Welcome to Week Three

Co-regulation - How Our Nervous System was Shaped

safely connected in nature.jpg

(To listen to the audio recording of this introduction click here.) 

For most of us, one of the most tender things applying Polyvagal Theory, is taking to heart the research that our species really depends on feeling safely connected. Our culture prizes pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Acknowledging that our nervous system relies on safe connection is a really different message.

Each of us is unique in how we meet our needs for connection. Some of us need more regular contact and others need less. Some of us get connected through playing sports or making music. Others might feel connection by being quiet in nature, spending time with a friend or pet that we care about.

Our nervous system was shaped in relationship to whomever was in the role of our primary caregiver/s. Even if we didn’t get our needs met in that primary relationship, we still have this need for social connection. We might want to avoid it, ignore it, or override it but it’s part of us.

Our very survival depended on this relationship.

These early experiences of how we were shaped continue to influence us in the background, below the level of our conscious awareness, until we take an active role in reshaping our nervous system, by:

  1. Becoming aware of our nervous system states and responses.

  2. Extending self-care and prioritizing becoming self-aware, even when it’s uncomfortable and not familiar. It often feels like being in very new ground.

  3. Reshaping our nervous system. Extending kindness to ourselves in the places where we need it. Having a clear intention in our yoga and awareness practices to prioritize self-awareness, self-caring and self-kindness.

As you start understanding your own nervous system and needs more, you gradually get more attuned to the states of others - the folks you care about, interact with and serve.

This really is a lifelong journey of bringing attention, care and kindness to yourself and your relationships.

In this week’s materials read reflections about how my system was shaped. Explore practices of gesture, sound, breath, meditation, and adaptive yoga to turn toward yourself with kindness.

Sculpt your manequin, into expressions of your nervous system states.

Spend time mapping your nervous system states, going back to the exercise from Week Two.

Dip your toes into the stream of co-regulation and experience how your nervous system was shaped.

Preparation, Daily Practices and Reflection

I. Preparation

  • Watch Deb’s Interview, 1:04:15 - 1:07:51, plus any other portions of the video you have time to watch.

  • Co-regulation is a primal need yet not generally understood in our culture.

  • Start to get curious how you were shaped around co-regulation.


II. Daily Practices and Homework

A. Daily Practices - “Practice is everything.”

1. Feeling Good from the Inside Out Meditations: Practice one of these meditations: Feeling Connected in Nature, Feeling Connected with a Pet, or Feeling Connected with a Loved One.

2. Touching the Heart of Kindness (video) Watch then feel free to adapt or shorten it.

3. Mannequin sculpting:

Sculpt your womannequin into your own expression of:

  • I feel good….

  • I’m in a tough spot - I need a hug!

  • My energy is shifting

  • I was blue and now I’m ready to try again

4. Continue mapping your nervous system. This exercise was introduced in Week Two.

5. Mini-Journal about what you experience in your nervous system in at least one practice.


B. Homework (1x)

Practice (5 mins.) of Variations in Down Dog and Kneeling Lunge. (video) Explore bringing conscious exhale into movement and incorporate counting. Deepening the exhale shifts our ANS toward VV engagement.

Optional: Start to watch this video of Dr. Stephen Porges talking about the Origins of Compassion. Click this link to watch it.


III. Reflection Questions

  1. Is there a place in your body that needs some extra soothing? Ex: kindness, compassion, awareness, caring touch. What is one next step you can take toward being kind to yourself in your yoga practice?

  2. What is your favorite/easiest place in your body to connect your awareness with breath? Any places where it's difficult to connect with your breath?

  3. From a place of feeling grounded in kindness toward yourself, consider how your nervous system was shaped: how your primary caregiver was able to meet your needs and whether there was a "mismatch," as Deb calls it, in places/experiences where your primary caregiver was unable to meet your needs. Practice coming back to a feeling of being kind and connected to yourself. 


@2018, Charlotte Nuessle

My Grandma

My maternal grandma lived with us when I was born. I don’t really have memories of her. She died when I was about 3 and a half years old.

As a younger adult, when I saw my older brother and first cousin at a holiday, they would tell me about how much grandma loved me. How I'd hang onto her apron strings when she baked for the family every week.

She would push me in a stroller for walks around the neighborhood. And how grandma loved her flower garden!

I love our garden. And spring flowers so fragrant. I've loved having raspberries as an adult - we had them when I was growing up.

Years ago when I did a rebirthing session and drew a mandala of my experience afterwards, it was my grandma that had greeted me at birth. My mom and dad loved me. Yet there was a way that my grandma was with me, 24/7. I bonded with her deeply.

My uncle told me once that I started speaking about a year later than most children. He said that they thought it was because grandma spoke both pigeon English and Low German and I didn’t know which I was supposed to speak!

Grandma had immigrated with her husband and two children from Slovakia, in 1910. 

A Forgotten Resource

I didn’t know to look toward her love until I began exploring inner critical voices some years ago. I was coached to reflect on where I might find support as a young child. I honestly didn’t know - it was confusing.

Then I talked about how my grandma had died when I was young. She was a big part of my heart in my early life. This came through some one on one reflections with a trusted coach.

The memory was in my body not in my mind. When I was actively learning to take in the good and savor it, through Rick Hanson’s work, I went inside to an earlier time. I had needed support at that younger age. Yet it was an era when children weren’t included in conversations or rituals about death and loss.

Through partner sharing I connected back to memories about my Grandma with more potency, knowing that I was building on something precious. How I connected back to her was through the memory of me sitting on her lap. I don't have a memory of this, but it’s there in an old photo of me on her lap.

The words for me are, “She has my back.” I felt safe, safely connected and it was/is that place in my body, that was/is rock solid for me. A strong, peasant-like, sturdy woman connected with the earth.

I have internalized that over time, and still go there to find comfort. And can definitely continue to grow this feeling as a resource.

It helps me know how important safe touch is for me. Feeling held. It’s primary for me. Touch soothes me right down.


@2018, Charlotte Nuessle



One Place I Learned Co-Regulation

This woman, Mariah Fenton Gladis, blew open my faith in connection. In a good way.

Back in the late 80s, I attended several workshop she gave called Exact Moments of Healing. A Gestalt therapist, Mariah had been living with a diagnosis of ALS for some time. You can watch an inspiring TED talk she gave, Arrive Already Loved: https://youtu.be/8l7XPR02_sU

After spending time with her previously, it was with her work that I sought comfort when I was 34 years old. I was senior staff at Kripalu Center, 17 years in residence.

Months before I was the primary caregiver for my Dad during his final illness and death. His dying wasn’t easy. I was without the support of Hospice, and felt my voice was not valued in making important choices about his end of life.

I felt tremendous grief and the burden of guilt. I had vowed to my Dad that I would make his death as comfortable as possible and then circumstances made it impossible for me to live out that vow.

It’s been a journey to make peace with this experience. That experience of loss was layered on top of other very early losses that had a cumulative effect on me. That was 26 years ago. I’ve come so far in healing, thankfully.

At that workshop Mariah played this song for me after I shared about my Dad’s death. I offer it to you in the spirit of her love. https://youtu.be/KEXQkrllGbA

I share this to illustrate how music shifts our nervous system states.

This song might touch you or you might not resonate with it. It’s all good. Be true to what resonates with you.


@2018, Charlotte Nuessle




Week Three

Main Practices + Bonuses


Touching the Heart of Kindness


Variations in Down Dog and Kneeling Lunge

Continue to deepen exhale by suspending breath out after exhale.




Bonus! Audio:

Tuning In - Tension/Release Body Scan

This guided relaxation helps you experience the shifts between tension and relaxation that happen in your muscles. As with any practice, the more you do it, the more natural this kind of letting go will become. You can easily carry this awareness into daily life activities - when you get ready to drive your car, make a phone call, prepare a meal. Take three breaths and just let yourself relax first. Then go on about your activities with a renewed awareness of your body’s signals.

safely connected in nature.jpg

Sharing a Body Scan


What’s unique about this practice is reporting out to your Practice Partner. This is a way to explore deepening your connection with yourself and with someone else.

We want to aim toward creating a safe space with the understanding that even with best intentions, we are not in control of what might arise inside for another.



It's so helpful to just be heard. Instead of thinking about how you'll respond to your partner, or what you'll say when it's your turn, as much as you can make space for your experience in the moment - whether it's comfortable, or if you feel tense.


Prep for Exercise:

With your partner, listen to the Guided audio Body Scan, in Session Two Resources. It's about 7 minutes.

As you listen, incorporate self-awareness. Or draw on Deb’s Name and Notice practice. Find it in the Table of Contents for Deb's Interview.


After listening to the Guided Body scan together, pause, and journal for about 3 minutes about what you noticed.

Report out to each other, what you experienced.


How to listen:

Set a timer for two minutes. One partner shares, the other listens. 

Pause for a few moments in silence.

Switch roles: set the timer, the other partner speaks/listens.

Then have a more conversational back and forth, to continue exploring what you noticed.



@2018, Charlotte Nuessle




Integration Week: Homework and Daily Practices

Integration Week is a great opportunity to practice, explore and review the course so far. 


A. Reflect on your daily practice. Write down what you'll focus on during Integration Week and send it to me by Thursday.

Keep it short and specific. Focus on bringing awareness to your body experience.


  • I'll spend ten minutes a day journaling about body sensations.

  • I'll practice the body scan... (# x's).

  • I'll do a 15-minute yoga practice (# x's).

  • I'll sing a song that shifts my nervous system toward feeling safely connected (# x's).

  • I'll journal about the choices I'm making re: shifting toward V.V. and how I experience those shifts.

Reach out if you need help with this.

B. Watch the interview with Deb again if you can.


Daily PracticeS during integration week

At the end of the day, look back on your day. Get curious and notice 2 or 3 ways that you responded to your nervous system’s signals in a new ways.

Explore shifting states through sculpting your little person; mini-journaling; mapping.

@2018, Charlotte Nuessle