Tapping into our heart space, practicing gratitude and compassion is a simple way that anyone can connect more deeply within themselves and carry that into their relationships with others. The gassho meditation is very simple and can be easily practiced alone or in a group. Try this delightful meditation to feel more connected and gain more clarity.
What is Gassho?
Gassho is a Japanese word that literally means bring two hands together. The basic hand position (Mudra) would equally be called prayer hands in English or Anjali Mudra in Sanskrit, the primary language of yoga. No matter what you choose to call the hand position symbolically all three share the idea of being in service, showing respect, carrying goodwill for one another, or holding gratitude. The hand position is often used as a greeting or as a ritualistic gesture. Most likely you have already experienced this gesture in some form.
What is Gassho Meditation?
Gassho meditation is a simple form of focus that is a very popular practice in the Reiki Tradition (Energetic healing art). Gassho is considered to be one of the three pilars of Rieki as taught by Dr. Mikao Usui , the founder of the modern Reiki Practice. It is said that Usui Sensei practiced this meditation daily and taught its power of love and connection to his students.
5 Simple Steps to Gassho Meditation:
Tips and variations:
Remain lighthearted throughout the practice and tune into your joy.
Chris Loebsack, 500 ERYT
Photo Below- Educator Karen Iracane in Gassho, by Chris Loebsack
Many of us have heard that mediation is a great way to quiet the mind and help manage stress in our lives. Unfortunately, not many people have the patience or attention span to sit quietly and reflect from within. This makes it hard for people to think about a mediation practice and how to start the process. Thankfully, there is a technique called Mantra.
Mantra is a word or something smaller, such as a sound or syllable, that has meaning to the person saying or repeating it. While saying a Mantra, it is usually used in a repetitious way, which is called Japa. Mantras could consist of the practitioner paying tribute to a god or goddess, but it does not have to be. It could also be a word, saying or phrase that helps the person concentrate on their own journey and what they might want within it. A mantra can be spoken out loud or a thought in the mind.
During a mantra meditation, the practitioner would repeat the mantra multiple times. Usually, a mantra is repeated 108 times. I know you are thinking, “how many of us can count and speak at the same time?” The use of mala beads can help the counting process while you say the mantra or think it. Mala beads can be a long necklace with 108 beads around it. Each time you say your Mantra, your pointer finger and thumb would be placed on one bead. As you continue, the pointer and thumb work their way around the beads, until you are back at the start.
Being someone who has a sporadic mediation practice, I decided to try a mantra meditation. To help with my counting, I used a set of mala beads. I chose a mantra that meant something to me and would help me manifest certain qualities I want to emphasize in my life. This mantra was, “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha, which Mary Grace Garis defines in short as, “Salutations to the remover of obstacles.” For the next 2 weeks, I would be indulging myself in a mantra practice. When I started, I felt no different. It felt like I was doing one extra thing in my day. By the end of week one, I had already observed: I was more comfortable saying the mantra, I could notice my breathing patterns, and I felt less anxious. By the end of two weeks, I had developed a strong comfortable seat and was using my mantra meditation 2-3 times a day! It felt so good to continue the meditation, I just kept going! I will keep this mantra meditation moving forward, as the benefits are priceless. Have I noticed anything in relation to overcoming obstacles? I first thought, not that I am aware of. Then I realized, starting this meditation in the first place, was a large obstacle to overcome.
Ashley Hackett is a certified Hot Yoga Educator and 200hr ERYT and is currently enrolled in the Boundless Yoga Studio 300 hr Yoga Educators Advanced Studies Program. She balances her love of heat building practices with her meditation, yin yoga and restorative yoga sessions.
Just imagine for a moment attempting to simply navigate a sidewalk...during an earthquake. The earth tremors beneath your feet, your body saying side to side, and back and forth. Combine that with just having completed a mud run. Your body aches and your shoes and clothes are saturated and heavy. Welcome to the world of movement disorders.
Facing the daily challenge of degenerative neurological disorders since my late twenties has promoted my to find a non-invasive, physically adaptable and psychologically beneficial method of pain management and intervention. From benign essential tremor (involuntary tremors including the shaking of hands, head, voice, arms and legs) to dystonia (painful, involuntary muscle contractions causing tremors while twisting and locking muscles into abnormal posture) to Parkinson's (tremors with rigidness of body parts and speech), simple everyday movements and speaking have become increasingly difficult. Many people who share the aforementioned conditions generally become reclusive , both physically and mentally. The following has helped me and hope to share these tools with those in similar situations.
Incorporating yoga into a daily routine can help improve balance, flexibility, posture, self-awareness and psychological/social well being. Yoga, by general definitions is the discipline by one seeks to achieve liberation from suffering through union with our own supreme spirit or universal soul through intense concentration, deep meditation, the practice of postures, and by controlling the patterns of breathing. The body postures and breathing techniques help to stretch our muscles, open our fascia and create space in the joints which in turn affects our nervous system. This process allows for the release of impurities within our system and revitalizes our tissues to help purify our bodies and minds. Meditation too helps to calm the mind which affects the nervous system and in turn clams our bodies releasing our stress and anxiety.
There are many styles and types of yoga. Here are a few that I have found most accessible and helpful in working with my own movement disorders.
Somatic Yoga- Connection between brain and motor skills
Somatic yoga focuses on the portion of the nervous system that regulates voluntary movement. These slow/causal movements are generally grounded (floor or chair) and help to center the trunk of the body which aids in stability as on connects to the ground. This style of yoga helps to forge a relationship between the brain, the senses, and the motor skills.
Restorative Yoga- Deep relaxation
Restorative yoga is a style of yoga accessible to anyone at any time to create balance, quiet and restore our core energy. The system uses props and supports that allow the practitioner to hold poses for a longer period of time without strain, promoting deeper relaxation and creating a space for healing. Restorative yoga has a great therapeutic impact during times of illness, injury, pain, stress and over scheduled lives. Restorative yoga helps to cultivate a healing environment in the body by balancing the nervous system all systems’ optimal energy flow; restoring us at a physical, physiological, energetic and emotional level. Props may include, but are certainly not limited to, blankets, bolsters, chairs, blocks, straps and eye pillows.
Chair Yoga- Adaptable and supported yoga
Chair Yoga is authentic, accessible yoga for everyone. The physical poses are modified to be done seated on the chair or using the chair as a guide in some manner. Chair Yoga is an appropriate practice for those who may find a traditional mat class too challenging, and also for practitioners looking to augment their practice with a creative, gentle form of yoga. The pendulum can swing both ways as the chair is also an excellent tool for learning how to move gradually into more advanced asanas with confidence and support.
Yin Yoga- Slow, steady, stretch
Yin yoga is a style of yoga that is characterized by its longer held positions with a focus on increasing flexibility in myofascial tissue and increased range of motion in the joints. The pace of yin poses and classes is slow and patient. Each yin pose is held approximately forty five seconds up to two or three minutes. In some cases poses may be held upwards of five minutes. Yin yoga classes consist mainly of passively held floor postures with a stronger focus on the lower body.
There is a yoga practice accessible for everyone. Come and join us. See for yourself the incredible physical, mental and social rewards that yoga can bring you.
Tina Lavacca is currently registered in the Boundless Yoga Studio 200hr Teacher Training program. She is set to graduate in May of 2020 and looks forward to sharing her path and the healing potential of the yoga practice with you.
Stretching and Flexibility: Different Types of Stretch Encourage Different Outcomes by Chris Loebsack
Not all stretch is created equal. There are several factors that can support stretch and depending on your currently level of mobility some might work better for you than others.
The short story is there are essentially 4 main components to stretch that when mixed in different ways add a different utility to the poses and encourage different results.
4 Components of Stretch
Below we have listed some stretching vocabulary and techniques. There are many “methods” and “brands” of stretching, but all movement cobines these elements to create a specific way to invigorate and release the tissues of the body.
Static Stretching (No Motion)
Static stretching means a stretch is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually somewhere between 15 to 30 seconds. In the case of some styles of static yoga stretches they may be held from 30 second up to 2 minutes or more. Static stretching is considered safe and effective for improving overall flexibility. However, we may consider that static stretching may be much less beneficial than dynamic stretching for improving range of motion for functional movement, including sports and daily activities.
Dynamic Stretching (Motion)
Dynamic stretching means a stretch is performed by moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly, usually 10 to 12 times. Although dynamic stretching might feel more challenging to some students as it requires more coordination than static stretching (because of the movement involved). Note that dynamic stretching should not be confused with bouncing or ballistic stretching. Dynamic stretching is purposful, smooth, and deliberate, whereas bouncing stretching is uncontrolled, erratic, and jerky. The risks that may occur in a bouncing stretch far out way the rewards. Controlled moments lend stability and therefore decrease the chance of injury. Flow Yoga works in continuous motion in a dynamic way.
Passive Stretching (No muscular contraction at that joint)
Passive stretching means you’re using some sort of outside assistance such as body weight, a strap, leverage, gravity, another person, or a stretching device to help you achieve a stretch. With passive stretching, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the external force to hold you in place. Effort in a passive stretch should be minimal. Please use caution as there is always the risk that the external force will be stronger than you are flexible, which could cause injury.
Active Stretching (Muscular contraction of the opposite side to facilitate stretch)
Active stretching means you’re stretching a muscle by consciously contracting the muscle in opposition to the one you’re stretching without the use your body weight, a strap, leverage, gravity, another person, or a stretching device. With active stretching, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the opposing muscle to initiate the stretch or you are working with an eccentric contraction where the muscle is trying to contract as it is lengthening. Active stretching can be challenging because of the muscular force required to generate the stretch but is generally considered lower risk because you are controlling the stretch force with your own strength rather than an external force.
In Addition to these 4 component/ types of stretch there are 2 more techniques of stretch that movement professionals will consider. They are Isometric and PNF.
Isometric Stretching- This type of stretching is Static. It alternated between and active engagement of the muscle being stretched and relaxing the muscle you are trying to stretch. For example if you are in a seated forward fold hold it for a few minutes you would alternate between contracting and releasing the hamstrings and calves while in the pose.
PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)- This style of stretching requires a partner of a facilitator and acts similarly to Isometric Stretching. PNF stretching most effective way known to increase static-passive flexibility. PNF is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It is not really a type of stretching but is a technique of combining passive stretching and isometric stretching in order to achieve maximum static flexibility. Example: Supine One Leg Hamstring Stretch: The receiver would press into the facilitators hand with the back of their leg to create resistance engaging the hamstrings. When the receiver releases the contraction and the muscle becomes passive, the facilitator will keep the resistance on the limb guiding it deeper into the pose. This alternating contraction and release may go 3-5 rounds.
Types of Yoga currently offered at Boundless Yoga Studio and How stretch applies.
(Schedule is subject to change and can be found HERE)
RESTORATIVE YOGA (Static/ Passive) - Passive, relaxed positions using full support and gravity to gently open the body in comfortable positions. Great to release stress and go within.
7:00 am WED Gentle Yoga (also included some basic flow) w/ Kate Deangelo
7:15 pm THURS Body, Mind Meditation- Restorative Yoga w/ Karen Iracane
YIN YOGA and ALIGNMENT CLASSES (Combination Static/ Active and Static Passive)- These classes use longer held positions often with active engagement to facilitate a deeper opening in the myofascia.
* Yin classes are more seated and supine poses good for overall range of motion. Alignment classes will work the full spectrum of postures and do not hold the poses as long as the Yin style. Easy to adapt to all levels of practice.
9:30 am MON Hatha/ Align w/ Chris Loebsack
5:30 pm TUES ( L0-1) Beginners Plus (may also add some flow) w/ Devon Blakely
8:15 am WED YIN w/ Tracy Gross
8:15 am FRI YIN w/ Tracy Gross
FLOW or VINYASA CLASSES- (Dynamic/ Active) These classes work the muscles through their full range of motion while moving fairly consistently. Example- Sun Salutations. Great for students who like to move.
8:15 am MON Open Level Flow
5:30 pm MON Level 1-2 Zen Flow
9:30 am TUES Open Level Flow
5:30 pm WED Open Level Flow
7:15 pm WED Brand new Beginner Flow
9:30 am THURS Progressions to Expressions (Moderate to experienced practitioners)
5:30 pm THURS (MAY 9th-30th, 2019) Introduction to AcroYoga- Partner Practice
9:30 pm FRI Yoga Conditioning Open Level
9:30 am SUN Level 1-2 Flow
Many classes to some degree will use a little bit of all types while some classes specialize. YIN Classes will be primarily static/ active while something like our Dynamic Stretch Classes will focus on moving through a comfortable range of motion in a dynamic/active way. Passive assists from teachers will help to encourage the body to find where it can potentially go.
There are always new classes and more workshop and weekend training offerings on the schedule, we hope you enjoy trying some of our highlighted features. Send us your yoga questions so we can keep Chris busy writing more blogs! firstname.lastname@example.org
About Chris Loebsack
Chris Loebsack, 500 E.R.Y.T, fell in love with yoga in 1995 and began teaching in 2003. Chris uses the power of yoga to create a space for students that cultivates trust, playfulness and Divine connection with themselves and with community. Living by her mantra, Clarity, Integrity and Love, she draws upon her partner yoga practice to share the healing power of touch and safe intimacy. A passion for discovering subtlety in movement has lead Chris to deepen her education with the Anatomy Studies for Yoga Teachers® kinesiology program. Her playful yet focused classes are filled with user friendly gems of applied anatomy leaving students with a greater understanding of how to find comfort and space in their bodies and smiles beaming across their faces. She encourages teachers to set a higher standard of excellence through knowledge and has become a valuable mentor to many upcoming yoga educators.
Chris teaches privates, classes and workshops across the globe. She is currently the director of the Boundless Yoga 200 hr and 500 hr Teacher Training programs and an Adjunct Teacher Trainer for the Om Factory® School of Yoga NYC 200hr, BambooMoves, Bhakti Barn Yoga, Just Plain Yoga, and NearMe Yoga 200hr Teacher Training Programs. She has also been featured in Fitness Magazine®, Yoga Journal: Yoga Mentor, Good an Well, Local Flair Magazine and the New York Times. In addition to yoga you are likely to find her laughing with friends and family or quietly meditating with her cats (Sukha, Fuzz-butt, and Squirrel) or traveling and teaching with her husband Brian M. Davis as Boundless Motion.
Boundless Yoga Studio Classes:
Alignment and Anatomy of Yoga (All Levels) Mondays 9:30 am
Zen Flow (Level 1/2) Mondays 5:30 pm
Flow (Level 2/3 Progressions to expressions) Thursdays 9:30 am
(MAY 9th-30th, 2019) Introduction to AcroYoga- Partner Practice 5:30 pm THURS
Flow (Level 1) Sundays 9:30 am
How I Got My Groove Back! The Importance of Movement and How Gosh Darn Simple It Can be. by Ashley Hackett
Movement has always been a major part of my life. When I was young, I was always outside in the yard helping my father and through my schooling I was busy with sports and marching band (Yes, it’s a sport!). Then a scary time came when I had to obtain a job that would sustain the lifestyle I chose. This meant paying this person “Bill” every month, who had other Bookies named “College-Loan”, “Rent”, “Insurance” … you get the picture.
I eventually found an amazing job! But it was a desk job. I was always on the move, and now would be glued to a desk, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I started to panic about how my body would handle the transition. IT WAS AWFUL. I felt tight, stiff, achy, inflamed; I couldn’t bare the aches and pains. But then, one day in a yoga class, a few instructors bestowed upon me information that was as clear as day. “Why not try some warm-up exercises before a class to help the joints lubricate?” “What??” I thought to myself. I’ve been running for the past 12 years, practicing yoga for 10, and that didn’t occur to me? That “Aha” moment hit me hard and ever since, I have been incorporating it into my own home practices AND at my job! That achy body isn’t as stiff and grumpy! HALLELUJAH!
Just these simple movements have helped me:
Neck Releases: Depending on your body or the time of day, you may want to try something as gentle as releasing your ear to the same side shoulder and hold. Repeat on the other side. This could also include looking side to side and up and down-bringing your chin to your chest.
Wrist Circles: Make fists with the hands and circles with the wrists will help open up the wrist joints. If you have a job where you use your hands, fingers and wrists a lot, this will help you relieve some of the tightness. It will help get into the connective tissue of the hands/wrists. Also, try to bring the wrist joints together and make circles outward in front of you, then switch and go inward toward the chest.
-Ankle circles can be done with flexed and pointed feet, also!
Cow/Cat: Start with a neutral spine, relaxing the stomach-letting it move toward the floor, having a U-shape in the spine, gazing upward. This will also have a nice opening of the chest! Slowly move the gaze toward straight then downward, pulling in the stomach and rounding the spine upward toward the sky, like a cat. Make sure to actively ground down through the hands, round the spine, and engage the core!
Boundless Yoga Staff & Students
We are continuously interested on how our reactions and responses to our personal journeys, albeit travel, adventure, new job, etc. mirror and reflect our social, emotional and spiritual ups and downs. We try every day to apply what we learn about ourselves on the yoga mat to our personal lives. Thank you for tuning in as we share some of those aspects with you.