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School of Embodied Arts Podcast with Jenna Ward

May 21, 2023

The first time I read about Polyvagal Theory, so much made sense. The idea that “stress” isn’t just all adrenaline-running-around-drama, but can also also/often show up as frozen-shut-down-numbness really hit home.

I feel so many of us have constant moderate-grade stress in our lives that just leaves us feeling… numb.

Understanding Polyvagal Theory (PVT) helped me to understand, neurologically, why this numbness comes about & why this magical-thing-called-embodient worked so well in unraveling it. It’s also the foundation theory in our Coaching Cert, so at the heart of what I love.

Today we’re speaking with the founder of Polyvagal Informed Somatic & Dance/Movement Therapy, Dr. Amber Elizabeth Gray. I came across Amber’s work in 2021 & was so interested in how she’s deliberately & closely evolved her movement therapy to incorporate the teachings of PVT.


In this episode, we discuss & experience: 

  • Polyvagal Recap: Jenna starts with an 8min recap of Polyvagal therapy to put our chat into context 
  • How Polyvagal-Informed Somatic Dance/Movement Therapy was developed & has continued to evolve over the past 25 years 
  • Neuroceptive practices → Amber guides us into two different neuroceptive practices to tune up our accuracy of inner feeling
  • Breath, spine & weight - The key points of entry to the body that Amber uses 
  • Why Amber works with ‘client comfort’ instead of ‘safety’
  • We chat about breath & sound and why they are so important in somatic practices


Content Advisement: Amber’s experience includes working with survivors of extreme trauma. While we don’t discuss the details of this, the theme is present during our conversation.


About Amber

Amber Elizabeth Gray was, in her father’s words, born “dancing and fighting”. A lifetime of dance and travel to explore movement and dance-based community and healing traditions has contributed to her passion for and belief in movement as life. Amber believes that every human being's birthright is embodiment. Her 25 years of work as a Dance/Movement Therapist, Continuum & Yoga teacher include time working and living in conflict and post-conflict zones, exposing her to the harsh realities of human rights abuses. Her clients, all survivors of political violence, torture, and war,  are co-collaborators and inspirers in the work she teaches, Restorative Movement Psychotherapy and Polyvagal-informed Somatic & Dance/Movement Therapy.


Resources mentioned in this podcast: