Beth McCann introduced our yoga group to Polyvagal Theory in the fall of 2021. I am so grateful to her for sharing her enthusiasm regarding this new way of thinking which makes an enormous amount of sense. Beth invited me to listen to the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) because of my music background. I also viewed several lectures by Stephen Porges on You Tube to further my understanding of this concept. Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) Polyvagal Theory studies the brain-body connection. It helps one understand how your body reacts to what is going on around them. Coregulation integrates the feelings about what is going on in the brain. Connectedness is essential in this process. One must feel safe for treatments to be successful. SSP is an acoustic intervention designed to deliver cues of safety without the person being aware and helps the listener relax. Algorithms were used to modulate frequencies. The muscles in the inner ear are linked to the vagus nerve. This training program works well with spectrum children and traumatized individuals. It important to emphasize a slow exhalation to improve vagal tone and resilience. I installed the Unyte-iLs app to access the modules for both adults and children. Each module has five one-hour programs to be listened to over five days. Each hour has a break halfway through if needed. The program works best with over-the-ear headphones are used and adjusted to the lowest possible volume that one can hear. What follows are my thoughts, feelings and questions as I worked through each module.
I listened to the first two hours before I viewed the You Tube videos that explain the theory and how the music was recorded. At first, I spent too much time, in my opinion, on the music, lyrics singers and the quality of the sounds entering my ears, brain and body. By the third hour, I was armed with a little more knowledge and was able to settle into the experiences. I was curious about the song choices. (I went into this as a music teacher. I doubt that this experience would happen if I did not begin with that mindset) By the end of the five days, I noticed subtle changes in my body. It felt a bit lighter, calmer and not as aware of aches and pains. My husband noticed more calmness in my voice and posture. As I journeyed through the listening experience, it felt like tiny lights were beginning to illuminate the dark corners of my mind. As each one lit, I felt a sense of letting go. My breathing regulated and felt effortless.
Connect: Classical Module
I found this module easy to slip into. I was able to get out of my head and let the music wash over me. Each day I looked forward to my hour of total relaxation. I was able to connect with how my body was feeling and could make subtle adjustments if something physical was talking to me. By the end of each hour, I felt calm, refreshed and lighter in both my mind and body.
The songs were the same as the Core module but I could detect subtle differences in the recordings (or I imagined I did). By hour 3, I realized that I was connecting with the sensations in my body more as I listened. The lyrics to each song became more clear and I connected to their meaning. Most of the song selections are upbeat and positive in their messages. Songs such as “Superman” and “True Colours” gave me hope of possibilities and felt relatable. The messages seemed to be going in at a deeper level that I could sense with my whole being – body, mind and soul. What a powerful way to connect with someone who is experiencing anxiety, trauma, abandonment and/or loneliness!
Each hour of the experience helped me sense balance in different ways. The first day I felt more balance in my pillars by the end of the hour. By the end of hour 3, I was noticing balance in the sounds between my right and left ear. I am curious about the process used in designing the algorithms (not that I would understand it). Am I experiencing this because I think I should, or is it happening organically? What are the implications of Polyvagal Theory for the aging body and mind? It feels like this calms the mind and quells the stories I tell myself. I feel like my mind is more open and my body has more space, for the time being. It has been six days since I finished listening to the adult modules. The songs still play in my head and I have found myself experiencing the same sensations that I noticed while listening live. I feel that the music is integrated into my body and mind so that I can access the benefits when I need them. Each song seems to connect to a different part of me and is there when I need to react to its message. Empowering!