The Eight Limbs of Yoga

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Highland Yoga Blog

 The Yoga Sutras are a compilation of yogic wisdom authored by an ancient sage by the name of Patanjali. Found in this text are the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which outline the principles and practices that support our journey toward enlightenment. In today’s society, we are likely quite familiar with some of these practices – physical postures (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana). However, we are likely equally as unfamiliar with the remainder of these principles, though their contribution to our journey is just as relevant. With this in mind, below you will find a brief introduction to each of the Eight Limbs including a corresponding mudra (hand gesture) for aid in contemplating the limb.

1. Yamas (abstinences) – The yamas are 5 abstinences, or ethical guidelines.
1. Ahimsa (non-harming) – When we take the time to care for and show compassion toward ourselves, we recognize and honor an innate desire to be happy, healthy, and at peace. Through this process we also come to understand that this very same longing exists within all beings.  Our motivation then becomes to care for and be just as compassionate to others as we are to ourselves. Kapota Mudra (gesture of the dove) – hands begin in prayer in front of the heart, maintain contact between the fingers tips, outer edges of the thumbs and heels of the hands while the knuckles to bend to either side and create an open space between the palms
2. Satya (truthfulness) – Thoughtfulness in regards to speaking the truth and acting in ways that reflect that understanding may seem like common sense. And it is, but there is a catch. From a yogic perspective, we acknowledge that our life experiences have created a lens through which we view the world. Our job then, in this case, is to seek, speak and act on the truth without the influence of prior conditioning. Samputa Mudra (gesture of the treasure chest) – hands are gently cupped, left hand in front of the belly with palm up, place right hand on top of left with the palm down – right fingers alongside left thumb, heel of right hand alongside outer edge of left hand
3. Asteya (non-stealing) – Non-stealing in this context refers to more than the obvious. We seek a balance of giving and receiving in regards to material goods, services, time and in our interactions and relationships with others.  Hastaphula Mudra (gesture of open hands) hands are held slightly cupped in front of the upper abdomen with palms skyward
4. Bramacharya (conscious use/conservation of energy) – Seeking a balance of rest and activity physically, emotionally and mentally finds us with enough energy to enjoy health and radiance of being, which in turn finds spiritual growth more accessible. The physical component of this equation may seem more accessible, but ensuring that we manage the level of negative thoughts and feelings we choose to give energy to is just as important. Kubera Mudra (gesture of the lord of wealth) – touch the tips of the index and middle fingers to the tips of the thumbs on the same hand, gentle curl remaining fingers in toward palms and backs of the hands on knees or thighs
5. Aparigraha (non-grasping) – Aparigraha involves letting go of attachment to material possessions beyond those which meet our basic needs. It also seeks that same distance and freedom from clinging in regards to our relationships, our stories about ourselves and others, as well as the beliefs that have stemmed from them, as each of these may become an obstacle to our understanding and experience of the true self. Pushpanjali Mudra (gesture of offering flowers) – in front of the belly, gently cup hands with palms skyward and touch the edges of the pinky and ring fingers on the left hand to those on the right

2. Niyamas (observances) – Where the yamas above address our interactions with others, the niyamas relate to matters of the self and offer 5 personal observances.
1. Shaucha (purity) – Purification at the level of the physical body is supported by an appropriate diet and lifestyle. Additionally, creating an external environment that is clean, simple and open contributes to an internal environment that reflects the same, both physically and mentally. When we are able to move through life from a spacious place, we are free from the heaviness and clutter associated with judgement and attachment and can see the world and our true nature more clearly.  Vishuddha Mudra (gesture of purification) – the tips of the thumbs press into the inner edge of the lowest digit on the ring fingers, remaining fingers extend away from the palms, backs of the hands rest on knees or thighs
2. Santosha (contentment) – A modern interpretation of the word contentment might find us feeling as though we are being told to be happy with whatever our circumstances may be, and may even support the notion of complacency. In this context however, we can instead contemplate the term equanimity. One of my teachers, Joseph Le Page, presents the idea of Santosha beautifully by saying “…life’s challenges may disturb the surface of the sea, but we don’t give them the power to affect the calm depths of our inner being.” Chaturmukham Mudra (gesture of four faces) – as if holding a globe between the palms in front of the belly, touch the fingers of the left hand to those of the right with the thumbs extending skyward
3. Tapas (discipline) – Here again, we have the potential of contemporary associations with a word potentially skewing our perspective, as the term discipline may carry with it the idea of punishment. In reference to the idea of Tapas, consider the notion of commitment. It is through our commitment to our practice and personal journey that we cultivate transformation and ultimately, awakening. Mushtikham Mudra (gesture of the fist) – make fists with the thumbs extended skyward, join the length of the thumbs, knuckles and heels of the hands, rest forearms against mid-abdomen
4. Svadhyaya (self-study) – Self-study finds us aware of the experiences and tendencies at the level of body, thoughts and emotions as if viewing them from a few steps back, from the seat of the witness. This detached perspective creates clarity regarding the origins of these experiences and tendencies, which ultimately allows us to be free from them. Sakshi Mudra (gesture of witness consciousness) – hands begin in prayer in front of the heart, bend the knuckles at the base of the fingers out to either side to create a diamond shape, bend the middle knuckles of the thumbs and tuck thumbnails into the space between the palms
5. Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to the divine/consciousness) – Ishvara refers to the consciousness that pervades all of creation. Surrender refers to our willingness to let go of limiting thoughts or beliefs that separate us from that unifying consciousness. Chin Mudra (gesture of consciousness) – touch the tips of the pointer fingers to the tips of the thumbs, remaining fingers extend away from palms, gesture rests on knees or thighs with palms down

3. Asana (physical postures) – Likely the limb that most of us recognize as yoga is this aspect of the practice, the physical postures. Asana translates as “seat” and is introduced in the sutras with the intention of creating a steady and comfortable posture so that we may sit for meditation. Murti Mudra (gesture of the body) – interlace the hands with the right thumb on top, extend the pinky fingers straight and press them into one another, gesture is held in front of belly or resting in lap

4. Pranayama (breathing techniques) – “Prana” is the energy that enlivens and sustains us, and is closely linked to the breath. Because of this relationship, we can influence and nourish the energetic aspect of our being by controlling inhalations, exhalations, and the pauses that follow each. Dirgha Svara Mudra (gesture of expanded breath) – hold hands in front of the heart as if in prayer, but with a few inches separating left hand from right, curl the middle fingers down toward the earth and press the nail bed of the left middle finger into that of the right

5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) – Cultivating an awareness of the experiences created by our senses allows us to then detach from them. Instead, we choose to reside in the aspect of ourselves that is free from the influence of external distractions and the need to reach outward; we reside in our inherent wholeness . Ishvara Mudra (gesture of the lord of creation) – interlace hands the hands with the outer length of the thumbs touching, extend pointer and pinky fingers forward and press them into one another, forearms rest on mid-abdomen

6. Dharana (concentration) – Concentration is the active practice of focusing and continually returning one’s awareness to a chosen object. One may choose to focus on an external object, the flame of a candle for example, or an internal object such as the breath, the belly, or the tip of the nose. Abhisheka Mudra (gesture of anointing) – curl the last three fingers into the palms and extend the pointer fingers forward with their tips touching, join the heels of the hands and align the outer edges of the thumbs, resting them into the space between the pointer fingers, gesture is held in front of mid-abdomen

7. Dhyana (meditation) – When the active aspect of concentration dissolves into a passive and continuous flow of awareness we have transitioned from Dharana to Dhyana.  Dharmadhatu Mudra (gesture of tranquility) – relax the left hand in your lap with the palm facing skyward, rest the right hand on the left, also palm up, join the tips of the thumbs to create a soft oval shape

8. Samadhi (unity consciousness) – A dedicated practice of each of the preceding limbs supports our journey toward this blissful state. Samadhi refers to a complete immersion into the experience of the true self ~ of oneness with all that is. Mandala Mudra (gesture of the circle) – relax the left hand in your lap with the palm facing skyward, rest the right hand on the left, also palm up, join the tips of the thumbs to create a large open circular shape

 

Summer Special for Students

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Events & Workshops, Highland Yoga Blog


Kick off your shoes, grab a mat and join us!!!

This summer at Highland Yoga students will enjoy unlimited classes now through Labor Day for $150!!! Click here to purchase your Student Summer Pass

 

Valid for students age 13 through 22, now through Monday, September 4 only

Brave Yoga – A Meet Up Group for Trauma and PTSD

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Events & Workshops, Highland Yoga Blog

bill ptsd pic.2
with Bill Amos
Friday, August 11
6:30pm – 8:30pm

 

 

For anyone recovering from trauma or PTSD, this group will offer a community and safe place for healing through gentle yoga, meditation and breath work. Our gathering begins with a one hour yoga class followed by a short break, and will end with time for sharing and a cup of tea. Anyone uncomfortable with sharing may leave after the yoga session.

Meet-ups will be scheduled the 1st Friday of every month in various North Jersey locations. Highland Yoga is honored to be hosting April’s gathering. Whether it is your first time practicing yoga, or you are a seasoned practitioner, all levels are welcome. Please bring a yoga mat and wear clothes that will be comfortable to practice in. There will be a release of liability waiver that must be signed in order to participate in the yoga class.

About Bill Amos: Being personally diagnosed with PTSD, I started this group because I saw what yoga has done for me and I want to share that. I am a 200hr Registered Yoga Teacher, currently enrolled in the next level of Teacher Training, and teach at various studios. I am happy to talk with you should you have any questions or need help in any way, and can be reached at www.meetup.com/Brave-Yoga, which is where you can also discover even more information about the group.   Namaste, Bill

Cost: Donation Based Class – Proceeds will be used to help fund the continuation of this class and bring healing to others. If you are unable to donate, please do not feel pressure to do so, let this class be our gift to you!

register

Highland Sutra Circle

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Events & Workshops, Highland Yoga Blog

with Stephen Tortorello
Wednesday, August 2
7:30pm – 9:00pm

 

 

 

 

 

The intention of the Sutra Circle is to explore the myriad principles of yoga philosophy through various works of fiction and non-fiction and to learn how to weave these powerful principles into our contemporary lifestyles. No experience of yoga or yoga philosophy is necessary to participate. Our next circle will review The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.

From the Publisher: What would it be like to free yourself from limitations and soar beyond your boundaries? What can you do each day to discover inner peace and serenity? The Untethered Soul-now a New York Times bestseller-offers simple yet profound answers to these questions. Whether this is your first exploration of inner space, or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you.

By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

Pre-Registration is required by July 26, 2017.
All registrants receive 15% off the cost of the book.

Workshop Cost: $20
Book: $17.95 before discount

Yoga with Dowels

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Events & Workshops, Highland Yoga Blog


with Carolyn Fosko
Saturday, July 1
12:00pm – 1:30pm

 

 

Inform and enhance your asana practice with the assistance of an empty closet!?!? Props are an immeasurably valuable asset to the yogi’s toolbox. They allow us to experience and benefit from poses that might otherwise be inaccessible, while also creating the opportunity to explore deeper expressions of traditional postures. We can even utilize props to provide feedback, informing us of where our body is in space so that we can more easily reclaim that shape going forward. Blocks, blankets, bolsters, straps and even chairs are among the usual suspects, but in this workshop, we’ll be emptying out our closets so that we can explore the use of wooden dowels!!! Expect a new experience of familiar poses and an abundance of laughs as we navigate our way around and under our unlikely prop!

No need to empty your closet…we’ll provide the dowels, but do register early as props are limited. Appropriate for students that practice strong standing postures. Please tell us in advance if you have any injuries or recent surgeries so that we can determine if this workshop is suitable.

Cost:$25

 

Stephen’s Summer Six-pack Sensational

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Events & Workshops, Highland Yoga Blog


with Stephen Tortorello

Thursdays, June 8 thru July 6
7:30pm – 8:30pm

 

 

 

A personal goal of mine, ever since I can remember, is to slim down around the waist and be able to see the abdominal muscles that I know are in there below all those layers of pizza and cookies that have built up over the years. As it turns out, I’m taking a much needed beach vacation in 5 weeks and I figured “it’s now or never!”

This “yoga” class is all about having fun, getting stronger, and getting sweaty. Each week, while we rock out to 80’s music, we’ll focus on core exercises, balance, and strength poses. When you register for the 5 week series, you’ll receive a weekly e-mail with nutrition tips, recipes, and exercise suggestions to help meet your goals and an invite to our facebook group where you can share your challenges and successes.

I’ve often said that Highland Yoga’s students are my motivation. You have inspired me to offer the 108 Sun Salutation workshop, Meditation and Yin Classes, and have made me all the better for it. Hopefully, you have grown for the better as well. So sign up and we’ll help each other reach our goals.

Pre-Registration for this workshop is closed.

Cost: $20 Drop-in space permitting

Holiday Weekend Schedule

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Events & Workshops, Highland Yoga Blog


Friday, June 30
9:00am Hatha Mixed Levels with Tara
9:30am Vinyasa Mixed Levels with Carolyn
12:00pm Yin Yoga with Danielle
6:30pm Restorative with Daria

Saturday, July 1
8:00am Vinyasa Mixed Levels with Stephen
8:30am Vinyasa Int/Adv with Carolyn
9:45am Kripalu Mixed Levels with Angela
10:30am Hatha Beginners with Tara

Sunday, July 2
9:00am Hatha Beginners with Barbara
9:00am Vinyasa Int/Adv with Natalie

Monday, July 3
9:00am Alignment Mixed Levels with Iwona
9:30am Hatha Beginners with Stephen
4:30pm Alignment Mixed Levels with Stephen
6:00pm Gentle/Restorative with Tara
6:00pm Alignment Int/Adv with Carolyn
7:30pm Restorative with Judy

Tuesday, July 4
9:00am Vinyasa Mixed Levels with Carolyn

Highland Yoga 40 Day Challenge

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Highland Yoga Blog

The Transformation begins here… In texts and traditions from all over the world, 40 days represents a complete cycle. It is believed that with compassionate dedication over this length of time, we can create change. With this in mind, join us for a 40 Day exploration of one or all of the following Asana (poses), Pranayama (breathwork) and Dhyana (meditation).

Below you will find a short sequence of poses, with a “challenge” pose appropriate for each level of practitioner. Level 1 practitioners will be working toward Utthan Pristhasana (Descending Lunge), Level 2 will continue to Baddha Utthan Pristhasana (Bound Descending Lunge) and Level 3 to Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya). Feel free to add to the suggested sequence in any way that serves you, and after exploring the challenge pose, end with a favorite twist and savasana. If you prefer to create change by embarking on a more consistent pranayama practice, you will find instructions for Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breath) listed below. The meditation being offered is a technique by Erich Schiffmann.
Please do choose either an asana, pranayama, or meditation, OR embrace an even greater potential for growth by choosing 2 or 3 of these options! We will begin our commitment to practicing them every day beginning Sunday, July 13 and ending Thursday, August 21. Practice at home, or get together with friends… and let the transformation begin!

Click here to download a copy of the sequence below and instructions for the pranayama and meditation.

Let us know how it’s going! Please do share your experiences and support for one another by commenting below. Do also feel free to contact either Carolyn or Stephen with any questions.


1. Supta Padangusthasana A


2. Supta Padangusthasana B


3. Ananda Balasana


4. Parsvakonasana


5. Ardha Baddha Trikonasana


6. Prasaritta Padottanasana C


7. Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation


8. Plank Variation


9. Lunge Variation


10. Level 1 Challenge Pose – Utthan Pristhasana


11. Level 2 Challenge Pose – Baddha Utthan Pristhasana


12. Level 3 Challenge Poses – Eka Pada Koundinyasana II


Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breath)

Find a comfortable seat, close or soften the eyes and cultivate a long, smooth, even breath. Set the first two fingers of the right hand to touch 3rd eye – thumb rests alongside right nostril, last two fingers alongside left nostril. At the end of an exhalation, close off the right nostril and enjoy a long, smooth breath through only the left nostril. At the end of the inhalation, close off the left nostril and exhale through the right. Inhale through that same right side, then close off the right and exhale left. Inhale through the left side, then close off the left and exhale right. Continue with that pattern – exhaling and inhaling through one side, then closing that nostril to exhale and inhale through the other side. After the desired length of time, conclude the pranayama practice with exhaling through the left nostril, releasing hands comfortably to thighs, and returning to a natural breath through both nostrils.


Erich Schiffmann’s Counting Meditation

Find a comfortable seat, close or soften the eyes and set your attention to your breath. Silently count backwards from 50 to 0, beginning on an exhalation with 50, next inhalation 49, etc… until reaching 20. From that point, only count down on the exhalations – exhale 20, inhale no count, exhale 19, inhale no count, etc… until reaching 0. When reaching 0, continue to be aware of the breath, and remain several minutes more.

Enjoy!!!

 

Snowy Yoga

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Highland Yoga Blog

snowman headstand Inspired to play in the snow?

Send us your snowy yoga pics, and we’ll share them on our blog page!!

 

 

 

trish snowy parsvaktrish snowy  natarajasanatrish playing yoga in snow

Highland Yoga 10 Year Anniversary Celebration

By: Highland Yoga Posted in: Highland Yoga Blog

10yrcakeTHANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

 

 

Much love and gratitude to everyone who contributed to and shared in our celebration on Saturday. What a gift to step back and witness the gathering of so many radiant souls celebrating and enjoying each other’s presence. You have all created an amazingly supportive and uplifting community. Thank you, we are ever grateful for each of you.

Courtesy of Tricia Stevens, CLICK HERE to see some photos from this magical night on Shutterfly.