Brave Yoga – A Meet Up Group for Trauma and PTSD

bill ptsd pic.2
with Bill Amos
Friday, March 9
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 November’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, 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!


How does your lettuce grow?

As the summer comes to a close and we are harvesting the last little bits from our garden, I came across this passage from Thich Nhat Hahn that I wanted share. This comes from his book titled Peace is Every Step:

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. One day in Paris, I gave a lecture about not blaming the lettuce. After the talk, I was doing walking meditation by myself, and when I turned the corner of a building, I overheard an eight-year-old girl telling her mother, ‘Mommy, remember to water me. I am your lettuce.’ I was so pleased that she had understood my point completely. Then I heard her mother reply, ‘Yes, my daughter, and I am your lettuce also. So please don’t forget to water me too.’ Mother and daughter practicing together, it was very beautiful.”

I know, especially these days, that it’s easy blame others for the state of the county or the world, but as Thich Nhat Hahn says, “blaming has no positive effect at all.” If we truly want the state of our world, our lives, or just our relationships with others to change, we need to deepen our understanding of what nourishes them. Are they getting enough water, sun, love? If not, perhaps we can help nourish them. If we are attentive gardeners, then our crops will grow well. If we neglect our crops, they will certainly suffer. Our relationships with one another are no different. We all need tending to in order to flourish.


The Eight Limbs of Yoga

 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


Highland Yoga 40 Day Challenge

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.



Snowy Yoga

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




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.

Vyana Vayu

Vyana Vayu is the current of energy that permeates through and integrates the entire body.  As inhalations are drawn into the body, energy flows from the limbs in toward the low belly, while exhalations find energy radiating back out toward the periphery of the body.  This vayu supports the nervous system, as well as the circulation of blood and lymph through the body.  Especially active in the limbs, a freely flowing Vyana Vayu enjoys grace in movement and in being – finding coordination, balance, and harmony on all levels.  It is associated with chakras 2 through 6 (Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha and Ajna) and the elements of water, fire, air and space.

Vyana vayu is supported by the following:

asana – standing poses, balancing poses

pranayama – nadi shodhana

meditation/visualization – laying in savasana with heels shoulder width and arms angled a fair distance away from the body – visualize a pool of violet healing energy welling up in the low belly on inhalations and mindfully flowing from the low belly through all limbs, neck and head on exhalations – sensing health, vibrance, and integration on all levels of being (feel free to substitute violet with another color that you may more strongly associate with health/healing)

mudra – Anushasana Mudra – make a fist with thumbs resting on the second knuckle of the middle finger, pointer fingers extend away from palms, hands resting comfortably on lap, or held to either side of shoulders with pointer fingers skyward

Explore Vyana Vayu with Carolyn in each of her classes the week of September 29.

Shanti, shanti, shanti


Udana Vayu

Udana Vayu is the current of energy that ascends from the collarbones, through the neck, throat and head on inhalations, and circulates throughout the head and senses on exhalations.  It supports the central nervous system, endocrine system and the senses.  It’s health and vitality nourishes the 5th & 6th chakras (Vishuddha and Ajna); fostering mental clarity and focus, as well as the ability to discern and speak in honor of one’s true voice.  It also enhances the power of intuition.  This uppermost flow of energy is associated with the element of space.

Udana Vayu functions optimally when Samana, Prana and Apana Vayus are all flowing freely.  This finds it most effectively nourished toward the end of an asana practice, when these other vayus have already been awakened and balanced.  With that in mind, to follow are a few practices for nurturing Udana Vayu:

asana – postures that bring attention to the neck, throat and head, inversions – setu bandhasana (bridge), sarvangasana (shoulderstand), halasana (plough), matsyasana (fish), sirsasana (headstand)

pranayama – ujjayi, simhasana

meditation/visualization – slowly and mindfully direct the awareness as follows: to the experience of the skin – beginning at the toes and gradually making your way up to the crown of the head, to the sensations of the breath entering and exiting the body at the rims of the nostrils,  the length of the nostrils, the breath swirling around the back of the throat, then become aware of the mouth, tongue, inner ears, eyes, and finally third eye

mudra – Linga Mudra – interlace hands with right thumb on top, extend left thumb only skyward, set wrists against solar plexus (just below low ribs)

Carolyn will be exploring Udana Vayu in each of her classes the week of September 22.

Shanti, shanti, shanti

Samana Vayu

“Sama” means equal, and in the context of Samana Vayu refers to its home at the center of the solar plexus as being the point of balance between Apana Vayu (downward current/exhalation focused) and Prana Vayu (upward current/inhalation focused).  It’s influence on the breath reflects this balance through equal inhalations and exhalations.  The inhales find energy radiating from the solar plexus outward in all directions horizontally, while the exhales find that energy drawn in toward the deep core.  Samana Vayu supports the digestive system, as well as all of the abdominal organs.  It is associated with the 3rd chakra, Manipura, and the element of fire.  A vibrant transformational fire finds us nourished on all levels, allowing us to digest and assimilate not only food, but also sensory perceptions and experiences.  With the clarity to see the growth and learning afforded by even our more challenging moments, we emerge stronger, more confident, and with a greater sense of direction.

An offering of practices the awaken Samana Vayu:

asana – twists, forward bends, backbends done laying on the belly

pranayama – samavrtti (equal inhalation and exhalations), bhastrika (similar to kapalabhati, but with equally forceful inhalations and exhalations)

meditation/visualization – seated in meditation, visualize a warm and radiant golden energy within the solar plexus, sense its horizontal expansion outward in all directions on inhalations, and its return to center on exhalations

mudra – Matangi Mudra – interlace hands with right thumb on top, extend middle fingers forward, set wrists in front of solar plexus (space between low ribs and navel)

Experience Samana Vayu in classes with Carolyn the week of September 15.

Shanti, shanti, shanti

Prana Vayu

Prana Vayu is the upward current of energy that flows from the navel up into all areas of the lungs, ribs, upper back, heart, chest and shoulders.  Focused on inhalations, it nourishes the cardio-respiratory system, and by way of increasing circulation to the thymus gland, supports optimal functioning of the immune system.  This vayu is associated with the heart chakra, Anahata, as well as the element of air.  Literally uplifting, this current of energy enlivens us with a sense of confidence, optimism and vitality.

An offering of practices that awaken Prana Vayu:

asana – lateral bends, back bends, poses that find arms radiating out from heart center

pranayama – breath of joy

meditation/visualization – within the expanse of the lungs and ribs, visualize a brilliant blue sky caressed by perfect white clouds

mudra – Prana Mudra – touch tips of pinky and ring fingers to tips of thumbs, middle and pointer fingers extend away from palm, hands can be placed palm up on lap, or with hands alongside shoulders and palms forward

Experience Prana Vayu in class with Carolyn the week of September 8.

Shanti, shanti, shanti