s5 e9: Nervous System 101 with Irene Lyon

nervous system 101

Nervous System 101 with Irene Lyon

Joining me on today’s episode is Irene Lyon, MSC. and nervous system expert. Irene teaches people around the world how to work with the nervous system to transform trauma, heal body and mind, and live full, creative lives.

To date, her online programs and classes have reached over 9,500 people in over 90 countries. Irene has a Master’s Degree in Biomedical and Health Science and also has a knack for making complex info easy for ALL of us to understand and apply to our lives. She has extensively studied and practices the works of Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais, Peter Levine (founder of Somatic Experiencing) and Kathy Kain (founder of Somatic Practice). Irene spends her free time eating delicious food, hiking in the mountains or walking along the Pacific Ocean in her hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Continue our conversation inside Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/hormonehealingrd 

In this episode, we cover:

  • Irene’s background and what brought her to the work she does today
  • Signs that your nervous system is out of balance
  • What you need to know when it comes to healing your nervous system
  • Survival stress and how it impacts our nervous system
  • Constantly calming ourselves and the window of tolerance
  • The best way to start healing our nervous system

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Amanda Montalvo [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the are you menstrual? Podcast, where we dive deep into all things women’s health to support you on your healing journey. I’m Amanda Montalbo functional and integrative dietitian, also known as the hormone healing Rd. If you enjoyed this podcast and you want to keep learning, check out the podcast Patreon, where I share a bonus episode with additional downloadable resources each week. You can go to Patreon.com forward slash Healing Rd or check out the link in the show notes. All right, we have a really good episode today. I’m doing another interview. I’m interviewing Irene Lyon. I feel like a lot of people will know who she is, but if you don’t, she’s a nervous system expert, and she teaches people around the world, everywhere. She’s got great online programs, how to work with the nervous system and transform their trauma, heal their body and their mind, and live full creative lives. You’re going to hear her talk. Like, one important thing that we get into is how the nervous system has become very trendy. And what I really like about Irene’s work and I just want to state this right off the bat, so you kind of know what to expect, because I think there’s so many nervous system experts now, right? A lot of people sharing tools, and I don’t necessarily think the tools are bad, but I think a lot of what’s online being shared about the nervous system is very simplified. And people aren’t getting the full education of what our nervous system is, how it works and what can impact it, and how it can impact our day to day. And I think that that is a huge disservice and it makes it hard to heal your nervous system long term. So something that we’re going to talk about is how a lot of people are using tools. And not that tools are bad, but if you’re constantly having to calm yourself all day and say you’re working on your nervous system, that means that your nervous system is you know, there’s going to be seasons of that, especially in the beginning, and we want to use those tools. But the thing that I love about Irene’s work is that she really teaches you how to learn your body, understand the signs your body’s giving you to understand what’s going on with your nervous system. And then, okay, what can we adjust and do to support it so it’s not just another random nervous system expert. Irene is truly amazing. She has a master’s degree in biomedical and health science, and she also has a knack for making really complex information easy for people to understand and apply. And I think that’s the important part. You’re going to get that a lot. Throughout the episode, she’s also extensively studied and practiced with Dr. Feldenkrais Peter Levine, who’s somatic he’s founder of Somatic experiencing, and Kathy Kane, who’s the founder of Somatic Practice. You may not know what those are. She’s going to get into it in the episode, but she just has a very cool, extensive background and journey. She’s been doing this for a really long time and just kind of seeing how her practice has evolved. I just think it’s really come full circle with focusing on the nervous system. So I can’t wait for you guys to listen. And yeah, this is a good one. I hope you enjoy it. I got a lot out of it. I mentioned a few typical kinds of clients, so I’m hoping that you’ll get a lot out of it too. But that’s it. So I hope you enjoy. Irene Lyon, thank you for being with me. Irene. I’m going to try not to fangirl because I’ve known about you for a long time. Even hearing your voice while we’re talking, before we started, I’m like, this is so weird because I’ve just, like, listened. I’ve done, like, the 21 day nervous system tune up and stuff, so it just cracks me up. But I’m excited to have you here. I think that the nervous system is getting so popular now. It’s something everyone’s talking about, which in so many ways is good, right. And important. And I think creating awareness around it is really crucial for people. But I think the way it’s being done is probably not the best in most situations in a lot of the content that I see. And that’s why I’m so grateful that you could come on so that you’re someone I really trust and I just like your approach and how you teach. You’re a great educator. So I’m excited to bring you on.

Irene Lyon [00:04:05]:

Let’s talk about it all.

Amanda Montalvo [00:04:07]:

Why don’t we tell people your background? I feel like you have a pretty unique background. How did you get into nervous system stuff? What brought you here?

Irene Lyon [00:04:15]:

Well, generally speaking, it was a lack or an inadequacy in other methodologies that I was using either for myself or my clients. So my background is exercise science, sport, athletics, and a few injuries. More than a few, but a few to my body through sport put me into a situation where I was doing rehab. So physical rehab and PT, stretching strength, all the classic things that still are good for certain things weren’t working for me. And that led me to what you would have heard about this, because you’ve done one of my courses, the Feldman Christ Method and the Feldon Christ Method just was like this awakening for me when I was in my mid 20s. It was back in 2004, and it kind of was like a slap. Amanda like, you think you know a lot, but you actually don’t know very much. And so to avoid being hypocritical, because I was trained to work with people I’m like, I got to study this stuff. So I studied the Feldenkrais Method for about four years and became a practitioner. Loved it. Teaching groups, classes, workshops. People were getting a lot of good improvement the way I had with my physical injuries. But there was, like, a subset of people that weren’t getting better, and it was like, okay, what am I missing? So rather than pretend that the problem was them, not me, I started asking questions, talking to my more senior colleagues. And one thing led to another. And one of my Feldenkrais colleagues was actually trained in Somatic experiencing, which is the work of Peter Levine. And she’s like, you might want to check out this book, Waking the Tiger. You might want to check out Se. I’m like, okay. So I did, and this would have been in 2008. And I was like, this is it. This is the thing. This is what I need to do. So studied that again, that is something that was ongoing from eight to really 2015, ish with classes, courses. One of the things you had asked me, Amanda, in our pre questions was, what is somatic therapy? So I’ll just say it right now. There’s really no definition because right now these methodologies are so new, we don’t realize how long medicine has been around, right? Like, more than the 19 hundreds, like, before that. And so we’re trying to define somatic therapy, but I don’t think it really has a true definition yet because it hasn’t become an institution where you go to school to become whatever it might be called. And that’s okay. But right now, we’ve got Somatic experiencing, which is what I’ve studied. I also studied something called somatic practice, which is working more Huddly with the body and with early and developmental trauma and in utero trauma. So I’ve got that. And then we have other forms of therapies that would be maybe classified as somatic, like breath work and EMDR, various shaking techniques and all these things. And those are lumped in as Somatic practice. But it depends on really who the person is that needs the help, where they’re at in their journey, where they’re at in their regulations. So to go back to sort of my evolution, it evolved, as I said, because I needed another thing and another thing and another thing. And so now I’ve got really a trifecta of methodologies, namely Feldenkrais somatic Experiencing, something called Somatic practice, as well as my history in exercise science, biomedical science, fitness, nutrition. And so I put them all sort of together, and then I’m not devoid of soul and spirit. So there’s also that. There’s the Eastern traditions that I fully embrace and practice myself. I don’t teach them explicitly, but energy, connecting to the field, being empathetic with another person, that’s energy, that’s stuff that we can’t see with our eyes, it’s very quantum, that sort of quantum physics world. So that’s another part that I’m becoming more interested in as I age, quote unquote. So that’s what I do. That’s where I came from, I should say, and what I’m technically trained as.

Amanda Montalvo [00:09:04]:

Yeah, and a lot of what you talk about is the nervous system. That’s, like, what, a lot of your educating is around.

Irene Lyon [00:09:12]:

Yes. The nervous system is interesting because obviously, without a brain, we would die. Without a heart, we would die. And without a nervous system, we wouldn’t be able to function, and we wouldn’t be around. So it is important, and it is the driver of all the other systems in the body. So do you want, like, a quick science lesson with that? Does that help your audience?

Amanda Montalvo [00:09:40]:

Absolutely, yeah.

Irene Lyon [00:09:41]:

So, we throw out the word nervous system, and there’s many nervous systems in the body. So we have our central nervous system, which is our brain and our spinal cord, and then we have our peripheral nervous system, which is everything that comes out of the brain and spinal cord. And it’s easy to find a picture like that on the internet. You see the brain, spinal cord, central. Then everything else that snakes out literally, like tentacles or roots, is the peripheral. The autonomic nervous system is part of the peripheral. And that’s often, I think, what people talk about when they say, I’m working with the nervous system.

Amanda Montalvo [00:10:20]:


Irene Lyon [00:10:21]:

Does that make yeah.

Amanda Montalvo [00:10:23]:


Irene Lyon [00:10:23]:

So, to go one step further, like, I’ve got some tea here, right? And if I pick this up or if I was to say, hey, amanda, do you have something that you could pick up and lift? Right. That is your peripheral nervous system and your central nervous system working together to put the command initiate the muscles. It’s hot. Right? So my sensory perception, that’s the peripheral nervous system, as you know, I’m on the tail end of a bit of a cold cough. I can feel that I’m a little more activated today because my breathing isn’t as good. So that’s my autonomic nervous system that I’m feeling. There’s a little more fight flight. I’m not scared, but there’s a little more edge, and I’m also warm because it’s, I think, 32 degrees celsius outside, and we haven’t turned the AC on yet. So I’m also feeling my temperature regulation, like, I’m sweating. I had to put my hair up. So that is part of the peripheral, part of the autonomics saying, it’s a little hot, produce sweat. Heart rate is up a little bit because I’m warmer. I’m not thinking that. But it’s happening spontaneously, just like if it was freezing cold, what do we do? We shiver. We shake our hairs, stand up to trap heat. So the peripheral nervous system that governs the autonomic nervous system, which is part of the peripheral, it is these automatic processes that our body needs to regulate inside. I can also see you nodding. You’re blinking. You now smile a little bit. That social engagement. That’s also part of our autonomic nervous system. So I know you’ve got little ones, right? You need to see them. They need to see you to know if everything’s okay. You smile, they smile. If you smile and they don’t smile. You know something’s not right, right? I’m going to pull this together in a second. When you have a newborn baby, there are parts of them that have regulation. Well, granted, they’re full term, right? And they’re healthy. Their digestion works. They poop and pee, they’re hungry, they temperature regulate, right? And we have to help them with clothing, right? If they’re too hot, we need to cool them. If they’re cold, we put blankets on them, those sorts of things. But that engagement with the baby helps them learn about themselves. So if they’re upset and mama comes in, it’s okay, it’s okay. And they’re just maybe a little scared or a little unsettled or they have gas, they go, oh, someone’s here, they’re engaging with me. That directly goes to the internal parts of our autonomic nervous system, and it helps them what we call regulate. So people talk about, they’ll throw out the term co regulation, self regulation. So when a baby is born, they can’t self regulate, right? This is why we don’t want to leave a baby to cry themselves to sleep. We need to hold them. We need to pick them up. We need to teach them how to self soothe through our co regulation. So that’s a long way of saying our nervous system governs not just our digestion, our heat and temperature regulation. It governs our immune system. It governs our hormones, it governs our ability to socially engage and have social skills, but also no danger or no friend, friend or foe urine production, all of it. Like even how we think, how we learn. So our nervous system is this entire web of nerves essentially coming out of our brain and spinal cord. Our peripheral autonomic nervous system, it governs all of our things inside. The other thing that I haven’t mentioned, which is important, it governs our survival responses. So fight, flight and freeze. If I get scared, like literally scared, if I hear a loud bang, I’m going to maybe jump and orient to it. Maybe there’s a heaven for bed, a car accident outside my, like, oh, shoot, that’s not good, or a ball is coming at me and I flinch to cover my head. That is our autonomic system also working? Fight, flight. But let’s say I can’t fight. I can’t flee. And a lot of people know this from traumas and circumstance where they’re literally in a bind and they cannot attack back, or they can’t get out of a terrible situation, or they can’t speak up. So they’ll shut down. They’ll go into the freeze response. And we need that, right? Just like it’s going to sound gruesome, but in the wild animal is being hunted, gets caught by a predator, it goes into a freeze response. So they don’t feel the pain, right? The kill. So humans, we have that, too. The trouble with humans, the trouble, quote unquote, is we can override a lot of our survival responses. So we might feel the desire to fight or flee, and we will be like, I’m not going to do that. I want to scream. Right. I want to set a boundary. I want to say, no, that’s okay. But I don’t want to destroy the peace, so I’m going to just not do that. Does that make sense?

Amanda Montalvo [00:16:11]:

Yeah, I just think of a lot of I have a lot of clients that are like, people pleasers, and they really struggle with it.

Irene Lyon [00:16:17]:

Yes. And that people pleasing starts really young. Right. Actually, I’ll tie that to because you probably have lots of moms who listen to you. Baby is crying. If baby isn’t attended to, they start to realize no one’s there. So there’s no point in crying anymore. There’s no point in asking for help. There’s no point in saying, I have needs that need to be met. So the child will actually start shifting their physiology to not put the parent out. Now, it’s not conscious. It’s unconscious. And this is where you’ll hear people say, you heard this more with the boomer babies, like, such a good baby never cried once. That’s not good. That shows that that little person has stopped connecting to their somatic body. This is where the somatic word comes in, because baby is feeling gas, baby feels hungry, baby feels hot, cold. When they whimper in a certain cry and if they’re not attended to, they start to actually disconnect and dissociate from that somatic system. This is how we slowly put ourselves into what we would call functional freeze, which you’ve, I know, probably heard about through my work. And that functional freeze, oddly, we keep going, but we’re like at half mass, right? We’re kind of there, but we’re not there. So to wrap this back to, what is the nervous system? It’s a huge conglomeration of not just nerves, but how those nerves connect to our organs, our systems, how we engage, how we perceive the environment, how we perceive others, threat, danger, safety, and also how we think and how we create and how we learn.

Amanda Montalvo [00:18:15]:

And I think people tend to focus on so good well, because I think people tend to focus on fight or flight or being in the relaxed state, and that’s it. Which, of course, those things are important to understand, but it affects every aspect of who you are and how you experience the really one analogy I often.

Irene Lyon [00:18:37]:

Give Amanda, I just was on a plane and I had a sinus cold, so that was not fun. And I knew even though I was blowing my nose and clearing my nose, it was going to be painful. And if you’ve ever been on a plane and you have a water bottle and you watch that bottle get sucked and sucked and sucked, and I’m watching this bottle going, oh, boy. When we descend, I was preparing myself the whole flight for the descent by trying to keep open, keep my fascia open. But even though I still was aware and breathing and doing all the things I know how to do, it was still agonizing when we descended into Vancouver because of that pressure. You cannot avoid that in a plane. So when you have a threat, a stress to you as a human, it isn’t just going to affect maybe the elbow that you bumped, right? Your whole body is going to go into a reaction. And then if we multiply that with a lot of us who grew up in environments that were not the best where we were and it doesn’t have to be like hardcore abuse. It can be you just weren’t listened to. You weren’t allowed to be who you truly were. You were someone who wanted to do this. And no family does this. So this is what you have to do. That also stifles our ability to express, and it puts the system into this mild freeze response.

Amanda Montalvo [00:20:09]:

I think people don’t fully understand that either. It’s like if I haven’t had a big, huge traumatic experience, then it’s like, oh, this wouldn’t necessarily affect me and be for me. And I feel like that is the perfect segue to go into. Like, okay, so we have this nervous system. Hopefully people have a better understanding of how it works and affects all the functions in our body and how we interact with people, learn all those things. What can it look like if that is out of balance? Like, what are some common signs that you tend to see?

Irene Lyon [00:20:40]:

Great question. And that leads me to what I forgot to mention in a perfect way. So if you think about that analogy of the water bottle that’s just squeezed, right? So if you have a human system that is in fight flight freeze, and I haven’t met anyone, Amanda, that doesn’t have some version of that in the Western world, some people are maybe more on the fight flight, some people are more on the freeze. I was like, gold Olympic medal freezer. That was my thing. My husband, who I talk about a lot and we’re colleagues, he didn’t have a lot of freeze. He was more activated his whole childhood. But what happens is when we have this pressure on the system remember how I said the autonomic nervous system also governs the digestion, the temperature regulation? I forgot to also mention the cardiovascular system, respiration, urinary, reproductive, all these things. When the body is co opted to fight flight freeze, it kind of forgets to take care of the other systems. And it doesn’t forget, like, I guess you could say it has a consciousness, but it’s like we are more worried about putting out the fire. Like, if you have a house that’s on fire, you’re probably not going to dust, right? You’re not going to do the upkeep of dusting, doing the laundry, picking up clothes, making sure the refrigerator has fresh food in it. You’re not going to worry about the crumbs under the counter, you’re going to worry about the fire that’s on. And so if the system has even an ounce of survival stress that’s always there running the show, the digestion is going to be we’re not going to work so much at keeping it nice and regulated because we got this fire over here or hormones not so important because we’re like our system thinks that we’re dying or fires on survival. There’s no way you can learn today or concentrate on reading a book or get your tasks done, or be interested in finding a mate, or interested in reaching out to your best friend who, you know needs to talk to you because you’re in so much survival. So the ripple effect of what we would call dysregulation, so stored survival stress at the autonomic nervous system level is a whole plethora of things in the body. It could be digestion is one of the key ones because it is such a huge system and it really is our first brain. Like babies, they know danger via their gut.

Amanda Montalvo [00:23:34]:

Thyroid health is essential for healthy hormones, digestion energy and more. Our thyroid is so important because it sets the metabolic pace of our body, which controls how every single system functions. Whether you think you may have some thyroid dysfunction going on based on symptoms you may have or have a confirmed diagnosis, chances are you haven’t been given the best tools to address your thyroid health. I’ve been there. Thyroid is a big part of my health journey and something I’ve been optimizing for the last decade. I’m very passionate about this topic, which is why I created a free thyroid training that walks you through how to assess thyroid health. All the labs I do cover blood work and what the optimal ranges are. I just want to say that I think we have to look beyond blood work when it comes to assessing our thyroid health. That’s why I also cover hair mineral testing, urine testing, and then basal body temperature, which is a measurement you can do at home to assess your thyroid health. I’ve had so many people reach out and say they can’t believe that this training is free. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I also cover nutrition tips for optimizing thyroid health. You can head to the link in the show notes or to my website, hormonehealingrd.com, to watch the training. There’s just so much lacking when it comes to helpful info on thyroid health. So I’m really hoping that this training helps you and fills that gap.

Irene Lyon [00:24:53]:

A five year old doesn’t say to you, mama, I don’t like that man, or I don’t like that woman, or I don’t like school. They say, I have a tummy ache. I don’t feel well, right? They know. They know exactly what’s going on through their gut. It’s our 6th sense. We still have it as adults. We’ve just kind of most people have numbed it out. So the digestion is huge, but also reproduction menstrual cycles. I found that some folks when they get regulation on board their hormones, their cycle completely shifts towards better. For some people I was someone where that actually wasn’t so much the case. I needed to worry and work more on actual hormone stuff even though I was regular. So everyone’s different sometimes it’s food, chemicals, that kind of thing. The other thing would be insomnia. Trouble sleeping.

Amanda Montalvo [00:25:53]:

I see so many sleep issues, especially we do hair testing and focus a lot on minerals with our clients. And your nervous system has such a big impact on your mineral status and vice versa of course. And a lot of the times when people are very depleted because they’re more in that like they’ve been stressed for a super long time. Probably in the freeze more type of state depending on the person. They are terrible sleepers. So many issues.

Irene Lyon [00:26:21]:

Yeah. And what’s interesting I have two thoughts there. The mineral thing is interesting. I’m not an expert on minerals but what I know is when you’re under stress you’re using them more. Someone who doesn’t think that they’re stressed because they’re more living in freeze they don’t realize how much energy they’re taking to keep the fight flight at bay. Does that make sense? Yeah, it’s like you’re like putting a tiger in a cage and never letting it out.

Amanda Montalvo [00:26:51]:

Think about what happens really good analogy for that.

Irene Lyon [00:26:54]:

Think about what happens in zoos. Breaks my heart. Right. There’s a reason why those animals have skin problems. They don’t look well, they’re not where they should be, they’re caged. They can’t be their full animal self. And so when we have a lot of freeze on board we don’t realize actually how much energy we’re using. And this is where people will need nothing against a cup of coffee here and there, but constant need for stimulation, constant need for adrenaline. I was an adrenaline junkie when I was a kid in my twenty s. I was totally frozen and I went as far as paragliding running off of hills to get my energy because I was so frozen. So it’s a miracle I didn’t die doing some of these things that I did. So the energy is hugely sucked when we’re in freeze but we don’t know it and eventually what occurs. And I’m being very general here but the Ace study, the Adverse Childhood Experiences study really shows why when we’re in this fight flight freeze, if it is not worked with and gotten out of we will get sick. This is where chronic illness comes in. Chronic disease, autoimmunity neurodegenerative conditions like Ms, ALS, even Alzheimer’s and certain forms of dementia like it’s all connected doesn’t mean it’s the only thing, but it’s hugely correlated with childhood stress. And then to go back to the sleep piece, some people have trouble sleeping and that is the system in a sympathetic fight flight state. They essentially can’t settle because they’re looking for danger. Even though the person is like, I’m not looking for danger. I’m just laying there. There is an unconscious part of them that has something in them that is like, it’s not the world isn’t safe. So any little crack, any little creep, the system is like, what was that? What was that? Is something going to kill me? That’s indicative of early trauma, developmental trauma. The flip side, people that go to sleep, and I know some friends like this, they’re sleeping over and you’re talking to them and then all of a sudden they’re like snoring. It’s like, how did you go to sleep so fast? And they can sleep through anything that also isn’t healthy biologically because if there was a threat, you wouldn’t know that a tiger was in your face. And so I find those folks and again, generalizing, but from what I’ve seen, they are living in a very deep freeze, even though they’re functional. And sometimes when they wake up, they won’t feel rested because it’s like they’ve gone into a drugged it’s like they’ve been anesthetized to go to sleep. And when you come out, you’re kind of groggy, you’re heavy. You haven’t been in true rest digest repair mode at night. And so these are the two very polar opposite things we see when there’s dysregulation of the nervous system, is can’t sleep or I sleep so much and I’m still tired.

Amanda Montalvo [00:30:14]:

Yeah, I see both a lot. So I’m happy that you mentioned both of those. But it could be so many symptoms because the nervous system affects so many systems in the body. But I think those are great examples. I think people will kind of connect with those. I like that you mentioned the social ones, too, like avoiding calling a friend or like a family member or something. I don’t think people think of that.

Irene Lyon [00:30:39]:

No. And I think this actually is one of the things, Amanda, that’s missed the most. When I hear people talk about the nervous system, at least you know, I was mentioning that peripheral nervous system, autonomic nervous system, I didn’t go into the deeper branches, but one of the key nervous system branches, which is part of our parasympathetic, which is part of our autonomic, is what’s called the ventral vagal. So it’s part of our humanity. It’s what mammals have, this ability to connect, to engage. We’re meant to be in that most of the time. And the way that the world has become with social isolation and everything’s online, it’s like we’ve kind of jumped over this chasm and we’re living in a way that doesn’t connect with our physiology’s needs. And so now with all of this, I mean, it’s great that you’re across the continent. I’m on the other side. We can talk wonderful, right? Super cool. But we still need to have physical social contact. Now, this doesn’t mean intimate. It doesn’t have to be. A partner, a romantic partner. It’s like, go to the coffee shop and smile at the barista. If you’re at the grocery store and you’re looking for something, ask someone, excuse me, can you help me find or do you know, rather than going to your phone, what’s the ingredient here? Just ask. Those are actually ways that I teach my clients who are terrified of deep relationship. It’s like, you don’t need to get married. Just talk to the guy at the coffee shop or open a door for someone. There’s these little things that we can do. And if you’re not used to it, you will feel maybe a little nervousness, but you’ll also feel a hit of goodness. That’s the oxytocin that comes out when we engage. So a lot of people will say, I’m an introvert, right? It’s like, maybe sometimes. But humans are meant to have connection. And we’re also because of our higher brain, we’re also meant to be contemplative and have time alone and read and create. I mean, that’s why we’ve created great pieces of art, is artists will go into their caves literally for years and do things. But we also need that engagement. And we know that because if babies don’t have engagement, they die.

Amanda Montalvo [00:33:11]:

Yeah, right. So I love that you mentioned that, because I think, again, you talked about doing that with clients. That’s something that we don’t really hear discussed much. When it comes to nervous system, it’s more like, here’s some exercises and tips and stuff. And while I think maybe sometimes that could be helpful for someone to dip their toe in and start to experiment, yeah, it’s tricky. So, what do you think when it comes to okay, people are interested. They’re like, I’m connecting with this. I definitely think I have some Dysregulation. Like, who doesn’t? What do you think it’s important for them to understand? If they’re like, how do I work on this? How do I heal this?

Irene Lyon [00:33:53]:

So I kind of have three things that are most well, maybe four. We’ll see. The first thing is an interest in yourself. So that precedes all the other ones. And the reason why is the work, at least that I do, that I put out, isn’t something where I give you, like, a list and you just go through it like a daily routine. It requires almost I like to say you’re becoming a scholar of your system. And some people would argue, well, Irene, if we didn’t need this back in the day, like back in the nomad world or in the jungle of Savannah, we didn’t need to know about our nervous system. You’re right, we didn’t. But we also didn’t have the modern world. We didn’t have repression and suppression of our impulses. We weren’t connected to the natural living. We weren’t living in boxes with artificial light. So because we’ve become so industrialized and domesticated, we need to want to understand. So that’s the first piece, because those that have deep success regulating their nervous systems as adults. And these are people, my students, who never had regulation growing up. They had enough to get by. But the stories I’ve heard of abuse and neglect are awful. And yet here they are in their forty s, fifty s, sixty s, eighty s, relearning and working with their system and restoring regulation. But the reason it works for them, Amanda, is they’re dead set on getting better. So that’s the one thing out of victim mode I can change. I want to change that’s. 1st, 2nd is education. So education is so important. The reason why it’s so important as a first step is because of the variety of how humans were messed up with their self regulation. We’re not robots. Even if you have three people in the same family system, siblings, they will be brought up differently based on what was going on in the world when they came out, all these things. So it’s important to understand deeper what I said, the differences between the sympathetic, the parasympathetic, the vagus nerve, what it does, sensations, feelings, behaviors, all these things that come up, if we don’t understand what they might be, we might be like, oh my God, I’m anxious, I better take a deep breath. Well, sometimes anxiety is a sign that we actually have to scream or emote or take a nap or engage or ask for help. And so if we don’t have that understanding that anxiety doesn’t just mean something that has to be, say, calmed down. And by the way, anxiety is essentially fight flight. It’s survival stress that’s just bubbling up, right? Is it from an old trauma? Is it because you saw something you didn’t like? There’s so many reasons. So the reason why I say that as an example is when we have the education, we can better help ourselves when we aren’t feeling well. And a lot of the first we could say brush of self help in the nervous system world was just take a deep breath, ground yourself, shake it out, like all these things. Now, these can all work, but it depends if that’s what you need. It’s like saying to someone, oh, you have I mean, I just, like I said, just had this head cold back in the day. What would they do? They’d give you antibiotics? Yeah, like, no, you don’t do antibiotics unless it’s a true infection. This is not an infection. It is just those sorts of things. So that would be second. So the first thing is the desire. Second is education. And of course, that’s what we do in my courses, deep, deep, deep education. And then the third would be growing capacity, growing nervous system capacity, which doesn’t sound very sexy, but what that means is you’re building up your ability to be with three things. One, your internal body’s experience, sensations, feelings, pain, discomfort. The second, not that these are in order of importance, I’m just having to say them this way. The second would be connecting with the environment. So you would have learned in the 21 day course, orienting. Can you actually see the world around you? Can you see the trees? Can you see the sky? Can you see your plant? Can you see whatever? Can you be engaged with the world? Because we need to be engaged with the world to see it for goodness, but also danger. So internal, external. And then the PS de rivista would be putting them together. And what’s interesting is you’ll have people whom, again, just generalizing, who have done 20 years of meditation, breath work for God only knows how many years, they’ve done therapy. And you ask them to sense maybe their breath don’t change it while feeling their feet, while seeing the world and just being in that symbiosis. And they can’t do it because they’ve only been trained to do one thing or one thing. And to be healthy in the world that is active around us, we have to be able to do all of it at the same time. That is what in flow would be. That’s what a child would be like playing, right? They’re in flow, they’re in their bodies, they’re feeling, they’re crawling, they’re climbing. Same with animals. So that would be like the first few things. And then from there, there’s just so many different levels that a person might work with depending on, let’s say, the kinds of traumas that they’re living with and wanting to work with. But you’d be surprised how much shifts when we grow capacity. And then the other that I’ll add as a bonus, I guess, is following your impulse. So if we go back to that baby, they aren’t wondering at the very beginning, I wonder if I should cry. I wonder if I should reach out. I wonder if I should do this. They just follow their impulse, just like animals follow their impulse. And so for me, following impulse is following what our biological needs are. So if you are thirsty, drink water. If you need to go to the bathroom, you’d be amazed. Amanda maybe not. How many people confess to the fact that they will hold their bladder for hours if they have to get work done and there’s a toilet just down.

Amanda Montalvo [00:41:18]:

The hallway, or if they’re doing something for someone else? Like, I work with so many women, Moms. It’s like a natural instinct where they just wait. When you ask what they need, they’re like, I don’t know what I need. That would be really hard for them.

Irene Lyon [00:41:35]:

Yeah. So if you think about that from a real basic perspective, you’ve got this bladder. We’ll keep it really simple. It’s harder to hold in bowel movements. Like when those come, you can suppress it for a bit. But then if you have food poisoning, you can’t keep that stuff in. Right? It comes out. But if you think about it, if you are denying those pressure receptors in your bladder that is saying to your brain and your system must urinate and you deny it, they start set to stop sending the signals and it also distends the bladder to the point where it’s not healthy. Right? And so what is interesting is when we start to just even listen to those basic things again seems crazy, but that is your autonomic nervous system that you’re helping. And so by helping these natural processes of elimination, thirst, temperature, regulation, fatigue, energy, I feel energy will then move. Don’t try to breathe it away. Right. You are in a sense reverse engineering and saying to that autonomic nervous system, I’m listening to you, I’m taking care of you. And then that sends signals to the central nervous system that helps it shift and calm down. But just like that tiger in the cage, it’s trying to get out. It’s like it’s just going to keep building pressure if it cannot get out. So following impulse at that biological level is super important and something that people.

Amanda Montalvo [00:43:08]:

Could literally do right now, starting today. I love that. That’s a really good one. Yeah. We’re going to wrap with we’ll talk about I’m sure people are interested, like, okay, where can I get started with this? It can sound overwhelming, but I’m telling you, if you take the education part slow and it’s not complex, you learn it and then you apply it to yourself and you’re the only one that matters.

Irene Lyon [00:43:36]:


Amanda Montalvo [00:43:36]:

So you’re only paying attention to yourself. So it’s not scary. And I think that part is super important because again, if you want it to work, you can’t just do what someone else is doing because it works for them. Because it might not work for you. But something that because what I think of when I think of the nervous system stuff online is people trying constantly calming themselves down, right? Putting this emphasis on, yes, I do this throughout the day and I have a lot of clients that will say that they’re kind of constantly checking in with themselves throughout the day. They have good coping skills and I’m like, but if you’re constantly having to do this, it probably means that you’re actually super stressed. There’s something there. So why is that? Can you talk more about what it means if we’re constantly having to calm ourselves with whatever technique or practice yeah.

Irene Lyon [00:44:28]:

That essentially means we’re dysregulated.

Amanda Montalvo [00:44:31]:


Irene Lyon [00:44:31]:

So imagine if you have your baby and they never become self regulated. I mean, it’s a real basic way of looking at it, but that would mean you would always have an infant that’s constantly needing soothing. So there’s a point in time when a human is alive where they need that co regulation to learn self regulation. So as an adult, if we keep needing management strategies, if we keep needing resources now there’s nothing wrong with having a strategy or a resource. Nothing wrong maybe you have an extra stressful thing and like, oh, I really need that blanket that I love, or I really need to do some tapping, or I really need to calm my breath fine. I always say to people, if you need a management strategy so you don’t hit your kids, then breathe right? Like, do the things so that you stay sane and you don’t hurt yourself or other people. But let’s say we take it one step further, and this person knows they need to carry around a purse with all their oils, all their stones, all their crystals, juice boxes, and all the things to soothe themselves. That’s not regulation. That’s not regulating yourself, that’s management. So what’s happening there is the system is not able to self regulate without a resource, without co regulating with something external. And so, again, it’s as simple as saying that’s dysregulation still. And a lot of folks think that they’re regulating by calming down with a resource, but it’s just calming down. It’s not regulating. And so it’s a tricky one to kind of grasp because it’s like, well, I feel better. It’s like, yes, and that’s good. And you’ve just allowed your system to come out of a bit of an activation. But you are if I use the fancy word window of tolerance, which you mentioned in our pre questions of many people, their window of tolerance is like it is not a window, it’s like a line. And they only have the tiniest bit of capacity. And then when they’re not in that perfect controlled situation, they are out of their window of tolerance. We would call it a false window of tolerance. And many people I was one of these people, I was living in a false window of tolerance in extremes, flying off of hills or crashing right? And so what we want to do and it’s very hard at the beginning, it’s almost like ripping the Band Aid off. When someone has had lots of coping strategies, it’s like, okay, the next time you feel we’ll use the word anxiety, which is fight flight rather than calming through breath, what would it be like to just get up and walk and look so match that physiology of activation? Maybe you do a little move, maybe it’ll do a little dance and then pause and then orient and see if it can come down naturally. Because what’s often occurring with, say, anxiety is the system is actually looking and again, this isn’t always the case, but generally speaking, it’s looking for an exit. It’s looking to get that fight flight out. And if we calm it, it just might not work. True story. If we have time for it. I was recently away, and I was trying to listen to something on my phone, and I had just eaten some greasy prawns, and so funny. And so I’m like, trying to increase the volume, and my phone slipped out of my hand. It flew in the air, and it fell on the stone. We were in this tiny little village in Croatia. People around us, outdoor seating, and it slammed onto the ground, and it was so loud that the woman behind me and myself included we both startled. And everybody was like and it was like a gunshot. I’m like and the phone was fine, but it spiked me. It actually put me into a bit of a sympathetic, which isn’t like me because I’m no longer in freeze. If that had happened five years ago, I’d be like, Whatever.

Amanda Montalvo [00:49:09]:


Irene Lyon [00:49:09]:

Okay, whatever. No problems. But because I’m a little more raw right now, because I’m not in freeze, my heart just had a heyday with that to the point where even towards the end of our dinner, I was feeling like I was maybe going to pass out because my heart was still racing. And it’s funny how I should have known better. So we’re walking. We went and stepped out on a stoop, my husband and I. Okay, I think I feel better. And we started to walk. We wanted to get to the top of this cathedral to see the view. And I’m fairly fit. I’m like, I don’t know if I could I was walking ten steps, and my heart was just going nuts. So we got to another spot in another alley. My husband’s sitting in front, or standing in front of me, and I looked at him, and I was like and I just pushed him. There’s. All this anger. I don’t know what it was from, but I felt it. So this is where being able to track your body is important. So I tracked this, and I was like he’s like, oh, you don’t need to calm down. You need to get mad. So I pushed him, and then he gave me his arm. There’s a technique that we use where you can squeeze a forearm, and you can actually squeeze your forearm really strong without hurting it. Very different from the upper arm. So he just gave me his arm, and I literally almost pushed him over. There was so much anger in me. It was probably something old. And I just squeezed the heck out of his arm. I let out a bit of a sound. I don’t even know what it was. And I stood there like, my heart’s fine. Walked up the hill, no problem. So I share that story because I startled myself. I went into activation. I was a little embarrassed. The poor woman behind me was totally startled. I was in an activation, and I needed to actually push that activation higher. I was trying to calm it down, and it didn’t want that. The tiger wanted out of the cage. If someone doesn’t understand that or if they don’t have a partner, that is okay with me pushing the shit out of my guy. There’s a problem, right? But what occurred is, again, it just was like, oh, my God, I should have known better. But when you’re in the moment, you don’t necessarily always think, but it only took about ten minutes, and I’m like, oh, there’s some heat in here. I better get it out. And then it allowed my heart to come down. So that’s an example of where education and having some tools and knowing what to do and knowing how to track your system is super important. And most people would have felt that, and they would have kept calming and calming, and then their whole vacation would have been.

Amanda Montalvo [00:52:13]:

The just it could also be really scary. Someone might think, do I have, like, a health issue? My heart rate won’t come down, and.

Irene Lyon [00:52:21]:

This is what happens. Amanda, people I mean, are there true heart abnormalities? Of course. But my hunch and this is anecdotal is a lot of the situations where people go to, say, the hospital with heart palpitations. And I’ve asked doctors, they’re like, usually it’s just anxiety. It’s like, well, okay, but the system is not feeling safe. But what do they often do? They get given a drug to regulate the heart, but that underlying tiger isn’t getting out. And so what occurs? The tiger goes somewhere else, goes to the digestion, it goes to the hormones, it goes to the skin, it goes to the brain, and then we just get a little more off and a little more off. And so there is something powerful about being able to really understand these things at this complex level. It takes some time. That’s the other thing I’ll say. This isn’t a quick fix. You can’t learn this in two months, just like you can’t raise a human baby in two months.

Amanda Montalvo [00:53:27]:


Irene Lyon [00:53:28]:

Imagine if you only held your baby once an hour a day. That’s it. It wouldn’t work.

Amanda Montalvo [00:53:37]:

Yeah, I still hold her so much. She’s like 16 months.

Irene Lyon [00:53:41]:

Yeah, and you don’t stop at five years. You have to keep going. But this is the thing is people don’t realize if we didn’t have that initial regulation growing up, we do need to take some time to rewire this as adults. But the good news is, once that foundation and capacity is built, just like raising a kid in a healthy way, they have no trouble thriving. They then know how to do things. But if you don’t get it at the beginning, it does become problematic later on.

Amanda Montalvo [00:54:15]:

Yeah. And I think that kind of goes back to the beginning when we’re talking about different types of trauma, and sometimes we don’t know that we have that trauma until we’re older and we’re learning. Especially I feel like when you become a parent, you’re like, oh, okay, I definitely want to do things differently. And it’s not that maybe your parents are bad people. They didn’t do anything wrong, but it’s like they didn’t know. And so I feel like that always brings up a lot for people. But, okay, we’re going to wrap this. Thank you so much. We’re going to go answer some Patreon questions. The best place to get started from here is your field guide. Correct? It’s field guide to your nervous system.

Irene Lyon [00:54:55]:

I think so we created that recently because now that there’s like almost 500 YouTube videos, it can be overwhelming for people to be like, where do I start? So that has condensed it into a few pages cool. On a PDF education. Links So if a person can work through that, that is one way to start. Okay.

Amanda Montalvo [00:55:17]:

And I’m going to link that in the show notes. I’m still going to link to your YouTube, which is amazing. That’s how I originally found you. Your website instagram. And yeah, you have your 21 day nervous system tune up course. I’ve been through that. It’s great. It’s a great way to place to get started as well, I think if people are ready, because you really do get a lot of the education and put things into practice there. And then you have your Smart Body, Smart Mind program that will be coming up, right, like, I think right after this episode airs.

Irene Lyon [00:55:46]:

Okay. Yeah. The registration is September twelveTH to the 19th. Yeah.

Amanda Montalvo [00:55:50]:

So it actually might be exactly when this one comes out or like a week later. So we’ll make sure.

Irene Lyon [00:55:56]:

And we’ll be doing a lot of live Q and A stuff that week. So if someone is listening to this, like when this comes out, if it’s the same time, there’ll be lots to watch, live and learn about.

Amanda Montalvo [00:56:07]:


Irene Lyon [00:56:08]:

Yeah. Awesome.

Amanda Montalvo [00:56:09]:

Well, thank you so much.

Irene Lyon [00:56:11]:

You’re welcome.

Amanda Montalvo [00:56:13]:

What an episode. I hope you enjoyed that episode with Irene. I do. Continue the conversation inside patreon. We had a bunch of people submit Q and A questions. So if you want to listen to that Q and A with her, you can join patreon. It’s even at the $10 tier, you can get it. You don’t have to necessarily do the exclusive one. It was just the bonus episode for that week. We get into a lot of really cool topics. We talk about specifically different tools and kind of where to get started with healing your nervous system. She has a ton of free resources, so she kind of walked through kind of someone asked a specific question around if they feel like they’re stuck in the freeze response, where should they maybe start with some of the free tools. So that was a really good one. We also got into HRV and how that kind of reflects the nervous system. And we talked about releasing stored trauma, some of the signs of this, which I thought was incredibly interesting because you see on social media, if you watch any videos of it’s usually like some big event that’s happening. And Irene kind of talks about different ways that your body can do that. And then we talked about EMDR therapy, what to do if you feel like you’re stuck in fight or flight, so many things. So definitely go check out the Q A inside Patreon if you want to. Please make sure you follow Irene. I have her. YouTube linked. Her YouTube is everything. That’s how I originally found her. I’m also going to link her website that has all her courses on there. The 21 day nervous system reset is a good one to start with. And then her Instagram, of course. She’s very active on there as well. So I hope you guys enjoyed this one. Go show Irene some love. Thank her for being on. Let her know what you liked about this podcast. Let me know. Tag me in your stories if you’re listening to it and I will see you in the next episode. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Are You Menstrual? Podcast. If you want to support my work, please leave a review and let me know how you like the episode. This lets me know what you guys want more of less of. I read every single one and I appreciate them more than you know. If you want to keep learning, you can get access to the bonus episode and additional resources on Patreon.com hormonehealingrd. I’d love to have you in there. Thanks again and I will see you in the next episode.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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