Skanda Yoga is a new style of Yoga that is practiced in Miami Beach by top athletes and sports professionals. It is an alignment based power vinyasa (flowing movement) practice that embodies the energy of the warrior spirit. The style is unique in its approach by combining traditional yoga asanas (postures) with modern scientific stretching techniques.
Most styles of yoga simply instruct you to simply “stretch”, but stretching is really a misnomer, because if we stretch our muscles without engaging them first it triggers the “stretch reflex,” which inherently limits our ability to lengthen our muscles, and makes us more prone to injury. If we first engage, and resist the stretch, then it off sets the stretch reflex, and we can go deeper, safely without injury. The stretch reflex is triggered anytime we attempt to “stretch” a muscle. It is caused through sensory feedback relayed from the golgi tendon organs (g.t.o.’s), a thin layer of fascia that covers our connective tissue. When a muscle stretches without first engaging the muscle being stretched, or it antagonist, then the g.t.o’.s send a message to the central nervous system to contract the muscle at it’s origin and insertion, in order to prevent the connective tissue from being damaged. This is why a “pulled muscle” is the most common injury from stretching, because the muscle has been “pulled” away from the bone, because it wasn’t first engaged.
There are many different ways to engage a muscle to create a greater opening. Skanda Yoga uses predominately a technique that they call Active Dynamic stretching. It is active in requiring a conscious engagement of the muscle and hugging it in to the bone. Then this “muscle energy” is linked with the breath. On the inhalation, the muscles and limbs are drawn in towards the core of the body in a concentric action. On the exhalation the muscles and bones are extended away from the core in an eccentric action. These actions are maintained by the spanda (pulsation), of the breath and prana (universal energy).
Skanda Yoga also applies the techniques known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (P.N.F.), and reciprocal inhibition. P.N.F. is applied through first contracting the muscle that is going to be stretched and engaging it strongly. For example, if you are working towards the front splits bend the front leg and bush the heel into the floor. Snap the leg down and back toward the hip, so the hamstring muscle fires. Hold it for 30 seconds, then release and push the leg out as it straightens. After entering the position, then engage the opposing muscles that support the muscles being stretched. This is the technique called reciprocal inhibition. In the front splits the quadriceps would be engaged to support the opening of the hamstrings. This method produces fast effective results that can be applied in any situation to prepare for an athletic event. It retrains the nervous system so that one can continue to make flexibility gains while increasing strength.
The breath leads the way in all yoga poses. Advanced yoga can only be performed through linking physical actions with the breath. The type of breath taught by most yoga styles is known as the ujjayi breath, which means a ‘victorious uprising.’ The ujjayi breath can only be performed correctly by maintaining a lift and expansion of the inner body. The muscles are toned in the back of the throat, so you can feel the breath swirl on the inhalation and exhalation. The breath should be slightly audible, like wind blowing in the trees or oceans waves. Concentration is used to bring equal length to the inhalation and exhalation, while lengthening the gap between the breaths. It is in the space between the breaths where the two energies merge in balance, and the mind reaches equanimity. Thoughts rise and fall with the breath, but in between is a moment of silence. It is the time spent in silence that relieves the mind from stress and imbalance.
Skanda is an ancient mythical hero from India who represents our Higher Self. When we align with the ideas that the myth represents then it unlocks facets of our own awareness. When we embrace the warrior spirit by confronting our fears then the six aspects of the higher self naturally develop. The six aspects are strength, wisdom, dispassion, popularity, prosperity, and spiritual power. We all have the potential of enhancing our life but it first requires that we open up to a greater potential to initiate the transformative process. When we practice yoga it allows us to get out of out of our daily routine, where we can dissolve our former self and recreate ourselves through self-expression. In Skanda Yoga we embrace our fears and our obstacles as tools for transformation. Even if yoga is practiced only once a week it can cause a shift, where the darkness and inertia in our life starts to disappear, and we become more radiant. When we step into a higher light then that gives permission to those around us to step into a higher way of being as well. By transforming our self, we can transform our family and our community.