its body, its calm. This is also applicable to people. In simple terms  - our state creates story. Polyvagal theory highlights this mind/body connection perfectly and takes our level of understanding deeper.


Polyvagal theory was developed in 1994 by Dr. Stephen Porges, who at the time was director of the Brain Body Centre at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Thanks to Dr. Porges and his Polyvagal theory, we now know a lot more about what happens in the body, the autonomic nervous system, the immune system, and in the presence of chronic inflammation.

Nervous system dysregulation can lead to practically every mental health diagnoses in the DSM-V including anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia, ADHD, BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Schizo Affective Disorder and more. It can also cause a range of medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndromes, chronic fatigue, migraines, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, environmental sensitivities and auto immune diseases.

How do we practice Polyvagal theory?

Over the past three years at STABLE Therapy, we have been proactive in refining our knowledge and skillset in all things Polyvagal and interweaving this theory into our Somatic Experiencing trauma therapy sessions, Equine Therapy sessions and more recently the amazing ‘Safe and Sound Therapy’ sessions.

A polyvagal approach to therapy follows the 4 R’s:

  • Recognise the autonomic (nervous system) state 

  • Respect the adaptive survival response

  • Regulate or co-regulate into a ventral vagal state 

  • Re-story


The goal of therapeutic interventions informed by Polyvagal theory is to help individuals expand their window of tolerable. This promotes self awareness and self regulation techniques that can return the autonomic nervous system to a regulated state.

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