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Yoga

Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Children

Practicing yoga can provide kids with physical benefits such as strength and flexibility, but also improved emotional control and a boost of self-confidence. 

By Nicole Nikanorov

Growing up in a high-paced society can be stressful for kids. Competitive pressures from school can cause stress and anxiety to build. Yoga and meditation are great ways to counteract these pressures and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

We spoke with two yoga and pilates instructors to find out how yoga and meditation can help your kids.

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How does frequent practice of yoga and meditation affect children outside the studio?

The benefits of yoga and meditation flow through the body during classes and continue to flow outside the studio as well. Yoga is “shown to help kids with focus and increased attention span” says Amie Wang, Pilates After School Instructor and owner of Play It Fit, LLC. According to Stephanie Chee Barea, team yoga expert and owner of Mela Yoga, yoga also “helps children to regulate their emotions, teaches them how their body and mind works, and how to handle stress and anxiety” especially since children pick up on the extreme amount of pressure put on being successful. Both instructors agree that frequent meditation allows children to become one with themselves and find groundedness.

Any tips on finding a studio and instructor?

As with any activity, the right instructor can truly make a class special. While yoga might ultimately provide stress relief, introducing your child to a new and unfamiliar environment for the first few times can be a little overwhelming. Both Barea and Wang highly encourage parents to drop in on a trial class, if offered, before committing. If you have a younger child, Barea recommends finding a studio with “age appropriate classes, one where the teacher has a good understanding of where they are at in age appropriate yoga delivery.” Some studios offer classes that incorporate games into their practice to create a playful environment that helps keep children engaged.

What if my child thinks that yoga isn’t active enough?

Some children believe that they will not enjoy yoga and meditation because they picture traditional adult classes. One tip is to look for classes that are adjusted for a younger audience. Some studios integrate art and games into their sessions. Barea uses ice breakers and encourages children to share stories about their lives to “keep kids engaged and connected with their peers”. This builds a community and a sense of belonging that make classes fun.

What kids get the most benefit from yoga?

As with any sport or activity, always try it out before you can determine if it is a good fit. If you see that your child might have a bit too much energy or has trouble focusing, they might benefit from frequent meditation. Both instructors have noticed that children who are dealing with anxiety are getting more recommendations to yoga classes from their teachers and counselors. Barea notices another trend among the children who attend her classes. They are often kids who “don’t feel like they have found a sense of belonging in their school environment”. Unlike other activities and sports, there is no sense of performance-based competition and no pressure to accelerate at a certain pace. Everyone improves at their own pace with the shared goal of relaxation and connecting with their inner selves.

Tips for practicing yoga at home

If you wish to further your bond with your child or have scheduling constraints – here are some tips from the instructors on how to practice yoga at home!

    • Preschool / Early Elementary – Young children love to mirror adults. If you, the parent, practice yoga in your home, invite your child to join you. Focus on breath regulation and keep it short as younger children have a shorter attention span. You don’t have to be a yogi! Even the simplest poses can have a powerful impact.
    • Elementary / Middle – Children in elementary or middle school are more independent and might rather do their own meditation. Barea suggests that parents can help their child “identify the spaces where they are feeling overwhelmed and encourage them to use a yoga related skill to calm down”. Wang also recommends practicing deep breathing and thankfulness at home.
  • Middle / Highschool  – Older kids and teens can benefit from having their own personal yoga mat. Even if they do not get the chance to practice yoga frequently, the mat can serve as a reminder that there is an option for an outlet for their emotions.

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Beginning Tennis to Competitive Tennis: A Parent’s Guide

Is your child hypnotized by the back and forth bounce of a tennis ball being hit across a court? Or maybe you are simply looking for a new activity for your kid which will have them running around a court rather than inside? Then tennis might be a match! 

By Nicole Nikanorov

According to the Tennis Industry Association, the number of tennis players in America has steadily been rising over the years reaching over 14 million players. If your child seems better suited for individual sports instead of contact sports, tennis could be a match. It is fast paced enough to be challenging and engaging but not so much so that your child will feel overwhelmed.

There are many benefits to tennis. This sport will teach your child physical and mental endurance, how to encourage others, and how to lose. Tennis is about short fast sprints to hit a ball strategically. These sprints build physical endurance and the fast strategic planning that goes into a hit builds mental endurance. If your child is playing doubles, they will learn to be in synwith a partner and the teamwork required to win together. This teaches children to encourage and support their peers. Lastly, tennis is help your child learn how to lose respectfully. A loss can impact a child more personally since she is competing alone or with only one other person. Overcoming this and using the losses as a way to improve their techniques will help in other aspects of life.

If your child is beginning tennis, knowing the levels and differences between recreational and competitive tennis will help you choose the right tennis program for your child. We spoke to Bay Area local coach Bob Jaeger and Palo Alto High School tennis coach Andy Harader to help you have your child swinging onto the tennis court in no time!

First, not everyone starts off playing on a full size tennis court. The younger the child is, the smaller dimensions of a traditional court are used as well as softer balls. As your child grows, the size of the court they play on will ‘grow’ with them too. Kids 10 and under will play on ‘red’ or ‘orange’ courts. Red courts are for children younger than 7 who are just getting started in this sport. This court is about a quarter size of a traditional court, being only 36 feet deep so it is easier for a child to hit the ball across. Children playing at this level will be using red felt balls that bounce slower and not as high as traditional yellow balls. This level gives younger kids the chance to take their time with their swing and not get overwhelmed by the intensity of traditional tennis. Orange courts are for children between the ages of 8 and 10. This court uses almost the full depth of a tennis court at 60 feet. Orange felt balls bounce slightly faster but are still fun and controllable. Knowledgeable and considerate coaches will take your child’s age and ability into consideration and decide which version of the court is best for them.

After the red and orange courts come the ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ courts. With these advanced levels also comes the question of whether your child should do tennis recreationally or competitively. Using the full court that is 78 feet deep, the green court uses a green ball that has a slightly lesser compression than that of a traditional yellow ball making it slightly easier to control on a big court. Finally reaching the traditional yellow court, the depth is the full 78 feet deep and the balls are made for adults and children that have reached this level.

Once your child has reached the green court, you have to make a decision of whether your child should play recreational or advance into competitive tennis. While both are fun, Coach Bob Jaeger says  “recreation tennis is where players choose not to participate in tournaments or leagues.” They play for fun, exercise and as a social sport. After all, you can’t play tennis alone and when you play doubles you also enjoy teamwork and bonding with your doubles partner.

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Competitive tennis players look for events where they can compete against players that are outside the circle of the regular players they always play with.  This is usually done through an organized event such as a weekly league or a tournament ” adds Coach Jaeger. Additionally, Palo Alto High School Coach Andy Harader says that with competitive tennis, “[local and national] rankings are the ultimate goal and are used for scholarship purposes for college entry”. Both coaches agree that to reach the competitive level is a serious commitment, both on the child and on the parent. A player who aspires to play competitively typically has private coaches or small group clinics from the time they are a pre-teen, as did Lane Leschly, who advanced to the top ranks of competitive junior tennis and earned a place on the team at Harvard University in 2016.. If your child has the “the desire to run hard, hit a heavy ball aggressively, handle the emotions of a competitive game by themselves and most of all enjoy practicing”, competitive tennis may be the way to go in Coach Bob’s opinion.

This may all seem a bit intimidating but whether recreational or competitive, tennis is still a great sport that teaches endurance and discipline. Coach Harader says that like with any sport, a “parent will know when their child has the determination and interest.”

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