DEL MAR — Saree Zweifel was a young teacher in Milwaukee, Wisc. when she first became aware of the importance of teaching young women how to make positive lifestyle choices and to encourage one another.
“Guys will ‘high five’ each other, but girls don’t know what to do with feelings of envy,” she explained. “They have a natural sense of jealousy and competitiveness. Even among friend groups, they can be nasty to each other.”
Zweifel started a running club on Friday mornings before school to provide an opportunity to discuss how the girls could become more supportive of each other. The experience evolved into circuit training and yoga. When Zweifel moved to San Diego in 2008 she began teaching in the afterschool program at The Child’s Primary School in Clairemont with a program that connected yoga with writing and the school’s curriculum standards.
Recognizing that girls needed more opportunities in the community to come together, she also set out to make fitness and health a lifestyle change rather than a competitive sport. Zweifel founded Girls On Target (GOT), a program dedicated to empowering young girls through fitness and yoga. At 9 a.m., June 29 she will offer a free yoga workshop at Seagrove Park overlooking the beach for girls in grades four to eight. The workshop will focus on building strength and flexibility while centering the body and mind.
“Workshops are a great opportunity for girls to gain relaxation and positive self-image techniques while meeting friends and becoming empowered through fitness,” Zweifel said. “All workshops involve music, a focus on female camaraderie and fun.”
Kerstin Pfann has two daughters enrolled in the program.
“Saree is a great role model for the girls in so many ways,” she said. “The noncompetitive nature of yoga has led them to recognize how good they feel physically, mentally and emotionally when they are active — and that fitness is not just a means to achievement in sports. In addition, the connection between the body and the mind, which is emphasized in yoga, has led the girls to better understand themselves. They have each developed an inner strength that manifests as both confidence and self-acceptance.”
Pfann added that yoga has also proven to be effective in bringing about stress relief, anxiety reduction and an increased sense of balance and empowerment.
“I believe these benefits are especially important for adolescent girls who often feel overwhelmed with all the changes in themselves, and expectations for behavior and achievement put upon them by parents and society,” she said.
Zweifel completed her yoga teacher training with Corepower Yoga, and is certified as a Group Fitness Instructor by the American Council of Exercise. Additionally, she holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in English education as well as classroom experience as an elementary and secondary teacher. Her unusual combination of qualifications came to the attention of Richard Case, founder of the KP Jois Foundation, who recruited her earlier this year to lead a one-day professional development course for his yoga teachers connecting yoga to curriculum standards as they implemented a yoga program at the Encinitas Unified School District.
This summer Zweifel will continue to teach private lessons as well as weeklong summer camps for girls in grades four to 12. In addition to the circuit workouts, the camps will include meditation (focusing on empowerment) and nutritional education.
“I developed Girls On Target because there are a lot of bad choices to make out there, but when health and fitness are a priority in the life of a young girl, those bad decisions are less likely to be made,” she explained. “Every girl deserves to feel beautiful, powerful, capable and confident. My hope is that Girls On Target can help young women along the path to all they deserve.”
The next GOT summer camp runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 29 to Aug. 2 at Doyle Community Park in UTC-La Jolla For more information, or to register for the free workshop at Seagrove park or the summer camp, visit girlsontarget.com/.