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Eventbrite - The Yoga Therapy Conference Amsterdam 2019


Love, Trust, and Trauma: Insights from the Polyvagal Theory (PVT) with dr. Stephan Porges Ph.D.  (Keynote)

The presentation will explain how our biological imperative is reflected in the quality of our social interactions, ability to trust another, and to experience intimacy. Polyvagal Theory will we used to explain how human responses to trauma are devastating and compromise subsequent social behavior and emotion regulation.

Understanding the mechanisms underlying the “hardwired” response to life threat, may demystify these debilitating consequences. The Polyvagal Theory provides a plausible explanation of how trauma disrupts homeostatic physiological processes and social behavior and how treatments providing neural exercises such as Yoga might remediate these problems. 

dr. Stephan Porges Ph.D. is the originator of the Poly-vagal Theory and has published more than 300 peer‐reviewed scientific papers across several disciplines.


what is polyvagal theory?

Eventbrite - The Yoga Therapy Conference Amsterdam 2019


Oxytocin and the human connection

Without loving relationships, humans fail to flourish, even if all of their basic needs are met. People without social support are at risk for various forms of illness. A life without social bonds and attachments is not fully lived, Why and how does this happen? Part of the answer lies in knowledge of the neurobiological functions of oxytocin and the related, but more ancient neuropeptide, vasopressin.

Oxytocin and vasopressin function together as components of a dynamic, and at times, sexually dimorphic system. Oxytocin was once considered “only a female reproductive hormone.”  We now understand that oxytocin has a critical role in both males and females in mammalian social behaviors, parenting, and the capacity to cope with stress, as well as physical and behavioral development. Oxytocin and its receptors are found in the brain, autonomic nervous system, immune system, bones and gut, helping to integrate the functions of these systems with positive (or negative) experiences.

Oxytocin epigenetically tunes the developing nervous system and seems to serve as a physiological and emotional metaphor for safety.  In contrast, vasopressin plays a critical role in active defense, vigilance, fear and anxiety, and is in part regulated by androgens. This presentation will explain how interactions between oxytocin and vasopressin contribute to the health benefits of social connections across the life-span.

Prof. Dr Sue Carter is a biologist and behavioral neurobiologist,  Director of the Kinsey Institute and Rudy Professor of Biology at Indiana University.  She is an internationally recognized expert in behavioral neuroendocrinology and one of the pioneers of research in oxytocin. 



Yoga Therapy and Polyvagal Theory (PVT): Convergence of ancient wisdom and neuroscience for connection, compassion and eudaimonia

How does yoga therapy help to cultivate qualities such as connection, compassion, equanimity and joy? What are the “active ingredients” through which yoga can catalyze these qualities?

Are these naturally emerging and/or how do we focus the practice for the cultivation of these qualities? In this session we will explore the philosophical foundation of yoga through concepts such as dharma, yama and niyama and gunas.

These ideas will be related to current scientific though regarding mind-body practices to utilize both top-down neurocognitive and bottom-up neurophysiological processes for regulation and resilience of the system for optimal health and well-being. In particular, the relationship between yoga therapy foundational principles and polyvagal theory will be elucidated.

Through both lecture and experiential practices we will delve into ethical inquiry through the yamas and niyamas, meditation, breathing practices and movement. The potential for yoga to facilitate a natural emergence of connection, compassion, equanimity and joy will be explored.

The participant will have the opportunity to consider yoga therapy’s explanatory framework based on its philosophical foundations and its integration with current scientific thought for the promotion of healthy physical, psychological and behavioral states in optimal well-being. 

Marlysa Sullivan is a physical therapist, yoga therapist and assistant professor at Maryland University of Integrative Health. For over 15 years her clinical work has focused on the integration of yoga therapy into physical therapy care working with chronic pain, orthopedic and neurological conditions.


read more about this parallel between the neural platforms of PVT and the gunas of yoga


Connection through your true nature

Amidst the busyness of establishing oneself as a yoga therapist it is important that yoga therapists regularly take pause for some self-inquiry into what their underlying motivations or intentions are for being a yoga therapy professional.

Questions such as:

  • What is it we truly offer as a yoga therapist?
  • Who is the therapist?
  • Are we present in our practise of yoga therapy?
  • How do we show up as a yoga therapist?

This is an important touch-stone for professionals to re-visit from time to time to help ‘keep the yoga in the yoga therapist’.  This can be supported by an ongoing commitment to a type of svadhyaya, whereby the yoga therapist goes ‘within’ to sit with her/his essential nature, to distil her/his core values and purpose that inform the practitioner’s sankalpa for their life as a yoga therapist. In this session Leigh will guide attendees into a self-inquiry relating to their deepest motivations and purpose related to their true nature, along with an inquiry into what it means to be a ‘yoga’ therapist. As well as being a ‘led’ meditation, it will also encourage attendees to incorporate a similar self-reflection into their life as a regular part of their role as a yoga therapist.

Leigh was the Founder of the Australian Institute of Yoga Therapy. He is an IAYT Certified Yoga Therapist, Certified iRest® Teacher and certification supervisor and has over 40 years’ experience as a Yoga and meditation teacher. Leigh is passionate about sharing the non-dual teachings that underpin iRest® and is the Associate Director – Australasia for the iRest Institute.


Theo Wildcroft (UK)

Consent, contact and context: what moving together can teach us about healing relationships

From #MeTooInYoga, to multiple scandals, to the rise in ‘trauma-informed yoga’ and the use of ‘assist chips’ or ‘consent cards’ in class, we are experiencing a revolution in how we relate to each other in both the teaching and therapeutic practice of yoga. This is of vital and immediate importance for yoga therapists. This lecture will touch on Theo's doctoral research, and her personal history as a survivor of complex relational trauma, to show how it informs her work sharing yoga with some of the most vulnerable populations, including children with profound and multiple disabilities. Together we will explore cutting edge theories of movement and consciousness, and practices of interpersonal contact. This will build to an inspirational picture of relationship and of consent as an ongoing and profound practice rather than a preliminary to the work.

Theo Wildcroft is a yoga teacher and scholar at the forefront of the movement for trauma sensitivity, diversity and inclusion.  She blogs and writes articles on yoga,  social justice and hope.



Putting into Practice the Skills of Establishing Therapeutic Relationships

From the beginning of life, the need and desire for connection are essential to our survival and ability to thrive. They are also vital elements in our ability to heal. The therapeutic relationship serves a special function in our society as an intimate relationship whose primary purpose is to promote healing. The relationship itself forms part of the space in which growth and transformation will unfold for both therapist and client, and both will participate in the creation of it. Learning how to hold this space for another person requires knowledge, skill, and experience. Whatever the therapeutic modality, the person brings their entire self and history to the encounter in which they ask for help, and this will influence how they share information and accept guidance. Learning how to establish, maintain, and end a therapeutic relationship is a key skill which all yoga therapists and health professionals need to develop. As more and more people around the world turn to yoga as a way to heal and grow their bodies, minds, and spiritual connection, yoga teachers also need to learn how to positively manage their relationships with their students. In this time together, we will explore some of the essential ingredients that enable and promote a nurturing connection.

Lisa Kaley-Isley is a clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, IAYT certified yoga therapist, and yoga educator.  She is committed to the conscientious development of yoga therapy as a profession that empowers personal healing. 



Self-compassion, tapas and self-practice: how to keep it real?

The topic of tapas and change is the start of Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutra. Vyasa’s commentary on II.1 starts by saying, “In one without tapas, yoga does not succeed.” The way Patanjali looks at it is that the heart of yoga is samskara. Samskara is all the latent tendencies, impressions, habits, unconscious patterns of the body and mind. All those samskaras run most of our lives.
When we decide to make a change there will be resistance. The nature of samskara is that it is a pattern. It has stickiness because it is the easy path to take. This resistance can be feld in the body and the mind. The body and mind hold on to habits for many reasons: to conserve energy, because of survival instinct or stress, desire, fear, other emotions and more. 
So, what is tapas? Tapas is to face that resistance to beneficial change arising from our less useful samskaras. The body and the mind are going to say: “I don’t want to do this,” and find many ways to throw up speed-bumps. It’s good to face resistance, but what if it’s upsetting the basal balance, sattva: calm clarity of your body and mind?  Is it still yoga? In his talk Ganesh will talk about the role of tapas in our lives, compassion and self practice in yoga. How to keep is real, clear and balanced? 

Ganesh Mohan, son of A. G. Mohan and Indra Mohan, was trained from childhood in yoga and other related traditional studies. He is a doctor, having trained in both modern medicine and Ayurveda. He is the co-author of Yoga Therapy, Krishnamacharya, and Yoga Reminder. He directs the Svastha Yoga Therapy and Teacher Training programs as well as other trainings internationally.



Inspirational Talk: Forgiveness and Bypass in Trauma Healing

Anneke Lucas addresses the possibility of forgiveness after trauma, the purpose and healing made possible by letting go, the conditions that need to be present before the healing can be completed through forgiveness, and the dangers of forgiving perpetrators too early in the healing process.

Anneke Lucas is the founder of the non-profit organisation Liberation Prison Yoga, bringing yoga and empowerment programs to prisons.  As a survivor of child sex trafficking and extreme violence, she is also an advocate for sex trafficking survivors and a public speaker.


Eventbrite - The Yoga Therapy Conference Amsterdam 2019