Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sugar & Color vs tennis champions

Parents want for their children to excel at tennis. The sport the little ones are passionately practicing and competing. Parents will push their kids to compete hard and train hard but forgetting a very dangerous enemy to tennis and life: "COLOR."

As tennis coach, I've became friends with the parents of my little students getting more involved in their community and events. I get invited to night outs where sometimes we discuss tennis and recently soccer after the world cup was over. The beauty of tennis is that it's international and it attracts and gathers people from many backgrounds. One can play at any level in any country and city in the world. Tennis is a common denominator and sometimes the language of friendship. The other night, when we meet for Tuesday Tapas at a local joint, the language that brought us together was again tennis. This time I did notice concern in my friend's faces when we started to talk about attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

The majority of the 8 year old students are being medicated for either attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In fact, the majority of my 8 year old tennis class last year was medicated for either ADHD or ADD. The most common reaction from parents and non parents is to say: "we didn't have that disease when we grew up." Another common reaction is to say, "parents medicate their children because they don't want to deal with them." The problem is imminent. More and more children are changing their behavior.  It looks like medication and diagnosis disorder is all we know but there is more...Can it be such a massive genetic disorder spreading faster than we can grab it?

Last night, Sue, one of the mothers said, "I'm having problems with my 8 year old child. He is hyperactive and the doctor is very closed to medicate him. I'm from England so I decided to take a break and go for few weeks to Europe to visit my family." She continues telling us, "my child in England was doing very well. He wasn't hyperactive like in the States." Automatically and unanimously we all shout out, " it's sugar, sugar!" She said, "no. My son was getting sugar in his diet in England and sugar wasn't the problem at all." Upon return, she proceed to read and research every ingredient in the food and drinks. After careful observation, she realized her son wasn't eating food with artificial coloring back in Europe. He was eating grandma's home cooking without food dye.

 What is in food coloring? I went to the local food store nearby the tennis courts and Colin in the vitamin department explained, "food coloring consists of chemicals used to add color to food. Food coloring (dye) is often added to processed foods, drinks, and condiments. They are used to maintain or improve the appearance and add shelf life."

There are two types of approved color additives - dyes and lakes. Dyes are water-soluble and usually come in the form of powders, granules, or liquids. Lakes are not water-soluble. They are found in products containing fats and oils. Some food colorings are synthetically produced. Examples of these color additives include FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2 and FD&C Green No. 3. Other food colorings come from pigments of vegetables, minerals, or animals. Examples of these natural additives include beta-carotene, grape skin extract, caramel color, and saffron.

Let's concentrate on the synthetically produced food dye... I asked Colin, "what is the main derivative of food dye?" He replied, "the majority of food colors are made with petroleum. They are a derivative of Petrochemicals and Coal tar. Food looks good but these chemicals are no good to eat. In fact, it's believe some blue No. 1 or 2 it's the main cause of hyperactivity in children." He also said, "I think Yellow #2 food dye has shown to cause ADHD, multiple types of cancer, male sterility, and many other issues." 

Knowing this small piece of information think of all the food your children like. Make a list of what your little champion likes to eat and drink: all sorts of candy, ice-cream, hot dogs, pizza, juices etc. Be very specific and find out the ingredients. Now think not only of food but also creams, toothpaste and shampoos. Please again read the ingredients like Sue did and look for synthetic color. Eliminate color dyes and see if there is any difference on your child's behavior. Eliminate any chemical coloring and products from your kid's life and help you and them to become worry free and healthy.

Remember, we are we eat. Health and peace of mind starts by simplifying our lives from artificial ingredients.

Friday, July 18, 2014

September/October Issue of Yoga for tennis for Tennis Pro Magazine Barbara Soto

Tennis & Yoga
Practicing Relaxation
by Barbara Soto

During her junior career in South America, Barbara reached the #1 Open Singles Ranking for Divisions 6, 5 and 4. She held the #17 ranking by the AAT Singles Metropolitan Ranking at age 17. Barbara came to the USA on an NCAA DI tennis scholarship to play for Tennessee Technological
University, where she earned a degree in Public Relations and Marketing. Currently both a Yoga teacher and PTR Professional, she brings a holistic approach to training, teaching and competing.
University of South Florida, NCAA Division 1 Men's tennis team. Players and Coaches practice Yoga to aid concentration and competition. Learning how to relax is helping the team achieving higher goals such as defeating higher ranked teams and winning their conference. 

Yoga has come out of the ashram and onto football fields, baseball diamonds and tennis courts. Major sports teams are embracing this ancient discipline for physical and mental toughness. Recognizing its benefits in developing strength and endurance, coaches have joined gurus adding Yoga to their training programs. It requires no special equipment other than an open mind.

Tennis is a one sided sport. Tennis players use one side of the brain to hit the ball, while the other side of the brain measures when and to where to hit it. While one side of the player’s brain is very active putting the body in motion, the other side is busily looking for stillness and measurement. The body and mind have to go through a process of balancing two opposites in order to perform. Stillness vs. Motion. Coordination happens when there is a semblance of harmony and balance between the two. Moreover, concentration occurs when the body and mind are in perfect harmony. Yoga is a great tool to help achieve this balance. One of the main reasons is that Yoga teaches an athlete how to relax. An athlete who learns how to relax can also learn when to apply tension. Through Yoga’s relaxation techniques, the tennis player learns how to work with the pair of opposites - Stillness vs. Motion - in perfect harmony.

Tennis players are in a constant search of harmony in action. Although it takes a lot of effort, it is also a very rewarding when achieved. Players are in ‘the Zone’ is when the mind and body are in complete harmony, creating a flawless performance. Athletes in the Zone experience great focus during performance, including tunnel vision and tunnel hearing, sharper vision (e.g., ball gets bigger), fearlessness, etc. It’s a pure state of full concentration and total stillness, where the senses are working 100% toward the task at hand. The athlete is fully immersed in the moment. Yoga can aid this process. Proper breathing is essential to understanding your body and mind. Through breath work, you become aware of your body,
and then your emotions. Emotions can have a negative physical impact, stopping your breath and paralyzing your body with fear. Fear of losing is very likely to happen during competition. Concentration deviates into sensations, and things can get worse, out of control. The athlete is unable to perform

On the other hand, an off court practice using simple relaxation techniques from Yoga helps players become aware of these bodily sensations. The athlete gets to know himself, and learns how to bring a solution to his body’s reaction to an emotion. For instance, when you notice that you are not breathing properly during a match, you can command yourself to breathe positively, creating an opposite behavior. This seems like a very simple task, but it’s very difficult when there’s a lack of awareness of the body and mind.  Awareness is the main ingredient. Lack of awareness makes an athlete focus on the negative emotions, identifying with the body’s negative reactions, and possibly escalating to a very negative inner dialogue. This devastates performance and depletes the player. Awareness brings solutions through a flow of positive commands.

Let’s begin by looking at a very simple Yoga relaxation technique. Final Relaxation, known as Savasana, is conscious relaxation, as opposed to falling asleep, which is unconscious relaxation. Conscious relaxation in Yoga starts with the Copse pose - lying on the floor on your back in a neutral position - which should be practiced before, between and at the end of other poses. It rejuvenates the mind and body by decreasing the heart, respiration and metabolic rates, thus reducing muscle tension and anxiety. Conscious relaxation also improves energy levels and productivity, concentration and memory, as well as increases focus and boosts self-confidence. Unconscious relaxation (sleep) helps the body recover. It plays a very important restorative role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and other vital functions, but let’s focus on Final Relaxation and how it can also aid the athlete.

Conscious relaxation is achieved through positive commands to relax the body and mind. It frees the body from negative tension and keeps the mind from wondering. Every part of the body is affected: feet, legs arms, lower back, upper back, even individual muscles. You can get very specific or less specific. The athlete commands himself to fully and deeply relax without falling asleep. Final Relaxation is a training technique for the body to receive positive commands and to become fully aware of the body’s reactions to emotions. Applying a positive command during relaxation trains the body and mind to apply an opposite behavior while performing. Final relaxation is actually a state of mind and body. It can be practiced anytime, even during a
changeover. When a player learns how to relax, he learns how to positively and voluntarily command himself during the demands of the sport. Concentration does not last forever and it cannot be forced. Forcing concentration during an entire match or practice can create the opposite effect. Concentration happens when the body and mind are relaxed and working in perfect harmony. However, an athlete needs to understand the lapses of concentration and positively induce the body and mind into focusing again. Getting frustrated because of mistakes or lapses of concentration creates tension. Getting to know yourself is the most positive thing you can do. Understanding your periods of concentration, your timing, allows you to know when to help yourself. Relaxation is your tool to get to know yourself at a deeper level.

So let’s get to work and practice a basic off court relaxation exercise Savasana.

Start by lying flat on your back with palms facing up. Relax every part of your body starting at your feet and moving up all the way to your head. You can get very specific, concentrating on tendons, joints, muscles, or less specific by focusing on the big parts such as feet, leg, hips, lower back,
upper back, chest, shoulders, hands, arms, neck and head. You can also pay specific attention to the muscles of your face. There are a lot of facial expressions connected to emotions, and by relaxing facial muscles, you can achieve deep states of emotional relaxation. Remember you are the boss!
Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and release the air from your lungs. Then your inner voice positively commands your body to relax by saying. . .

• I relax my feet, my feet are relaxed
• I relax my legs, my legs are relaxed
• I relax my hips, my hips are relaxed
• I relax my lower back, my lower back is relaxed
• I relax my medium back, my medium back is relaxed
• I relax my upper back, my upper back is relaxed
• I relax my shoulders, my shoulders are relaxed
• I relax my arms, my arms are relaxed
• I relax my hands, my hands are relaxed
• I relax my chest, my chest is relaxed
• I relax my neck, my neck is relaxed
• I relax my head, my head is relaxed

From here on with your eyes closed, your body is motionless. You will then experience complete relaxation. The only body motion you need to be aware of is your breath. Keep it simple, keep it relaxed.

The second step is to feel your body as a whole. Simply feel the body’s involuntary actions at work.

First, feel the weight of your body by browsing and focusing on every point of contact - every part your body touching the floor. Browse and feel every point of contact starting from the feet up to the head. Feel the weight of your body. Feel the warmth of your body. Feel the different temperatures of your body, always starting from your feet and finishing with your head.

After you browse for weight and warmth, experience again a deep state of relaxation (it is recommended to start with 15 minutes).  After the 15 minutes has lapsed, it is time to wake up from your Conscious Relaxation.  With your eyes closed, stretch your body as if you’re waking up in bed. Stretch fully.
Roll over to one side, still with your eyes closed. Finally, sit up, take few moments.

Awww...Relaxation is over.

Relax Your Facial Muscles to Release Emotional Tension
The facial muscles are closely related to your emotional expressions. Therefore, a more focused approach needs to be used to relax the facial muscles.  Commands remain positive and clear.

In this case, we go deeper into specific muscles by saying . . .
• I relax the muscles of my face, the muscles of my face are relaxed
• I relax my chin, my chin is relaxed
• I relax the muscles around my lips, my muscles are relaxed
• I relax my lips, my lips are relaxed.
• I relax my tongue, my tongue is relaxed
• I relax my jaw, my jaw is relaxed
• I relax my throat, my throat is relaxed
• I relax my nostrils, my nostrils are relaxed
• I relax my right cheek, my right cheek is relaxed
• I relax my left cheek, my left cheek is relaxed
• I relax my right eye, my right eye is relaxed
• I relax my left eye, my left eye is relaxed
• All the muscles around my eyes are relaxed
• I relax my forehead, my forehead is relaxed
• I relax my scalp, my scalp is relaxed
• I relax my brain, my brain is relaxed
• My head is heavy and completely relaxed

Note: If you suffer from an injury, you can apply this same facial muscle technique to specific muscles or tendons you need to relax and heal. Knowing the name of the muscles involved helps describe them, as does visualizing the area to accelerate the healing process.

On Court Relaxation - Changeovers
A changeover is 90 seconds between odd games and two minutes between sets. If a player practices enough off court relaxation, browsing the body becomes swift and accurate. Awareness of body and breath becomes much sharper. Ninety seconds can be more than enough to achieve centering.  During a changeover, we are not trying to accomplish a full relaxation routine, but an awareness of tension build up during the match. Releasing that tension with just a positive command is our goal. We need to get very specific, for instance, targeting the breath. “I relax my breath. I let my breath flow easily. I inhale deeply and exhale completely.” Even if a player doesn't have a 90 second changeover, they can use this technique. Perhaps they’re having problems holding serve. Again, one or two internal positive commands repeated before serving can help. Adding anything positive will aid performance.

Final Note
You don’t have to be a top athlete to benefit from Yoga. Relaxation techniques, such as Savasana, can be applied at any moment of your day. You become more efficient with practice. Starting with just a 15 minute routine will take you a long way. It will help to get to know yourself and will teach you how to relax. Then you will be able to successfully take this wonderful state of harmony into any life situation, including a tennis match