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Suite G
Arlington, VA 22201

(703) 248-9642

Welcome to Spark Yoga in Arlington and Fairfax-Mosaic, Virginia! Maintain healthy body and mind through aerial yoga, barre, Pilates, yoga, and yoga + weights. Spark Yoga is committed to green living and clean air.

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10 Things you need to know about ANNE

Susan Park

You know and love their high energy, hard core Spark Barre workouts, but how well do you really know our talented teachers?  Find out what moves SPARK BARRE instructor ANNE to shake, burn, and repeat. 

  1. Motto: Solvitur Ambulando - it is solved by walking
  2. Indulgence: Such a sucker for ice cream novelties...
  3. Items in My Gym Bag: A S’well bottle, sunglasses, and a the bare necessities (wallet, phone, etc.).  I typically run to or from work so I’ve got to keep things light!
  4. Fitness / Wellness Tip: Water! I often joke about “hydrating aggressively” but I cannot overemphasize the importance of flushing out with plenty of water, especially when it’s hot out.
  5. Someday, I’d like to: Open a small food business with my husband!
  6. What I do outside of barre:  Learning the ins and outs of running a small business at Glen’s Garden Market, an all-local grocery/deli/bar north of Dupont Circle.
  7. I’m inspired by: Anyone and everyone who steps forward boldly in pursuit of their dreams. 
  8. A challenge I’ve overcome: Hiking the Appalachian Trail with my husband and dog.
  9. Favorite Hot Beverage: Black coffee - I’m a simple gal. 
  10. Ideal Day: Wake up on the coast of Maine, drink coffee with a view of the ocean, spend the day hiking/foraging, wrap it all up with a lovely meal and some good wine.

Want to practice with us? Check out our schedule!

10 Things you NEED to know about ALYSSA

Susan Park

Find out what moves SPARK BARRE instructor ALYSSA to shake, burn, and repeat. 

  1. Motto: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!”
     
  2. Indulgence of choice: Dark Chocolate and Red Wine
     
  3. Favorite restaurant in Arlington or Mosaic District: True Food Kitchen
     
  4. Fitness / wellness tip: Everything in moderation!
     
  5. Favorite brand of athletic wear: Fabletics
     
  6. Travel destination: Hawaii
     
  7. One artist you’ll always hear on my playlist: Pitbull
     
  8. Favorite hot beverage: Non Fat Latte
     
  9. Must read book: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
     
  10. Cause I am passionate about: Fighting ALS

Want to practice with us? Check out our schedule!

Spark Creativity Early: KIDS Yoga with Aminah

Susan Park

KIDS Yoga Class Tuesday Mornings This Summer

KIDS Yoga instructor, AMINAH, talks about the state of the world, how she got into teaching yoga for kids, and the groundbreaking approach for multi­-generational benefits.

Location: Spark Mosaic
Date/Time: Tues 930-1030a

This class is for kids only. Parents can practice T 930a Hot Power Yoga in the adjacent room.

Enroll your child in the six week series or simply join us on a drop-in basis for a few classes!

Q:  What is KIDS Yoga?

KIDS Yoga isn’t simply Adult Yoga for children.  While children’s yoga provides the same range of benefits as an adult practice, the classes are designed to introduce young people to the lifestyle of yoga.  A KIDS yoga practice draws on Kindness, Integrity, Discipline and Serenity.  Each class is taught by EmpathiKIDS founder and certified children yoga’s teacher Aminah Teachout.  

Classes begin with a focusing activity and energetic warm ups.  Then students take an asana adventure somewhere interesting, where they often make animal friends or solve a community problem.  Yoga classes are wonderful opportunities to remind people of the simple practices that keep us healthy and calm - like smiling, breathing deep, drinking lots of water and expressing gratitude often.  Breathing activities, yoga games, self-care and time for relaxation are always part of a KIDS Yoga class, too.  Given the opportunity to be still and imagine children usually share casually afterwards what guided meditation brought them. Spark KIDS Yoga classes emphasize the playful, imaginative and creative aspects of asana and pranyama.    

It is the physical and mental health benefits of yoga that inspires children’s programming at Spark, but it is the FUN that your children have that matters most today and that they will remember most this summer.  Please share Spark Mosaic with families and youth ages 6 to 10!

Q:  How you got into teaching kid's yoga?

A:   I was introduced to Iyengar Yoga for therapeutic purposes as a teenager and have been passionate about yoga as a health intervention even since.  I used to work in public health procurement, managing reproductive health commodities for US Embassies and USAID-funded programs in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I got into teaching children yoga because the state of our global political economy creates an unprecedented amount of stress upon the human race.  The rates of anxiety and depression are at an all time high in our country and childhood obscenity is out of control with 1 in 3 children seriously struggling with their weight and body image. The benefits of yoga directly improve the quality of our lives and promote a healthy lifestyle focused on mindfulness and whole nutrition.  Yoga is, in my humble opinion, the most local, most affordable and most sustainable public intervention we have for happier, healthier kids.  Teaching children the tools of yoga at a young age ensures that they can tap these resources as they become teens and young adults in our busy, transitioning world.  While the difference between little yogis and nonyogis might not be very noticeable under the age of ten, there is a very good likelihood that the lifestyle choices these young people  make will open doorways to greater health and enlightenment in adulthood. 

 Q:   Why is it a valued part of your teaching portfolio?

A:  Children's classes are my favorite because they are much more fun and imaginative than most adult yoga classes.  Creating programming that draws on relatively adult concepts of Kindness, Integrity, Discipline and Serenity has been a valued part of my teaching portfolio because the world of children's yoga is still finding itself to some extent and best practices with different ages groups are sometimes unknown.  We integrate principles of positive psychology into our methodology and stay plugged into current research on brain development.    My EmpathiKIDS partners and I are truly breaking new ground by teaching empathy as a movement art through yoga.  The transformative power of positive reinforcement and guided reflection among young people and their families makes my job as a children's yoga instructor infinitely rewarding.  

Meet: ARIANE McCORMACK

Susan Park

Name: Ariane McCormack

Occupation: Yoga Teacher

 When did you start yoga?  In third year university (1992). I found a class through a coupon book.  I was hooked in the first five minutes of the class. 

How did you find it? I felt this immediate conversation with my body. Expressing 
myself through breath and the movement created a state of blissfulness. I felt at home and 
still do today. Yoga continuously leaves me in a place of enquiry about my body, and 
how min mind thinks. 

How do you find balance? With doing yoga, teaching yoga, doing ultra racing, and managing two awesome 5.5yr olds. Life is all about finding balance.  I think balance for me is to let go of trying to do it all, and perfectly.  The balance is more how I approach things than get them done. 

Places you have been: All four corners of the world

Places you want to go: India, Nepal, back to Europe, Thailand, and wherever you can 
find tall mountains. Lots of mountains!

Favorite Food: Yoghurt! I am a yoghurt monster 

Favorite Pose or Workout: Wherever I can have my head upside down. It can be a 
simple downward dog to any arm balances. 

Best word to describe you: Energetic

Worst word to describe you: Energetic!!!

Your animal spirit is: a horse.  

Happiness is: when I am present and not in my head. When I play with my 
kids and partner, when I run in nature and definitely when I am on my mat.

Favorite Quote: Do your practice…All is coming! -Pattabhi Jois

Wisdom is: learning from your past and doing it better. When have you been most satisfied in your life? When I realized I did not need anything more. The “now” is pretty cool!

Coffee or Tea? A real barista coffee, and a real Indian chai

Love is: Love can’t be found, it is not outside of you. It is when you can find kindness in your 
heart, mixed with vulnerability. Love is how you communicate with yourself and others. 
Love is how you care for yourself and other people in your life. 

Anything else you would like to share? I am so excited to be a part of the Spark family. 
My goal as a teacher and person is to grow with a like minded community. The most 
important thing I want to bring to the class is that we do not have to be so serious when 
doing yoga. Approaching the practice intelligently with a light heart. 

What is a cause that is closest to you heart? Any organization that truly help against cruelty to children and animals.

Click to find your practice with ARIANE.

Questions or comments? E-mail info@sparkyoga.com

Get Grounded with Yin Yoga

Susan Park

Hallelujah for the beautiful weather that has finally arrived! Sunshine, warm breezes, and sandals remind us of the impending hotter months ahead and perhaps push us to transition our personal practice or workouts to something more fiery. Finding balance, however, is necessary to remain grounded, particularly as we continue through the transitional season of Spring- enter the Yin to your Yang practice.

The goal of Yin Yoga is to move out of the muscle and targeting  the connective tissue of the body, which is generally not worked on as much in your more dynamic asana practices. Additionally, Yin can support your efforts to feel more rooted and grounded and what we do on our mat can certainly translate to our life off of the mat.  If you can’t get into the studio for one of our Yin classes, try the below 20 minute sequence at home (courtesy of Alexis) to detox and reset your body and mind. This sequence focuses on detoxing your body and nourishing your digestion - supporting your efforts to "spring clean" your physical being and cultivating a healthy and whole body.

What you'll need:

  • A timer (you can use your phone but make sure it's on silent!)
  • Two blocks (No blocks? No worries- substitute with pillows!)
  • Two Blankets

As you prepare for your practice, think of fully supporting your body with your props to allow yourself to move naturally deeper into the posture, without bringing your muscles online. You will begin each asana where it's comfortable but you feel some sensation and then through the first 3 minutes, feel free to begin to remove a prop, allowing you to go deeper into the pose.

1. Begin with a 3 minute seated meditation.

Find yourself in any comfortable position, and cultivate an easy breath.  Bring your awareness to your belly - simply notice how you feel. Feel free to set an intention during this time around nourishing your stomach.  (Optional: place a block under your seat)

 
FullSizeRender-3.jpg
 

  2.  Bring yourself to a tabletop position.

Then gently lower into Child’s Pose for 3 minutes with your arms resting back by your side.  This begins a light compression of your stomach. (Optional: support your head with a block or blanket, extra blanket under your knees, and/or blanket/pillow between your hips and heels to bring a connection to your seat).

 
 

 

3. Gently slide forward onto your belly to prepare for Sphinx/Seal for 3 minutes.

Grab opposite elbows and gently draw your elbows in toward your body to create a lift of your chest. Release elbows keeping your forearms parallel. This is your first variation. Allow your belly to soften and your glutes to relax. Sensation is focused on your low back targeting kidney stimulation.  If you do not feel much, take Seal, extending your arms slightly forward and straightening.  (Optional: placing a blanket under your knees, hips, or elbows)

 
 

 4. Come back to your belly, invite your legs to windshield wiper side to side to release your low back. Make your way back up to your tabletop and sit your hips back to your heels, coming to seated. You   will create a “saddle” to lie back on for the next 3 minutes.

I suggest starting with two blocks and one blanket resting on top of them. Set these approximately 6-8 inches behind your heels - you want to maintain space between the props and your body.  Gently recline back on to the “saddle”. Here you create a deep opening of your low back.  (Optional: support your knees with a blanket, use an extra block/blanket to support your head).

 

 
 

 

5. Move slowly out of saddle the same way you went in, taking a stop through Child’s Pose to bring length back to your spine. Next, move to a seated position for caterpillar for the next 3 minutes.

Extend your legs out straight, place a block on its tall side on your legs and fold forward resting your head on the back (round your back, tuck your chin).  Relax your hamstrings and allow your torso and head to hang heavy.  Again, you create compression of your stomach organs to aid in digestion.  (Optional: place your blanket under hips for tighter hamstrings).

 
 

 

 6. Slowly lift your body out of the fold and pause as you sit up tall. Feel free to windshield wiper your legs left and right and prepare for a 5 minute Savasana. 

Gently recline onto your back, extending your arms long by your sides. Make yourself as comfortable as possible, using the props to support you if necessary!

 
 

Shedding Layers: Open Your Heart

Susan Park

Believe it or not, we all find our way to yoga out of a desire to fix something. It might be to heal an injury or loosen those tight hamstrings; to lose weight or to ease the stress of a job you are not so enamoured with; or it might be to heal a broken heart.  We each have our own reason or reasons, some of which we may have been harbouring for most of our lives.  The bottom line though is that we seek change, we seek transformation, a way to rise above whatever is holding us back, preventing us from a "perfect life" or from being truly happy.  The most amazing part of this is that you and me, we actually listened to that inner call to heal ourselves, maybe physically, maybe emotionally, but nonetheless it was a call to heal… and we listened.  And here we are.  Practicing yoga.  Spending time on our mat.  Getting better.  Healing.

Yet it sometimes seems like my yoga practice is not enough. For me, my need to fix myself seemed as of late, to be constant and incessant- and with that need to fix, comes disappointment and self-judgement.  Yes - yoga has served me well during those times when I needed it most; it healed and strengthened my body after years of marathon running.  And yes - later it healed my broken heart after I decided to leave a marriage that felt empty and broken.  But there is at times a gnawing,  a nagging, deep in my soul telling me that something is wrong or deficient - because surely otherwise, I would not need to fix and everything would be perfect.

Recently though I stumbled across this reminder that hit me hard: “Love is not what we become but who we already are” (Stephen Levine).  It would seem in our quest to fix, to improve ourselves, we can lose sight of a core principle: self-acceptance.  In other words, we can lose the ability to “behold” the Self, to honor and embrace it -- and not fix or judge it, but instead to love the Self completely, to include the dark and the light.  According to yoga philosophy, the absence of self-love is most commonly related blockage of the heart chakra (anahata)*. Since the heart chakra is associated with unconditional love, (that is to both love and be loved as well as self-acceptance and the acceptance of others) an imbalance may manifest in possessiveness, codependency, or isolation due to fear of rejection.  Does my incessant need to fix actually stem from a fear of rejection? Certainly, but perhaps what is more alarming is that my lack of self-acceptance is affecting my relationships, all of them. So now I need to fix my need to fix? No.

To restore balance in the heart chakra and nurture self-acceptance (and in turn, heal our relationships), it is clear that we need to change.  But rather than fix, we must accept and love ourselves as we are right now in this moment.  It is time to treat ourselves the way we would treat anyone else we love - with respect, honesty, compassion, and understanding. It is time to acknowledge that we are worth making ourselves a priority.

Not in that space yet?  Me neither.  This is for sure a work in progress.  It is a daily struggle. Here are some concrete steps to take - some new habits to create - that will empower you to change the conversation from fixing to accepting:

1. Start your morning with the ritual of journaling or meditating. It is often said that an unexamined life is not worth living. To enter the heart space requires self-reflection, self-examination. It requires attention and intention to create something new, to evolve. To launch this new habit, make a list of all the things that make you happy.

2. Move your body!  Physical activity is the prime way to bring balance in the heart chakra.  The key though is learning to decipher the body’s messages.  This involves listening without judgement to the body’s subtle communications.  Specific to restoring balance in the heart chakra, try breath work (pranayama) and backbends!

3. Eat healthy meals. The power of unprocessed, whole foods as a means to healing is astounding.  When we eat healthy, we feel better, we have more energy to live more fully and that means we have the ability to give love and attention to the priorities in our life.

4. Play more. Make time for the most meaningful people in your life; who doesn’t need to do this more often?!  If you need to, schedule a standing date!

Here’s the thing: you only have one life to live.  This is your chance. Take precious time out for you.  You are worth the investment.

-Jennifer Raczka Heinsheimer

jennifer.jpg

 

 

World Spay Day: February 24, 2015

Susan Park

The Spark Yoga community is passionate about pets—we see our staff and students taking strolls, engaging in photo shoots, and travelling the world with their four-legged friends. It’s another way that we know our community is composed of big hearts full of love and compassion for others. This is why we call to you to help spread the word about World Spay Day on February 24, 2015.

In honor of World Spay Day, Spark Yoga will be hosting a Support Drive Monday, February 23 to Sunday, March 1. The following items will be donated to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington:

  • Mats--- donate your mat and receive 10% off a new mat in store!
  • Blankets/towels--- donate 2 or more and receive 10% of a mat towel in store!
  • Cash and/or card donations

According to the ASPCA “approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year”, of which 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats. Many of these animals are successfully adopted, yet a staggering 31 percent of dogs and 41 percent of cats are euthanized.

Although we don’t often explicitly notice the effects of overpopulation of stray animals, their growing numbers is concerning for a multitude of reasons. Various animal organizations cite that stray companion animals are a public health concern as they may carry serious diseases including rabies. Overpopulation also results in increased taxpayer spending for capture, impoundment, and/or to euthanize.

The primary concern, however, is that this epidemic is almost entirely preventable through human compassion and awareness. Companion animal suffering and death can be mitigated through the practice of spay and neutering. Spay USA stresses that companion animals “do not need our help to expand their numbers; they need our help to reduce their numbers until there are good homes for them all.” Cats are 45 times as prolific as humans and dogs 15 times as prolific. Reduction of this disparity means that each companion animal on the planet will experience greater care and a better life condition.

According to various organizations, there are many great benefits to spay and neutering your companion animals. The practice helps to reduce animals’ urge to roam and wander. Spay USA cites that 85 percent of dogs hit by cars are “unaltered”, indicating that spay and neutering practices helps to keep pets within the bounds of their learned territories. Sterilization can also increase your dog’s life 1 to 3 years, or your cat’s life 3 to 5 years due to a lowered risk of reproductive system cancers.

Fortunately, we live in a place that offers immense support and resources for stray companion animals, potential adopters, and pet parents. If you or someone you know has recently obtained a dog or cat, please consider spay or neutering for your four-legged friend. If you’ve been considering expanding your family to include a pet, please consider adopting before buying from a breeder or pet store. Adopted animals are already spayed or neutered, which means that you’re helping to break the cycle of suffering for overpopulated and underserved animals.

Here are some resources to expand your knowledge, or to find a local center to meet your needs:

World Spay Day

Spay USA

ASPCA

Pet Smart Find-a-Clinic

Animal Welfare League of Arlington

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

Four Ways to Get Radically Intimate This Valentine’s Day

Susan Park

When the word “intimacy” comes up, I’m willing to bet that many of our minds immediately generate thoughts predicated on sex. However, intimacy is the essence of unity; a rawness that conveys vulnerability and trust to others. Intimacy arises when we confide in our friends, when we share something meaningful with another person, or when we take personal risks that are imbued with uncertainty. When we can truly embrace intimacy it’s an indication that we’ve found comfort, ease, and conviction in our choices.

Sure, intimacy is a beautiful element to and result of sex—it’s this act that is one of the deepest expressions of trust in a relationship. But sex should be neither our launching point to find intimacy, nor our ultimate goal. In fact, intimacy is something that can and should be cultivated in all relationships, especially the one you have with yourself.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, the hallmark of intimate expressions, try fostering a more intimate relationship with yourself as a means of truly embracing it with others. Here are a few ideas to stimulate an intimate conversation with your inner lover:

1.     Do something that scares you

Afraid of heights? Jump off of something tall. Loathe the idea of public speaking? Go to an improv class. Love to sing, but think you’re no good? Find a karaoke bar. Want to get out of Dodge to find adventure? Buy your plane ticket.

This is quite possibly the singular thing that you must do to discover your inner intimacy. Approaching something that scares the bejesus out of you will not only rattle your soul, but it will leave you feeling uncomfortably vulnerable. Sounds awful? It shouldn’t! In our most raw and awkward states we find deep connections with our absolute beliefs. You will always surprise yourself and come away with an inspiring story to share—helping others to feel more intimately connected to you in the process.

2.     Find a stranger and give them a genuine compliment

This could be a continuation of #1—maybe your fear is the anxiety caused by interacting with strangers. Good! Two birds.

By genuine I mean it. There’s no value in making something up just to convince yourself that you’ll feel personally rewarded for speaking to a stranger. No, if it takes weeks to find that stranger, so be it. When you give them your praise, look them in the eye and smile. Random acts of kindness are understated, but radically intimate.

3.     Get some alone time

This can be especially challenging and important for some folks. We all “recharge” in different ways, but it can also be challenging to feel connected to your own state of being if you’re constantly in the midst of others. Dedicate a morning, evening, or an entire day to unplugging the phone (as if we still use plug-in phones), turning off the TV, closing books, and tuning into your own thoughts. You could take a bubble bath, take a nature walk, or simply sit quietly. Observe and listen to the stuff that comes up.

4.     Self massage

Yes, you could take this in a variety of directions that would be inappropriate for discussion here. What I mean is to literally massage your limbs into relaxation so that your physical state can become full of ease. The Ayurvedics call this practice abhyanga and assert it should be done daily with the aid of quality oils. We all hold tension in different parts of the body and becoming highly attuned to that through self massage is a wonderful expression of inner intimacy.

 

  -Erin Nichole

 

-Erin Nichole


Supplement Sanction: You may not be getting what you paid for

Susan Park

News outlets such as ABC News, the Washington Post, and the New York Times are gobbling up the latest exposé on store-brand supplements sold at four major retail chains: GNC, Wal-mart, Target, and Walgreens. An investigation by the New York State attorney general’s office revealed that these brands seldom contain the actual herbs that they claim on their labels. Furthermore, they’re often chock-full of potential allergenic fillers, such as wheat and beans, without any indication on the ingredients list.

According to RT the investigation has prompted “four cease-and-desist letters to the retailers calling on them to halt sales of seven dietary supplements, including echinacea, garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort, and valerian root.”

New York General Attorney Eric Schneiderman, was so bold as to tweet directly to the major retailers to ask them to stop production of these questionable, and potentially harmful, supplements.

An article from the Washington Post explains that the investigation was conducted through a process known as DNA barcoding, in which ingredients are identified by their genetic makeup. Of the 24 products tested, “all but five of the products contained DNA that was either unrecognizable or from a plant other than what the product claimed to be.” Of these 24 products, five of them contained wheat and/or beans, which are common allergens for many people.

The obvious devastation here is that, once again, industries have been able to pull the wool over consumer eyes, so to speak. How long this deceitful practice has gone on is unknown, and the millions of people that these products may have reached could have serious inadvertent health effects on individuals who are clearly aiming to be health-conscious. I know that my severe reactions to wheat consumption could have left me hospitalized through repetitive consumption of these contaminated supplements.

The infraction committed by GNC is quite possibly the most offensive. The very existence of that company is to provide quality dietary supplements—how could they mess that up so royally? Although the tests conducted by the New York attorney general’s office must undergo further verification, this initial blow against the industry is a critical one. Consumers have been made aware and it’s now up to them to hold businesses accountable.

A company that I have and will forever trust is MOM's Organic Market, a local gem based out of Rockville, MD. They sell affordable and quality supplements that are held to rigorous standards. If you’ve been affected by the recent exposé on shady supplements, try switching to this trustworthy brand, or any other brands that they carry.

 

-Erin Nichole

-Erin Nichole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*photo from smartypantsvitamins.com

 

#30ForSpark = #30ForMe

Susan Park

#30forSpark = #30forMe: A Happier, Healthier, Sexier, and Stronger Me in 2015


I’m about halfway through my second, 30 Day Challenge and while my body is in serious need of a massage, I feel amazing. In my experience, the Spark 30 Day Challenge has made me a happier, healthier, sexier, and stronger person.

Happier

By now everyone has probably heard that yoga reduces stress, but I can personally attest that this is 110% true. You know that meme on Pinterest (and on purses, shirts, bumper stickers, etc.), “Keep calm and carry on”? Well, there’s an even better one that I’ve seen, “I can’t keep calm because I have anxiety.” I’d swear that was created specifically for me. I am always so wound up and, as a result, I get pretty consumed with worrying...about everything. No joke! If I’m in a meeting or even having a casual conversation with co-workers and I have to use the restroom, I have to give myself a little pep talk to excuse myself because I worry that: A) I might miss something important, B) people will think it’s rude to leave in the middle of a conversation, C) they might judge my clothes as I leave, D) they’ll all know that I had to go to the bathroom, or E) All of the above. It’s silly and a completely unnecessary way to live, but it’s just how I’m programmed.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that when I am participating in the 30 Day Challenge (or just practicing yoga regularly), I worry a lot less about everything. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments of unreasonable anxiety (for example, fighting the urge to fix the toilet paper roll in every single bathroom so that the paper is coming over the top); however, they occur less frequently.

The studio is comfortable to me, and the students and teachers are so welcoming that I consider it to be a safe zone. It’s a place where I can just be me without having to worry about anything. Not only that, but when I’m focused on getting into the poses and breathing correctly, there’s no opportunity for the worrying to creep in. For that, roughly one hour per day, I can actually turn off my thoughts and relax. It may not sound like a lot, but that daily dose of yoga has had an incredible impact on my level of happiness. As a result, I feel more inclined to meet new people, travel, experience new things, and live life more fully.

Healthier

As you can imagine, being that much of a worrier takes its toll on my health, both mentally and physically. When I’m not doing yoga every day, I have an extremely difficult time sleeping through the night. And when I do fall asleep, I really struggle to clear my mind and I have a lot of dreams that prevent me from getting quality sleep. Because of yoga, I’ve learned how to quiet my mind and relax more at night. Which, in turn, makes me feel better throughout the day.

Because I have an office job, I sit in front of a computer all day long. I very rarely need to get up and my body actually hurts at the end of the day. I notice that my legs and lower back get especially achy. When I’m practicing every single day, I feel like I am reversing all of the damage that I do while sitting at my desk. My back doesn’t hurt as much, my legs and toes don’t cramp, my digestion is better, and I feel like I have so much more energy.

Sexier

Now combine anxiety with living a society where there is so much pressure to look good--you’ll find that it’s really easy to feel negatively about your body. One of the benefits of doing yoga, especially for 30 consecutive days, is that it really does help tone your body. At the beginning of the challenge, I felt pretty out of shape, especially since it was right after the holidays. I had over-indulged in a few too many of my mom’s homemade cookies (and a few too many mimosas, if we’re being honest) and I hadn’t been doing nearly enough physical activity. I felt lazy, heavy, and just kind of un-sexy in general.

A few days into the challenge, I started to notice the differences in my body again. Everything started to feel a little tighter, more toned. Now that I’m about halfway through, I feel great. I already feel more energetic and light, and I feel so much more confident about my body. I know that I look more toned and it makes me feel pretty darn sexy. ;)

Stronger

While there’s more to being confident than just feeling sexy, there’s also something about feeling strong that lets you know what you’re really capable of. Before my first 30 Day Challenge, I couldn’t do crow, or headstand, or anything that required the slightest bit of strength. Like a lot of people, I get easily disappointed when I can’t get the hang of something right away and as a result, I want to give up. The great thing about the 30 Day Challenge though, is that it really forces you to push yourself. When I struggled with headstand during the first challenge and had decided that maybe it just wasn’t for me, I was forced to practice it until I got the hang of it because I wasn’t about to miss the Instagram pose of the day. (I know, it’s silly to be so motivated by the Instagram challenge, but let’s be real, I’m also motivated just to get a sticker to put on the board each day; it’s like being in elementary school again, but better.)

This time around, I’m struggling with handstand. But because I’m anticipating it being one of the poses the day, I’m determined to learn how to do it. As a result, I know I’ll be stronger in the end. And if I can get the hang of handstand, I’ll know that I’m strong enough to handle just about anything (both on the mat and off the mat).

Here’s to a happier, healthier, sexier, and stronger 2015 :)

-Katie C.

Humans are Animals, Right?

Susan Park

What Happened to Instinct?

On January 3rd Spark Yoga launched its Mindful Reading Club—the first book of the year is Clean by Alejandro Junger M.D. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet and signed up for the club meetings at the Arlington or Mosaic studio, do it now!

This is a fantastic read. My pages are decorated with copious markings and underlined passages; a hallmark of nearly all books that I read. But, Clean is different. It’s filled with a plethora of truly enlightening and useful information that helps us to easily understand and appreciate the nuanced functionalities of our highly sophisticated bodies.

Junger asserts, “Humans lost touch with their instincts” (65), a particular statement that has resonated with me since reading it. He confirms that, yes, we are animals just like our furry, four-legged friends and yet we relate to our environment as if that were not the case.

No animal always eats three times a day. No other animal eats every other living species on the planet. No wild animal eats for fun or out of sadness… No animal in the wild is obese, and diseases are rare, mostly a result of exposure to our chemical poisoning of the planet (65)

Sure, humans are a special breed: we do eat for fun and food is a symbol of our beautifully diverse cultures.  However, it’s evident that over the decades of rapid modernization that we’ve allowed our relationship to food to evolve in an entirely perverted direction.

Junger reminds us that, “We take three meals a day for granted, but it is no more than a social construct… Eating constantly without resting the digestive system may be at the root of our inability to detoxify naturally” (65).

According to Junger, the most fundamental source of healing and vitality for our bodies is detoxification. This is the body’s innate ability to clear out toxins that it accumulates by virtue of being alive. In our modern world we get pinged by toxins constantly and from unsuspecting sources!

Clean is a simple, yet revolutionary resource that enables you to get back in touch with your instincts and begin to think about your relationship to food, medicine, the planet, and your body, differently. 

-Erin Nichole

 

 

Bringing Sexy Back

Susan Park

For whatever reason I randomly began to contemplate, “What is it that we find sexy about other people? Why do we come to admire certain people? What is that certain, I don’t know…. je ne sais quoi?”

I started flipping through my mind, reflecting on lovers past, friends old and new, mentors, and role models. Sure, they’re all distinctive and unusual in their own right. Often times they’re reflections of myself as I would like to evolve or the very antithesis of who I am; either way, I have something to learn from them. But there’s something that unites them all, especially the people that I don’t actually know, per say, but certainly admire.

The conclusion I came to was happiness.

Now happiness is a difficult thing to define in itself, yet it’s undoubtedly something we can perceive on a primal level, and as a result we gravitate to it. Happy people tend to do things with a sort of lightness about them; their very presence in a room seems to lift the energy felt by all.

In my opinion, this is what makes other humans truly, fundamentally sexy. When we interact with people that are truly happy we begin to absorb some of that happiness through an osmosis-like transfer of energy. We gravitate to that energetic lift because, well, sometimes our own stores are running low or because hanging around unhappy people is just plain exhausting.

So I’m on a crusade of sorts to bring sexy back—not by changing my hair, my face, my body shape, or strutting around scantily clad. On the contrary, let’s bring sexy back by upping the happy factor. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from my own sexy friends and role models. Try them for yourself and see if it doesn’t help to plaster a perma-smile on your face and emanate brightness and lightness from your soul! Your sexy factor might just skyrocket.

1. Joy Jar

This is an amazing, brilliant, and easy way to remind yourself of all the awesomeness you have to share with the world, and vice versa! I picked up the idea from Spark Yoga barre instructor, Leigh Ann, an inspiring and sexy female that has figured out the secret!

Upcycle an empty Mason jar into a Joy Jar by simply setting it out in a prominent place. Fill it up with small pieces of paper on which you write down great things, big or small, that happen in your life. Place each paper slip into the jar and close it up, walk away. Repeat, repeat until your jar overflows or you can set an anniversary date on which you bust it open and read over your rich life-loot!  

Leigh Ann also suggested placing the Joy Jar out while hosting company. Encourage your guests to write down a recent happy moment and place it into the jar. When the time comes to read the contents of your Joy Jar you’ll come to remember the awesomeness happening in your friends’ lives as well!

2. The “whatever” attitude

This is a tricky one, because it’s not universally applicable or appropriate to respond to things with, “whatever.” When used appropriately, this is an effective technique in making yourself much happier and everyone else around you too!

A simple way to know how and when to apply the “whatever” attitude is to ask yourself this in the face of adversity: In one year will this matter? If the answer is “no” and it doesn’t involve hurting anyone… Whatever!

3. Sharpie tattoo yourself

This is a funny, but ingenious way of reminding yourself of what matters. In the process, you remind others to reflect. Your happiness will beam like a bright light all around you!

I picked up this tip from Spark Yoga instructor, Sima. She consistently has a unique and comical way of looking at things. She’s always smiling and her laughter is one of those contagious varieties, regardless of whether anything is actually funny or not. One day, Sima decided to Sharpie “tattoo” herself with the words, “I Am Awesome.”

Many of us use affirmations as a way to stay upbeat or calm down from a crisis; Sima just chose to put it out there for everyone and anyone to see. It was a bold and sexy move! Months later, I still think of it and it makes me smile.

4. Creative expression

I may be biased due to the composition of my own circle, but I find that some of the happiest and sexiest people I know are musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, drawers, jewelry makers, poets, comedians, or general crafters. Even if you think you don’t have a creative fiber in your being, you’re probably wrong; you just haven’t discovered your thing yet!

Try to do something creative at least once a month, bare minimum. String some beads on a thread and give it away! That counts. Liberate your mind by doing something creative and expressive. You’ll no doubt discover something about yourself and your way of looking at the world. It’s sexy when people can create and be bold enough to share it, despite ridicule or risk of messing it up. Whatever!

 

-Erin Nichole

Spark An Impact: Donate Blood!

Susan Park

My name is John and I am one of the owners of Spark Yoga. January is Blood Donor Month, and Spark Yoga is privileged to collaborate with the Red Cross for a blood drive January 29-31. Details of the event and sign up information are available here.

In honor of this special event, I'd like to share a personal story that illustrates the tremendous benefits of blood and platelet donations.

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) while an economics graduate student in London. I was fortunate to be diagnosed with treatable form of AML, and I have been in remission since June 2005.

During treatment, I received countless infusions of blood and platelets from anonymous donors. Chemotherapy destroys healthy blood cells, including clotting factors, and patients often experience anemia and uncontrolled bleeding. Leukemia, itself, interferes with the body's natural ability to manufacture healthy blood cells. Without blood products, cancer patients would not survive treatment. Platelet infusions are especially dear, as it takes ten people to make enough material for one infusion.

The AML diagnosis was not a surprise. I knew something was wrong when flu-like symptoms did not improve after several weeks. A blood smear indicated an abundance of whitish "blast" cells in my blood, a classic sign of the disease. (The word leukemia is a concatenation of the Greek words for "white" and "blood.") A bone marrow biopsy confirmed that my blast count was over 60%, and I was lucky to be alive.

With assistance from a dear friend, I was flown to the States to begin immediate chemotherapy. Frankly, the diagnosis was a welcome excuse to return home to sunny Colorado and escape gloomy London. I have always wondered whether a lack of sunlight played a role in my illness, but any number of environmental factors may have contributed. Of course, recent research suggests that most cancers are random.

Over the next 7 months, I underwent five rounds of high dose chemotherapy. By definition, chemo kills all fast growing cells in the body, including healthy cells in the hair, gums, and gut. Chemotherapy is a crude instrument but highly effective if used correctly. As a young man with healthy organs, I was fortunate to have the metabolism to eliminate poisonous chemo drugs quickly from my body.

I survived through the unfailing support of family and friends. My mother cooked nutritious and flavorful meals almost every day. My sisters delivered food to the hospital at all hours and played Scrabble. My father rushed me to the ER during neutropenic fevers and sat with me with during dark times. Old friends sent care packages and provided assistance. I found no shortage of love, sunlight, support.

Throughout the ordeal, I learned several important lessons. First, outlook is everything. I tried to see the experience as an adventure and not a punishment. Second, nutrition and nourishment are essential. With my mother's help, I ate well and often. An attending physician once remarked he had never seen a patient eat a huge omelet during a chemo infusion. I also walked in the sunlight whenever possible.

Finally, I learned to appreciate the role that stress plays in illness. My family once nicknamed me Mr. Intensity. In the ten years since, I have tried to be more sanguine and accepting of daily challenges. Susan, my partner and yoga teacher, has shown me how to lead a healthier and happier life. Of course, practicing yoga and owning a yoga studio are sometimes very different things. :)

I invite all members of the Spark Yoga community to participate in this blood drive with the Red Cross. If you plan to participate, please consider donating platelets. While this takes more time, platelets are urgently needed for cancer patients like myself. Your contributions will brighten futures and save lives!

With Gratitude,

John W.

2015 - The Year Of Doing

Susan Park

This time of year always finds me wallowing between bouts of trepidation and dread and soaring heights of excitement and joy.  Don’t get me wrong.  It certainly seems appropriate to kiss the past year goodbye (especially if it was a particularly sucky one) and celebrate (with great hope and anticipation) the arrival of a new year.  Sadly for so many of those hello’s and goodbye’s, I spent this momentous time feeling compelled to decide what I wanted to “fix” about me, making a New Year’s Resolution... or two or three.  Looking back now, I don’t even remember what any of those resolutions were, but I suspect that they always included an element of working out more and eating healthier... Step one to "fixing" me.  I also suspect that those resolutions were long forgotten by February 1st -- perhaps yet another thing I need to fix about me, another thing I need to add to my list of resolutions.

But 2014 has turned out to be an odd year for me, a profound year.  I feel like I am finally ready to give up the fight, the fight to fix me.  It was a long time coming. This fight to fix me, this battle has been waged for nearly my entire life... and I am exhausted.  Now I yearn to embrace me AS I AM; to embrace this life I have now.  So what does that mean for 2015?  

I have decided that resolutions and the stress and self-loathing that they induce are out.  2015 will be the year of doing.  Here are 10 things I want to do in 2015:

  1. Go on a yoga retreat to the southernmost tip of Portugal!
  2. Learn how to make my own kombucha.
  3. Do handstand in the middle of an open field.
  4. Watch the sunrise on the east coast and the sunset on the west coast -- maybe not all in one day, but wouldn’t that be cool if it was!
  5. Take a flight with my husband as the pilot.
  6. Learn how to fly - in a wind tunnel.
  7. Hike the Appalachian Trail with my puppy.
  8. Sip a cafe con leche in Key West and count the days until I can visit Cuba.
  9. Visit Glacier National Park to show my husband where I grew up.
  10. Complete the 30 Day Challenge.

What’s on your list of 10 things you want to do in 2015?

 

-Jennifer Heinsheimer

 

 

Spark Yoga Mindful Reading Club

Susan Park

In 2015 Spark Yoga is launching a new community involvement program available to our students. As a community that is passionate about healthy bodies, as much as minds and souls, we want to create a platform by which students can continue to develop their personal practice and relationships off of the mat.

The Spark Yoga Mindful Reading Club is one such way that we're able to become familiar with our communities and the brilliant, unique, and beautiful minds that make them spectacular!

Be sure to attend the 30-Day Challenge Kickoff and 2015 Vision Board Workshop on Saturday, January 3rd at 12pm to hear more about our first book of the year: “Clean” by Alejandro Junger, M.D. This book is a fantastic, informative, and inspirational supplement to your New Year’s resolutions for a healthier, happier you! It’s a wealth of knowledge that will help you to embrace new wholesome habits and an understanding of the mechanics and reasoning behind clean eating and detoxing.

Meetings will be held once a month on Wednesday evenings, listed below, at Spark Yoga Arlington.  A selection of teas and a light snack will be provided.

Quarter 1: “Clean”

  • January 3 at 12pm — Introduction of "Clean" at the Spark Yoga 30-Day Challenge Kickoff and 2015 Vision Board Party!
  • February 11 at 7:30pm— Discussion of the first half of the book (up to page 115, Chapter 7).
  • March 18 at 7:30pm —Discussion of the second half of book.

Hope to see you and hear your thoughts! Let’s make 2015 amazingly CLEAN!

-The Spark Yoga Team

Let's be vulnerable. Let's be brave.

Susan Park

As we step into the new year, it is time to recognize that we all have the power to create a life that we love, not only for 2015 but for many years to come.  We cultivate this power by firmly knowing what we want, allowing us to focus our actions on achieving just that rather than occupying our thoughts with what we don't want. This is called law of attraction; we invite into our lives what we need and want.

When we clearly identify what it is that we want for ourselves and focus our attention and energy on that, we are then free to create our own life-vision. We can then pull real goals from that vision and as a result, determine what our legacy is going to be once these goals have been achieved. As our vision and goals are set, we become the powerful creators of our own reality.

Let's be vulnerable. Let's be brave. Let's hold ourselves accountable. Let's be kind to ourselves. Let's create a life we love.

 

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.

-Rumi

 

-Claudia Cavazza, lululemon athletica Clarendon

 

Sign up online to join Claudia, this Saturday at Spark Arlington as she leads us in a vision board creation workshop, enabliing us to envision a life that we have always wanted.

 

 

                                                                                 

Hello 2015!

Susan Park

Wishing everyone a new year filled with peace, love, and good vibes!

Letting Go.

Susan Park

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

 

This quote has questionable origins; some claim it was declared by the Buddha, and others assert it was not so. Whatever the roots, the tenet is clear: the quality and ease that we wish to embrace in life can be achieved through love, simplicity, and humble wisdom that allow us to recognize when we need to let go. The Buddha was wise in his observation of the cyclical patterns in which humans repeatedly create and perpetuate suffering. Above all, he taught, we agitate ourselves into discontent, anger, hate, jealously, greed, stress, and fear through our desperate attachment to things—physical, emotional, and mental. Liberation from this suffering emerges when we are able to gracefully accept the transient nature of things and relinquish attachment.

New Year’s is a hallmark holiday for reflecting on and redefining the quality of our lives. It’s a time in which we can do just as the Buddha taught: relinquish attachment. This manifests in a multitude of ways that are personal to each of us. One of the most outstanding things I’ve heard this year from friends is their gut-wrenching desire to leave their current job. This is a common resolution because it’s where we spend the majority of our time! If there is little to no satisfaction or sense of accomplishment left in the job you chose, it’s time to reflect on whether your attachment to security and benefits is really causing you joy or just drawn out suffering. What good are benefits if all you gain from the job is degraded health due to stress, over exhaustion, and emotional distress? In the end, you’re merely spending more time and money putting those benefits to use to fix your damaged health, which may have not been so were it not for the job. See the cycle?

Often times we start strong with diligence, clarity, and conviction, but within months or weeks we let that good-natured discipline fall to the temptations and distractions that we resolved to cast out. This is no secret and yet it happens time and time again. I, too, fall prey to a lack of resolve as I become swept up in the hustle and bustle of modern life.

So how do we really let go? How do we create space by shedding what isn’t meant for us in order to embrace what may truly bring us joy, peace, and contentment? An understanding that we may not actually yet know what it is that will instill unshakeable peace, remaining open to possibilities is also crucial.

Although we live in an era that promises standardized, one-size-fits-all remedies for what ails and disgruntles us, the art of letting go can never have one such formula. But there are a multitude of techniques, principles, and guided exercises that undoubtedly help to initiate and sustain the art of letting go. This year, rather than focusing on what you want in the New Year; flip that on its head. Think, what can I let go of?

For example, when we buy more stuff without getting rid of the old, all we’re doing is accumulating clutter. The same applies to life-- emotionally, mentally, and physically. Truly reflect on your year by making a list. In one column list the challenges you were faced with, and in another, their outcomes, positive or negative. Read back over your list and start looking for patterns or connections. Is there a recurring challenge in your life that stems from a common root? Is there a recurring pattern in which you deal with adversity?

Make another list detailing the things that you’ve identified as patterns or cycles of adversity—focusing on the things that you are responsible for. Draw out keywords from this list. For example, my list for 2014, after distilling it down to the keywords, includes: overachieving, people-pleasing, multitasking, introversion, and pride. Only I know what the full story is behind these words, but that’s precisely the point. These are things I want to shed from my life for 2015 so that I may make room for the beautiful things that can emerge once they’re purged!

When I stop trying to overachieve I can then give true, quality attention to a smaller list of things to do, resulting in less multitasking with less hard-hitting results for each task. I can stop feeling the necessity to overachieve if I let go of my obsession with being a people-pleaser (an epidemic syndrome that effects so many of us). If I can let go of my introverted habits that have habitually caused me suffering, then I can begin to open up to more possibilities and more meaningful relationships.

Remember, these things can be of emotional, physical, or mental nature; they can even be toxic relationships that you’ve allowed to linger for too long. Post the list of things to shed in a prominent place so that you may continue to draw inspiration throughout the year. Your focus on those buzzwords will become etched into your brain, down to the very wiring of your thoughts, effectively helping you to stay focused and manifest change. For reals this year.

-Erin Nichole