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Embodied Equity: A Polyvagal-Informed Certificate for Educators & Helping Professionals

Embodied Equity: A Polyvagal-Informed Certificate for Educators & Helping Professionals




Cost: $


CE's Available:


Niki Elliott, PhD

Stephen W. Porges, PhD

“When I met Dr. Niki, I was a devoted helping professional – facilitating powerful transformation for others, but getting more exhausted and ill with every client I supported. Between the private sessions and the skills and tools I learned through the trainings in this community, I have completely reclaimed my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.” -- Amanda Johnson, Entrepreneur & Coach

Course Overview

We invite you to watch the introductory webinar recording.

Research clearly demonstrates the devastating impact of bias and discrimination in all areas of the helping professions: education, health care, law enforcement, and social services. Now more than ever, we need effective approaches to unpacking and disrupting implicit bias if we are to achieve the elimination of health and education disparities in our country.

Beyond pressing issues of racial inequity, people also experience daily bias and microaggressions due to their gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, family income, and/or disability. While bias and discrimination clearly impact learning, health, and legal outcomes, it has been difficult for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) trainings for educators and others in the helping professions to turn the tide on these statistics.

Many DEI trainings continue to fail or receive significant backlash from the dominant culture for a few reasons: (1) most people lack the intrapersonal awareness to recognize and diffuse their emotions and unconscious, body-based triggers that cause them to react in survival mode when their identity or privilege has been challenged or threatened; (2) most people do not spend time in community interacting with people they have been trained to fear or perceive as an “other.” A level of sustained social engagement is required to disconfirm existing stereotypes and allow mindful space for the development of social empathy, compassion, and right action; and (3) following DEI trainings, people need guidance to observe and track their behaviors, giving them an objective measurement of their transformation. They need to be taught how to proactively establish felt-safety and positive social engagement with those they serve, especially those who have historically been subjected to marginalization and identity-threat in public spaces.


In this 25-hour certificate, participants will gain a deeper understanding of how bias lives in the bodies of students who are subjected to discrimination, as well as in the education or helping professionals who are triggered to act on bias towards them. A polyvagal informed approach to this critical topic offers a unique lens through which participants will understand how bias impacts them and the students they serve. Upon completion of this certificate, participants will:

1. Understand how experiences of implicit bias, microaggressions, overt racism, and social marginalization impact the brain and nervous system and can be registered in the body as a form of trauma for people of all ages

2. Explore the zones of regulation and how the brain’s capacity to learn, heal, and self-regulate is connected to the ventral vagal state of safety and social engagement. Discuss the implications for academic success and behavior regulation for students who are exposed to identity-threat consistently

3. Complete reflective exercises to explore where unconscious bias lives in one’s own body and how it shows up as nervous system triggers (fight, flight, freeze, appease)

4. Practice mind-body regulation strategies that help educators and helping professionals establish and maintain a ventral vagal state of social engagement, felt-safety, and co-regulation with students, especially when triggered by them

5. Demonstrate an understanding of how to proactively create healing environments that cultivate a sense of felt-safety and belonging for optimized social engagement, behavior regulation, healing and/or academic achievement for all

Session 1: Understanding Identity-Threat as a Source of Trauma in Schools and Society

-Introduce PVT and key terms: Neuroception, Hierarchy, and Dissolution

-Explore the neuroscience of how the nervous system responds to real or perceived threat and how this impacts the process of teaching and learning

-Explore the expanded ACEs study to understand racial bias and discrimination as a form of trauma

Session 2: Regulating Autonomic State for Resilience and Connection

-Offer an understanding of how breathwork, and somatic mind-body practices create body awareness and open doors for empathy, compassion and embodied social justice

-Teach a set of exercises and practices that can be used to increase vagal tone and enhance access to the ventral vagal state to disrupt implicit bias in words and actions

-Understand the importance of the psoas muscle for creating a grounded, embodied presence

Session 3: Exploring the Body’s Response to Racial Trauma and Stress

-Review the 3 core processes of Polyvagal Theory

-Introduce appeasement as a defense mechanism and how racial trauma impacts the nervous system

-Practice somatic techniques that help reduce the impact of racial stress on the body

Session 4: A.D.D.R.E.S.S.I.N.G. Bias in the Body

-Introduce intersectionality and explore how it compounds the impact of identity threat on the nervous system

-Identify somatic experiences related to implicit bias and the embodiment of social justice

-Learn the healing power of authentic storytelling and personal narratives to build empathy and compassion between individuals and reduce bias

Session 5: Establishing Environmental and Cultural Cues of Felt-Safety

-Understand how culturally relevant elements of environmental design, sensory stimulation, group rituals, and connections create physical and psychological safety for marginalized students

-Explore how leaders can become more mindful and aware of systemic trauma within communities of color caused by environmental injustice

-Discuss why we need cultural connection to familiar places, colors, sounds, nature, etc. and how it impacts learning and healing

Session 6: Live Discussion with Dr. Stephen Porges

-Invite Dr. Porges to reflect on what he views as the way forward with applying Polyvagal Theory to advancing the liberation of all bodies in education and in society

-Reflect on the course content in light of Porges’ original intent for Polyvagal Theory

Session 7: Signaling Cues of Felt Safety and Belonging

-Reflect on Porges’ teachings that it is not enough to avoid causing danger or harm. We must actively promote and cultivate a neuroception of felt-safety

-Discuss how to enhance vocal prosody, non-verbal cues, signals of safety and social engagement to settle nervous systems

-Discuss how to create disconfirming experiences and finding common ground help engage neuroplasticity and re-wire the stereotype threat that exists between helping professionals and those who have extensive lived experience of bias and discrimination

Session 8: Embodying Equity in Teaching, Learning, and Wellness

-Discuss what it means to be a culturally responsive helping professional

-Explore how to bring hope and equity to the education and wellness fields through culturally responsive practices

-Review effective polyvagal-informed teaching strategies that support both child and adult learners whose brains have been impacted trauma or marginalization

-Create a personal action research plan for self-observation and ongoing tracking of how bias lives in the body.

-Establish a commitment to use embodiment practices regularly to notice and interrupt automatic bias and build courage for compassionate right action

Attendance:Live attendance is required. Attendance means on the Zoom meeting with video turned on. A maximum of one absence is permitted as long as you view the recording of the class that you missed. In order to obtain CEs, 100% live attendance is required.

Students will have access to the course for 180 days from the date of purchase.




Recommended Audience

educators, healthcare providers, clinicians, coaches, helping professionals

CE's and/or Certificate of Completion Available

For health and behavioral professionals, this course offers 25 continuing education hours for a $65 fee provided by the Spiritual Competency Academy (SCA). The California Board of Behavioral Sciences accepts CE credits for LCSW, LPCC, LEP, and LMFT. SCA is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing. For educators, this 25 hour course is eligible for 2 CEUs (exchanged at 12.5h = 1 CEU) through the University of San Diego for a $158 fee. Polyvagal-Informed Certificate upon completion of the course. Polyvagal-Informed Certificate courses offer a deeper level of training including: • 20+ hours of curriculum • Live interaction with instructor • Application exercises and embodiment practices • Group discussion and individual reflection • Assessment(s) to demonstrate understanding • Polyvagal-Informed Certificate Please note: because we are not an accrediting agency, neither the Certificate of Completion nor the Polyvagal-Informed Certificate offers licensure or certification of any kind. We do not measure nor endorse one’s ability to teach Polyvagal Theory or use the term “PVI certified.” However, the Polyvagal Institute affirms that certificate training results in a polyvagal-informed level of knowledge and application.
  • What is the attendance policy for a course?
    Live/Hybrid courses: While specific course policies may vary, we typically allow one absence for a live or hybrid course and require watching the recording and sometimes submitting a reflection for the missed session. If a participant is absent for more than the permissible number of live sessions, they may not be eligible for a certificate. Self-paced courses: In short, not applicable. Attendance does not apply to self-paced as they are designed to be consumed when the student is willing and able to take the course. All material is pre-recorded content, reading, or individual assignments.
  • How are live sessions held?
    Live sessions are held via Zoom. Zoom links are available inside the course content and in email reminders sent to enrollees.
  • What if I am unable to attend a live session?
    We upload recordings of our live sessions within 72 hours. (Please see the attendance policy above.)
  • How can I tell what time the live session will be in my local time zone?
    We typically provide live session start times in the four time zones of the continental United States. To convert live session times to your local timezone, please visit
  • Where can I find the course material?
    Thinkific is our learning management system. Upon enrolling in a course, you will receive an invite email to the course in Thinkific, where you can find all of the course materials and links.
  • Is this course accredited?
    The course page will list any continuing education credits (CEs) or other professional benefits that might be available for the course (and any applicable restrictions). If none are listed, then none are available.
  • How do I reset my password to Thinkific?
    You can reset your password by going to and clicking “Forgot Password?” link below the password field. You will then enter the email address you used when creating your account to receive a one-time password reset link. Use the instructions in that email to complete your password reset. If you have any other technical questions, feel free to reach out to us at
  • Is there closed captioning?
    Yes. Most pre-recorded content is hosted in Vimeo, which has closed captioning. If you come across a video that does not have closed captioning, please send us a message at
  • In which currency are your prices listed in?
    Our prices are listed in USD (United States Dollars). Your credit card or bank statement will likely reflect the price in your local currency.
  • Will I be charged sales tax?
    If you are located in the US or Canada, you will be charged sales tax on the cost of your course.
  • Are there scholarships available?
    Yes, PVI offers scholarships for all of our courses on a rolling basis. You can apply for a scholarship at
  • Are there group discounts?
    Yes. For groups of five or more participants, a 15% discount is available for each participant.
  • What is your refund policy?
    30 day money back guarantee for all of our courses (from date of purchase for self-paced courses and from date of first live session for live courses). Please reach out to us at if you'd like to inquire about a refund.
  • Can I purchase a gift certificate for PVI courses?
    Give the gift of learning! Yes, Polyvagal Institute offers digital gift certificates that arrive by email, and can be used towards any of our courses. Gift certificates are a simple way to share polyvagal insight and knowledge that stems from a better understanding of the human experience. Purchase a gift certificate now!


Niki Elliott, PhD

Niki Elliott, PhD is a clinical professor of neurodiversity and embodied equity at the
University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences and is an
author, speaker, and trainer in the fields of neurodiversity, mindfulness, holistic
education, and healing-centered engagement. Dr. Niki previously served as the
Director of the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning and Wellness at the University
of La Verne’s La Fetra College of Education. She earned a bachelor’s degree at UC
Berkeley, a master’s degree and teaching credential at Teachers College, Columbia
University and a PhD in Education from UCLA. An experienced educator, Dr. Niki
has taught students of all ages, from elementary school through university level over
the past 25 years. She presently teaches educational neurobiology, neurodiversity
and mindfulness for graduate students earning a master’s degree in Special
Education. Dr. Niki is also the founder of the Mindful Leaders Project, a program
designed to help teachers, school leaders, parents and other education professionals increase their own personal well-being and social-emotional regulation skills to support children’s academic success.

Niki Elliott, PhD

Stephen W. Porges, PhD

Stephen W. Porges, PhD

Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He is the originator of the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral, mental, and health problems related to traumatic experiences. He is the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol ™ , which currently is used by approximately 4,000 therapists to improve spontaneous social engagement, to reduce hearing sensitivities, and to improve language processing, state regulation, and spontaneous social engagement. Dr. Porges is a founder of the Polyvagal Institute.


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