As a former college tennis player, I can attest to the fact that tennis is predominantly a mental game. I shudder to reflect on how many matches I LOST because I was upset about a shot, a point or whatever. Now, older, and hopefully wiser and calmer, I was intrigued by the new Zennis program offered at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Get in the Flow
The 1.5 hour class is offered Friday mornings and marries tennis and yoga. The program begins with our small group taking a yoga mat on the court and following yoga instructor Patti Juarez through a series of gentle yoga poses. The moves are designed to mimic the body movements needed in tennis: twisting, stretching and balance. And Juarez keeps reminding the group to be mindful of breath, telling us that learning to take a moment and breathe deeply during stressful times during a match can make the difference between victory and defeat.
“The combination of yoga and tennis is perfect for those looking to strengthen, lengthen and tone,” said Kara Thomas, Sanctuary’s fitness and wellness manager. “Not only will it improve cardiovascular strength and agility, but the breathing and relaxation methods used in yoga will help with rhythm and movement required on the court.”
Stay Calm, Carry On
After 30 minutes of yoga, it’s time to grab the racquet and apply the mindfulness we just practiced to tennis. We’re split into groups by gender and I learn that my instructor David is from my hometown of Milwaukee. Keeping with the spirit of Zennis, the focus of this lesson isn’t on running us ragged hitting ball after ball, but rather to learn to be able to stay relaxed in an active physical endeavor that can at times be mentally and emotionally intense.
David reminds us to relax as we hit the ball. He says that if we simply keep a steady gaze on the ball tennis suddenly becomes easier. He contends that we shouldn’t think that we’re playing an opponent, instead that our opponent is the ball. To try and make us focus on that ball he continually asks us to tell him what’s written on it. Thank goodness with Wilson and Penn’s domination in that market, it’s a 50/50 guess!
He clearly demonstrates the importance of a steady gaze on the ball when he shows us the difference in shot control when you keep your head and gaze down on the ball, instead of lifting it up after you hit the shot. While you won’t be able to delight in a winner keeping your head down, you are likely to hit many more of them with this simple tweak to your game.
The tennis lesson takes us through hitting ground strokes, serves and playing out points.
Overall, it’s a unique approach to the game and one that tennis players will find can give them an edge on the court. Now imagine if John McEnroe had had some Zennis!
Zennis is $50 per person. For more information, please call (480) 607-2300 or visit sanctuaryaz.com.