Author Archives: admin

Functional Fitness Yoga For Runners

If you are a runner and your aim is to reach peak performance, Functional Fitness Yoga (FFY) is a perfect complement to your running. It loosens tight spots, strengthens weak spots, and makes you a better, less injury-prone runner. You will become faster and fitter.

Apart from creating a good feel factor, FFY increases:
Strength & Flexibility (core, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors)
Lung capacity

Strength & Flexibility
FFY can help you find the right balance between strength and flexibility. Sessions aim to build your strength, especially the core. A strong core provides the foundation for efficient,  economical movement in the limbs, and is therefore critical for injury prevention.

These sessions challenge your muscles in both isometric and isotonic exercises. Isometric strength develops when you hold a pose for a long time, forcing your muscles to work against a static resistance. Such long holds develop the strength that helps you hold your core steady while you run. On the other hand, isotonic strength comes from dynamic motion in and out of poses. Building isotonic strength will support your running.

While you need strength to run well, you also need enough flexibility to move fluidly through the proper range of motion. Developing appropriate flexibility in the muscles will allow you to find the most efficient patterns for your stride. Greater mobility in your joints will ease strain, thus preventing injury. Lack of mobility at the joints can strain ligaments, tendons and muscles, will eventually reduce efficiency.

FFY are well-rounded yoga sessions that develop balance in the body by including a generic mix of poses that target the whole body as one ‘unit’. You will improve your running by increasing your sense of just where your body is in space and how to move your body  through space. This builds neural connections between your brain and your muscles and increases your ability to activate the smaller stabilizing muscles in your lower legs, improving your balance on the road.

The keys to endurance are efficient form and focus. Through smooth and deep conscious breathing, FFY helps your running whatever your pace. By finding a way to relax and smooth your breathing, you will end up reducing effort and use less energy to maintain efficient form a bit longer and stay focused on the way ahead.

Lung capacity
Lung capacity is vital for runners because it creates the ability to maintain an even breathing pattern through all the phases of running. The better the lung capacity is, the more oxygen is circulated through the system, which is most helpful for running long and strong. Yogic breathing has been proven to increase lung capacity, which increases endurance and improves overall athletic performance.

RaYoga Malta offers Functional Fitness Yoga sessions, all beneficial to runners. It’s all about choosing the right class according to your specific needs.

Yoga for diabetes

Diabetes can affect people at any age, leading to many complications like heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and even amputations. With the rising number of persons in Malta being diagnosed with diabetes, it is no wonder that the need for treating the disease is on the increase.

One way to keep diabetes under control is through yoga practice. Turning to yoga is an effort to keep this condition under control and improve overall quality of life. Yoga for diabetes provides unique benefits that can effectively restore the body to a state of natural health and proper function.  

It has been scientifically proven that yoga helps to reduce the level of sugar in the blood and improve glucose metabolism; along with lowering blood pressure and keeping weight in check. Yoga practice can reduce the severity of the symptoms and slowing the rate of progression of the disease, apart from lessening the possibility of further complications.

A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found practising yoga regularly caused short-term improvement in fasting glucose. It has been discovered that direct stimulation of the pancreas by certain yoga postures revitalised its capacity to produce insulin. Yogic exercise has also been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are often accompanying symptoms for diabetes.  In another study, it has been found that subjects who practiced yoga had an increase in measures of nerve conduction.

By integrating the mind with the body, yoga can relieve the daily stresses that often lie at the heart of diabetic symptoms. The stress we experience in our day to day lives can accumulate and lead to ‘emotional eating’, which in turn leads to obesity. Stress increases the secretion of glucagon (a hormone responsible for increasing blood glucose levels) in the body. The consistent practice of yoga can help reduce stress in the mind and protect the body from its adverse effects. This, in turn, reduce the amount of glucagon and improve the action of insulin.

Yoga can directly and indirectly have a great positive effect on diabetes. It increases willpower, self-confidence, strength and discipline, which can all be of a great help with weight loss and other health issues. For those looking for how to prevent diabetes or gain relief from the disease, adopting a healthy lifestyle that incorporates yoga for diabetes can offer a better way of life.

Introducing Yoga in Prison

It has been a great pleasure to introduce yoga to the male prison inmates at the Corradino Correctional Facility as a part of the ‘Behaviour and Skills Management‘ course. The programme which was organised by the Fondazzjoni Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl, aimed to help participants increase their ability to manage their behaviour.

With the co-operation of all, I managed to deliver the planned sessions successfully. It was not an easy task and had to offer modified/alternative postures, as some of the participants had physical restrictions, mainly due to fatigue after a day’s work and injuries incurred during the other physical activities of the course.

In general, the participants responded positively to the sessions, whereby I have witnessed the most dedicated yogi and the most transformed one. I was quite impressed with the participants’ good behavior and attitude. Without doubt, I strongly believe that a good rapport was established between the participants and myself.

Some inmates had even requested to continue attending the yoga sessions and even asked permission to have a yoga mat in their cell.

Being aware that this has been a 3 month pilot project, I can only express my views with regard how can yoga be beneficial if it continues to be included as part of a rehabilitation project.

 Yoga is like medicine and once stopped, its effects will diminish. It is a journey of self-discovery and self-transformation. To be successful, as it is happening in other overseas prisons, the practice has to be ongoing.

Yoga For Anxiety

Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. It is an insidious emotional problem. Nearly every person has the feeling of anxiety at some point in his/her life. However, when it becomes out of control, it can cause distressing symptoms, including insomnia, migraines, intestinal problems, dizziness, heart palpitations and even panic attacks.

The physical practice of yoga has a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response) of the body. A good yoga practice burns off the tense energy that can contribute to anxiety and helps bring about a feeling of relaxation.

Controlling the breath turns out to be the entry point to calming down an overactive stress response system. Deep, smooth, quiet and even breathing promotes calmness of the mind.

Other breathing practices such as abdominal breathing and lengthening the exhalation relative to the inhalation help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

Yoga helps in slowing down the rush of thoughts. Through yoga your mind becomes relaxed and more aware of the present moment. You are more aware of what is within your control. External factors which are not within your control you just try not to let them affect you in negative way. Yoga teaches you to let go of all the worries about the future.

By applying the above yogic techniques, you will be on your way to a better quality of life, your health and well-being. You will simply feel better even by just improving your sleeping pattern.


The relevance of Yoga in our daily life

It is not surprising that today there is a greater awareness of the benefits of yoga and that this is on the increase. More and more people are seeking refuge in the practice of yoga as a way of finding balance, achieving and maintaining inner peace, calm and well being.

Yoga can be used as a practical tool in our daily life to improve our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well being. Many take up yoga to improve their physical fitness or as therapy to treat a physical ailment. In many instances, it soon becomes a ‘need’; an important means to deal effectively with daily situations, rather than an alternative form of physical activity.

Through yoga, you become more attuned to your emotions. An increased sense of awareness enables you to have a better mental control. You become calmer and more tolerant, and eventually end up reacting in a positive or at least not in a destructive way when dealing with difficult or unpleasant situations. Your tolerance threshold is improved to the extent that you are less likely to become angry, frustrated and upset.

The ever increasing life stressors like excessive workload demands, health, relationship and financial problems can negatively influence our well-being. All this can lead to anxiety disorder, mood swings, insomnia and even depression. It is scientifically proven that yoga is an effective therapy to help individuals facing health challenges at any level to manage their condition, reduce symptoms, increase vitality and improve attitude.

Yoga is surely not a ‘fashion or a trend’ that will lose its relevance by time. Since its origin dates back to over 4000 years, it has continuously and certainly proven its significance. With today’s fast living pace and the ever increasing daily stressors, an appropriate tool like yoga is an asset to our life. Its net effect is like recharging a battery, making it easier to improve your quality of life.

Written by Ray Cacciattolo: Certified Power Yoga Instructor -Yoga Alliance, Yoga Teacher – C.H.Ed (Dip.Yoga) & Sport Yoga Instructor


What makes Yoga unique?

Although some may not consider yoga as an exercise, hatha yoga (the physical aspect) definitely meets the definition of exercise as set by the medical dictionary: ‘exercise is a physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body. Exercise is utilised to improve health, maintain fitness and is important as a means of physical rehabilitation’.

Among a myriad of benefits yoga improves flexibility, strengthens, tones and builds muscles, boots the immune system, eases back pain, decrease cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Unlike conventional exercise, yoga is not goal oriented and non-competitive. It is not about how many reps, how much weight you can lift or duration of the exercise. Yoga stresses quality of movement over quantity. No rapid forceful movements are involved. Competing and the saying ‘no pain no gain’ does not apply to yoga. Emphasis is on how you end up feeling after the session and not on how you look or how far you can stretch. Although, yoga can be quite challenging, during a typical class of yoga students are encouraged to stay with their own physical abilities and limitations.

The most predominant factor that differentiates yoga from other forms of exercise is the effect that it has on a glandular level. Specific yoga movements stimulate and balance the endocrine system. An improved circulation in the endocrine glands facilitates a better function of the hormones, resulting in an improved overall mood. Yoga improves the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system that activates the relaxation response. Through it, tension and anxiety is evidently reduced.

What makes a regular practice of yoga so special is its ability to make a person feels more centred and balanced through achievable yoga postures and controlled breathing. A sense of inner wellbeing and peace is attained. One can deal more effectively with daily pressures and problems in an effective way. Life is viewed in a positive perspective and the awareness of living the present moment is increased.

Athletes and sports enthusiasts benefit from Yoga

Yoga is becoming increasingly popular amongst athletes and sports enthusiasts. They are becoming more aware of the importance of incorporating yoga in their training programme in order to enhance their performance. Here are 7 reasons why yoga can be beneficial for those involved in sports and athletics.

  1. Yoga increases Flexibility and Range of Motion. By increasing flexibility and range of motion one can move more freely with less chance of injury during sports and athletic activity.

  2. Yoga improves mental focus and body awareness. Yoga improves mental alertness through different postures and breathing, which in turn aids focus. Moreover, one’s proprioception (sense of body positioning and movement) is enhanced.

  3. Yoga improves balance. Various sport disciplines are repetitive by nature, thus creating body imbalances, i.e. some muscle groups are strengthened while others are ignored. This mechanical dominance can create musculoskeletal imbalances that can generate chronic injuries. By concentrating on the body as a whole, yoga can correct these imbalances.

  4. Yoga increases strength and agility. Many yoga postures involve the entire body working as a whole unit, so the strengthening of one muscle group is connected to that of another muscle group. This enables athletes to move swiftly and effortlessly in sports when the whole body moves as a unit.

  5. Yoga enhances recovery. The majority of sports activities generate lactic acid in the muscle tissue. Yoga exercises can help in its removal. Lactic acid can negatively affect performance in future training and sports events if not removed. Additionally, yoga improves sleep patterns, thus providing proper rest which is crucial for an athlete’s recovery process.

  6. Yoga reduces stress. Yoga helps release stress in the body and mind. When one is stressed out, the body can hold that tension in the neck, shoulders, back, hamstrings, stomach, etc. Tense muscles decrease flexibility and increase pain and risk of injury. Through Yoga the body and mind are in top form and therefore enhance performance. 

  7. Yoga enhances the respiratory system. Yoga breathing exercises improve the ability to maximize lung capacity. Healthy lungs are extremely important for athletes.

Whatever sport one chooses to practise, yoga can enhance and complement it. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a great basketball player) says “There is no way I could have played as long as I did without yoga. It was yoga that made my training complete”. Ryan Giggs, a legend player of Manchester United, credits yoga for his longevity in the game. “You can feel it working and you can feel the benefits straight away. My body feels so much better having done the yoga. Wish I had done it from the start of my career.”

Although Yoga offers great benefits, athletes should be careful of the style of Yoga they choose to practise and how this is included into their training programme. Ideally, sessions should be tailor-made accordingly.