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The Yoga of Silent Reflection

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“Yoga” comes from the ancient Sanskrit root “yuj” which literally means union. Yoga creates balance and union between the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga connects our soul to the universal consciousness which many of us call God. But when we think of Yoga we normally associate it with the physical practice (asana) and breathing exercises (prana). In truth asana and prana are just part of the paths to reach awareness and enlightenment. The highest joy can be achieved through Yoga of silent reflection or by following the philosophy and practice of the Yoga Sutras. The Western world is now realizing the holistic benefits of Yoga and what it can bring on man’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

The Yoga of Silent Reflection

Yoga is a 3,000-year-old tradition that brings about a meditative state on people that practice it. Yoga Sutras is the acknowledged authoritative text on Yoga which is credited to the ancient sage Patanjali. He formulated the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Ashtanga or “eight limbs” is the eightfold path to awareness and enlightenment. These are the ethical principles to follow to live a meaningful and purposeful life.

  1. Yama (Ethical standards)
  2. Niyama (Self-discipline)
  3. Asanas (Postures)
  4. Pranayama (Breath control)
  5. Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal)
  6. Dharana (Concentration)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Spiritual Ecstasy).

Many different yogic disciplines  have been developed based on Yoga Sutras like Yoga Nidra and Hatha yoga. Each discipline has its own techniques but all of them are geared to attain the state of yoga or the union of the body and mind.

The unification of our body and mind using series of body postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) enhances the capacity of our physical body. Performing the asanas and pranayama releases the blockages in the energy channels of our body. Clearing the energy system creates balance on our body and mind. Even the medical community recognises Yoga as a form of mind-body medicine because it integrates the individual’s mental, physical and spiritual components to improve all aspects of health.

The National Institutes of Health classified Yoga as a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Yoga is a holistic mind-body fitness. The therapeutic effects of Yoga include reduction or alleviation of physiological, emotional and spiritual pains. There are four basic principles that make Yoga a complete healing system. Our body is composed of various interrelated dimension (body, mind, and soul), this is the first principle. Each dimension is inseparable from one another; the health of one dimension affects the other dimensions. Good health can only be attained through the union (Yoga) of all the dimensions. The second principle states that every individual is unique. Yoga is self-empowering, this is the third principle. The fourth principle states that a positive mind is crucial to healing. You must play an active role in your own healing because healing comes from within.

Breathing exercises and physical postures get our body and mind ready to reach the state of meditation and enlightenment. If we follow the philosophy and practice of Yoga we will cultivate a sense of calmness and well-being. Stress is implicated in numerous diseases like heart disease and cancer. Medical evidence shows that Yoga improves all aspects of health by reducing stress. Let us make Yoga a part of our stress management. By living the Yoga philosophy and practice we will change our life’s perspective and improve our life force enabling us to live our life in spiritual bliss.

The 8 Yoga postures for Pregnant Women

In times of pregnancy when women are battling mood swings at varying levels, fatigue and sickness, painful leg cramps and breathing problems; yoga exercises, techniques and postures ease the mental and physical burden while also safeguarding the health and success of both the labour and birth. The primary aim of pregnancy yoga is to help the mother bring the new born safely into the world with the minimum amount of stress and struggle. The 8 x positions and exercises practiced across the three trimesters of pregnancy differ with every phase and require professional and expert supervision in the correct environment.

 
A pregnant woman must take into consideration her health history before commencing an exercise routine. For those who are doing yoga for the first time it is recommended to progress through beginner level and get a feel for the rhythm and exertions required. With all clauses and health tips in mind, let us now move forward to the ‘asanas‘ most recommended for would-be-mothers. The 8 x yoga postures focus on strengthening the pelvic muscles that help enhance the womb for the healthy growth of the foetus. By doing this regular exercise, natural hormones are released known as ‘endorphins‘ that keep the mother energetic and in a positive frame of mind.

1.Vakrasna (Twisted pose), sit erect with feet stretched in front, inhale and raise your arms at shoulder level, palms facing down. Exhale, twist your body from waist towards your right moving head and hands simultaneously to the same side. Swing arms back as much as possible. Do not bend your knees. Inhale and resume the original position maintaining your hands shoulder level and parallel to each other. Repeat on other side. This posture works and conditions the spine, legs, hands, neck and abdominal region.

2. Utkatasana (Chair pose), stand erect with feet 12 inches apart, keep feet parallel to each other, inhale for 2 seconds and raise your heels and arms at shoulder level palms facing down, exhale slowly then assume a sitting squat pose (on your toes) keeping your hands in the same position, inhale and get up slowly, stretch and stand up on tip toes, exhale placing hands and heels down simultaneously. This posture strengthens thigh and pelvic muscles.

3. Konasana (Angle pose), stand erect with feet 24 inches apart, leaning on a wall for support if required, raise your right hand up keeping your elbow straight, stretch and inhale, bend sideward towards your left, exhale and drop your hands down. Repeat on other side. This posture promotes flexibility of waist and regulates or tightens body fat around the stomach and abdomen.

4. Paryankasana (Ham’s pose with one leg) lie down on your back, straighten your legs keeping your knees together, fold your right leg in at the knee, breathe normally, hold the position as long as you’re comfortable and repeat the same on other side. Straighten your leg. Repeat with the left leg. This posture strengthens the abdominal and thigh muscles.

5. Hast Panangustasana (Extended hand through big toe pose), lie down on your back, straighten your legs keeping your body in one line, make T-position with hands palms facing down, slide right leg towards your right side, reach down to hold your right toe with your right hand, slide your leg back to original position, repeat on other side. This posture strengthens the leg and pelvic muscles.

6. Bhadrasana (Butterfly pose), sit on the mat with legs fully stretched keeping the legs in contact with the mat, form ‘Namaste’ with your feet, sit erect without leaning forward, place your hands on knees or thighs. Hold the posture as long as you can, straighten your legs and repeat again. This posture strengthens the inner thigh region.

7. Parvatasana (Mountain pose), sit on the mat, inhale, raise your arm and join your palms in ‘Namaste’ position keeping your elbows straight, raise your hands to your neck, hold the position for a few seconds and repeat 2-3 times. This posture improves body strength while relieving backache.

8. Yastikasana (Stick pose), lie down on your back, straighten your legs keeping your body in one line with knees and feet together, point feet upward hands resting at sides. Inhale and raise hands, stretch upward pushing toes out simultaneously. Exhale, raise your hands and resume original position. Repeat 3-4 times. This posture corrects body contours posture, stretches ligaments and tendons and relieves general body tension.

Note, once the expectant mother feels uncomfortable doing an asana, it is advisable to stop immediately without further straining the muscles. Avoid forward bending asanas, inverted poses and exercises that might put pressure on the abdomen. Asanas that require lying down on the weight of your stomach should be strictly avoided and any exercises involving balance should be done with utmost care. Also avoid hurrying into any weight-loss exercise regime immediately after the delivery. Post-natal yoga should be practiced only when the mother’s physical and mental strength is fully restored. These stretching exercises encourage circulation, increase fluid retention and, most of all, relieve external and internal stress

Yoga: Weight Loss for the Mind & Body

There are many ways to lose weight and it can only achieve by being disciplined, determined and dedicated towards weight loss goal. One of the most popular ways is yoga. Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India over 300 decades ago. While yoga is often thought of as the physical practice, the full practice includes all aspects of lifestyle including diet, mental attitude, choices about one’s lifestyle and philosophical study.

There are different levels of yoga. There is yoga that’s meant for the mind, and there’s power yoga that’s more of an exercise.  If your goal is weight loss, choosing one of the vigorous, flowing styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Power Yoga, is the smart choice. These classes traditionally last 90 minutes, and can most definitely have a cardiovascular benefit. You will burn calories, tone and stretch your muscles, and provide weight bearing exercise for your bones with these forms of yoga. Your metabolism will be raised through the activity and you can see body shaping changes and even weight loss.

Performing a yoga fitness routine target all major muscle groups and utilizes the individual’s body weight and gravity as resistance. Many of the poses and movements performed in a yoga exercise session focus on core development. The lower back, upper and lower abdominals, obliques and gluteal muscles receive a reasonable workout that will promote safe and effective weight loss. This results in improvements in muscular strength, mass and tone.

It is important to understand the various factors that contribute in weight gain. Apart from faulty dietary habits, one should identify that weight gain also stems from inefficient functioning of various bodily functions. Yoga has some of the most basic breathing practices at its base which aims at cleansing, balancing and rejuvenating our inner organs and their functions. Various breathing exercises and basic asanas help in increasing metabolic and heart rates. Once you are healed from within, the focus then shifts towards the outer body.

Most individuals also need to change both their energy intake and energy expenditure to lose weight but many individuals eat more when they are feeling stressed and yoga can help combat stress, which can influence one’s energy intake. Stress can lead to a poor diet. The best strategy to losing weight and keeping it off is by understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions towards emotional eating so it stands to reason that a regular yoga practice, by improving how the brain controls your reaction to stress, could lead to healthier food choices and easier weight loss.

Experts agree that increasing your physical activity level is a good first step towards losing weight. So, with that in mind, it is important to choose the right style of yoga. Here at ACM Group yoga, we can help you to choose the right style of yoga that is best suitable for you to achieve your desired goal. Regularly performing a yoga fitness routine will promote safe and effective weight loss and will provide your body, mind and spirit with an excellent workout experience.

Yoga Tours: Candy Consciousness for The Social Media Set

ACM Group meditation travel

Yoga can take you places, and I mean literally! Yes, countless yogis have travelled the world on a one-of-a-kind retreat balancing relaxation, wellness and adventure through yoga tours. This hot new trend in travel lets participants practice yoga in different parts of the world whilst relaxing and invigorating their bodies, minds and spirits.

What attracts countless people from all over the world to join these tours, you ask? Yoga tours offer incredible opportunities for deep relaxation and rejuvenation in the most beautiful and relaxing environment. When people are on a yoga tour, they have a complete break from their daily responsibilities. They feel liberated and are able to let go of their worries and fears which results in experiencing a deeper level of contentment and harmony within them.

Yoga retreats can change your life.

Some benefits include:

  • Expanding your consciousness which makes transformation faster
  • Nurturing you through deep relaxation and rejuvenation
  • Helping you gain perspective as you find solitude from reflection
  • Relieving stress and calming your thoughts

Yoga tours are held in places with stunning natural surroundings which offer the perfect balance of soothing surroundings, revitalising sessions, and indulgent treatments. Here are some of the famous ones…

The reason yoga tours have become very popular today is because of social media. Famous yoga teachers like Laura Sykora, Kerri Verna and Brian Miller have millions of followers on Instagram. Tara Stiles and other famous yoga instructors also have Youtube videos with hundreds of thousands of views.

Since the internet, yoga has been more available to a lot of people, which is really a good thing, but don’t you feel like it has changed the way we view yoga? Yoga as we all know promote holistic and spiritual consciousness, but nowadays, it has become a bit pop culture and at some point superficial. Sometimes it seems to be more about getting the perfect pose and the perfect location to share on social media platforms and checking how many likes you have than connecting with unity.

Social media has many great benefits and is a positive tool to discover more about yoga. What’s important is that we don’t get sidetracked or distracted on our online behaviour so that we can keep yoga pure and real as it should be.

We here at the ACM group believe that everyone should go or participate in a yoga retreat. In fact, we encourage you to join as it’s a trip of a lifetime which can lead you to finding your balance, self-discovery and spiritual growth.

12 Most Beautiful Locations to Build an Ashram

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If you were a master on the lookout for a stunning location to build your new ashram, what would be some of the prerequisites you would be taking under consideration? Probably: the aesthetic geographical aspect of the site, the sacred energy vibrational quality of the location, the architectural features of the buildings, the public transport accessibility, the friendliness of the municipal authorities, and whether the site truly speaks to your own soul. Here are my 12 most beautiful locations to build an ashram.

Top of the list would have to be Ubud on the Hindu island of Bali in Indonesia. This mountain paradise has all the peace and geographic beauty to stop you in your tracks and contemplate more than your navel. The vegetation is beautiful, the views are breathtaking; and the local people are exquisite. This part of Bali has retained its spiritual flavour and religiousness.

Next, the stunning secluded monasteries in Ladakh in Kashmiri India have all the other worldly qualities to inspire the most jaded soul. Austere and difficult to reach by steep narrow roads, these ancient buildings cry out for silence.

Kerala on India’s Malabar Coast is a tropical paradise for ashrams and retreats. On the shoreline of the Arabian Sea, and containing the mountainous Western Ghats, this visually impressive land holds all the aces for a timeless spiritual ambience.

Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, again in India, has a rich tradition as the home of many ashrams. Yoga flourishes in the foothills of the Himalayas. Silent meditation in the presence of divine natural beauty is breathtaking.

Mangrove Mountain in New South Wales in Australia is a natural Mecca for ashrams and retreats. The bush setting and the sacred energy of the location is magnificent.

Of course the Blue Mountains where we’ve set up our ACM Group centre is one of the finest locations to clear one’s mind and truly transcend the hustle and bustle of Sydney just an hour’s drive or train away. Coming soon will be photos of our ACM Group students practicing yoga in all the vistas and vantage points of the Blue Mountains such as Evans Lookout, the Three Sisters and Leura Cascades.

Bangalore in India is another eminently suitable location for a beautiful and inspiring ashram location. It is home to Sai Baba’s ashram.

Koregan Park in Pune, India is another great location for an ashram, utilising the grand old homes of the British Raj in a tropical garden setting. Peacocks wander gracefully around amid the memories of the provocative Osho.

Mount Abu in central India has been home to consciousness raising gurus for centuries and more. The spiritual energy here is in the air and tangible to all who traverse here.

Woodbourne in upstate New York is home to a number of ashrams, retreats and monasteries in beautiful woodland settings.

Nepal, south-western France and Queensland’s Daintree rain forest are all locations with something special to offer the spiritual master in search of quality real estate for his, or her, ashram.

A History of Yoga Lineages & Philosophies

acm group history of yoga

Yoga as a spiritual practice dates back a long way, right back to around the sixth century BC in India. It was not as we know it now, a collection of specific poses, but rather it was a meditative breathing practice aimed at spiritual development. Today, yoga has been embraced by the west as a means of physical exercise, with mental and spiritual dimensions. Some of the yogic strains have morphed into things like ‘hot yoga’ and ‘yogilates’; but what were the original lineages?

Yoga is mentioned in the Rigveda, which is an ancient collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the root ‘yu’, which means ‘to combine or join’. The sense of the word ‘yoga’ developed over time, as all words, generally, do; and in many ways it has come to mean ‘the science of’ in terms of its application to what we understand the practice of yoga is all about. The first appearance of the word ‘yoga’ in its modern sense is in the Katha Upanishad, from the third or fourth century BC; and it refers to the ‘steady control of the senses’ in meditation to achieve a supreme state. Yoga is a Hindu philosophy and one of the six astika schools of Hinduism.

Ashtanga yoga, which is often called ‘Raja yoga’, which means ‘yoga of the kings’, emerged out of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; and these are considered to be the foundation scriptures of classical yoga. Hatha yoga is a later form of yogic practice, from the first millennium AD, and it focuses on using the body/mind to build strength through establishing and holding postures. Gorakshanath is thought to have popularised Hatha yoga in his Goraksha Samhita text in the eleventh century.

Tantric yoga sees the impact of Buddhism on yogic practices and this emerged late in the first millennium, as well. Utilising both Buddhist and Hindu texts, Tantric yoga employed visualised mandala arrangements and sexual techniques. It charted the chakras and the route of energy through and around the human body.

Swami Vivekananda was one of the first Hindu teachers to actively promote yoga to a western audience ; he toured Europe and the US in the 1890s. Vivekananda was from the Ashtanga School of yoga; which became Raja yoga. The most popular form of yoga in the west in the twenty first century is associated with Hatha yoga and its asanas. These are the postures that devotees of the exercise form seek to perfect in body, mind and spirit, here at ACM Group we are mindful of the past which directs our future ambitions.

ACM Group Australia 2016