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Yoga Therapy vs. Traditional Therapy: What's the Difference?

You may have come to this site looking for healing. Congratulations, you have come to an excellent place for this! At Grand Rapids Healing Yoga, we specialize in guiding people to their own inner healing from a variety of issues such as trauma, anxiety, grief, and depression. We believe that you already have everything you need within you, but you may need a little assistance to get there.

You are probably familiar with traditional talk therapy. In this format, a therapist will sit with you, listen to what your current struggles are, and do their best to help you mentally process the best way for you to work through these issues. However, this format of therapy works primarily with the cognitive part of your brain. Although this is important and necessary, we often need more to reclaim our lives from these kinds of issues.

Trauma and somatic (body based) disconnections are not stored in the same part of your brain.

It is very difficult for many people to find healing in their bodies using only thinking and talking methods.

At Grand Rapids Healing Yoga, we work on helping you through movement to rediscover your own strength stored within your body.

While yoga is not the only way to do this, it is an excellent method. Your therapist- Rachael, Betsy, or me- will help you explore your body's sensations and reconnect to your body and your own identity. This approach will help you to be grounded and establish safety in your body so that you have a safe place to process life events.

This works- there is a TON of research* that shows this- because when we work through yoga, we are working in the same part of your brain that STORES trauma and other issues. When this part of your brain is activated, the stored energy that occurs during trauma can actually be released, not just cognitively processed. Cognitive processing can help you understand WHY you are feeling or acting the way you are, and is often a second step once you are connected and have some control over your sensations. With this type of yoga based therapeutic work, the hormones that often cause this energy to remain in our bodies will shift to alleviate these symptoms. When we work with the part of the brain that has been impacted by trauma (or anxiety, or depression), we can actually help release the stored energy that causes those reactions. So, if for example you experience flashbacks or sleep issues, releasing this stored energy can help you have fewer flashbacks or sleep better. After you are solidly grounded and safe in your body, you will be able to move into the cognitive processing safely.

For many people, this is a new concept. If it's new to you, you are not alone!

The most wonderful thing is that anyone can do this.

Yoga therapy is not the same as a yoga class. While we might suggest certain positions, any body type or level of ability is able to physically do the work that we will guide you through. So please, don't be afraid of what we will ask you to do!

It doesn't matter what you think you can physically do. What we will focus on in these sessions is guiding you to re-connect to the physical sensations in your own body, in a safe and supported setting.

If you think this may be helpful for you, please contact us today at or by calling 616-901-8932.

* Two excellent books that show some of this research are Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score and Peter Levine's Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.

Jessica Gladden, LMSW, PhD is a social worker and yoga instructor in Grand Rapids. She uses a combination of yoga, mindfulness, and talk therapy to work with adolescents and adults to assist with experiences relating to trauma, anxiety, depression, and life adjustment issues.

535 Greenwood Ave. Suite 200 East Grand Rapids, 49506​


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