Sparkes Wellness is now at www.sparkeswellness.com!

CLICK HERE for the Sparkes Wellness website and all updated information.

Thanks!



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pink Glove Dance

Providence St. Vincent Medical Center employees donned pink gloves and danced in support of breast cancer awareness.
The Pink Glove dance has gotten over 1.6 million hits on YouTube!
If you haven't seen it yet, watch it HERE.
(The more YouTube hits, the more funding for breast cancer awareness...SO SEND ON THIS LINK!!!)

"We thought that seeing health care workers wear pink gloves would remind people to talk about breast cancer and that some of the money from the gloves could be used to pay for mammograms for women that couldn't afford it," said Sue MacInnes of Medline Industries Inc., the company that created the gloves. Medline Industries Inc. says it will donate a portion of the profits from the pink gloves to fund mammograms for women who otherwise would not get them.*

*from ABC News article

Sunday, December 6, 2009

NY Times Advocates Self Massage

I happened upon this great article in the New York Times about the importance of regular self massage and massage therapy! It's a quick informative read: Becoming Your Own Massage Therapist. Foam rollers get press, wohooo!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

**NEW SESSIONS & DECEMBER SPECIALS**

Here are two great NEW types of sessions!!


Buddy Sessions:

Workout with a partner. Personal Training or Yoga sessions for 2 people with 1 trainer.
Save some cash, exercise, AND have a great time ;)

DECEMBER SPECIAL: 1 session for $100 OR 3 sessions for $285

• Great present for your significant other, best friend, or relative
• Get inspired by your exercise buddy and have a blast
• Save mucho money




½ & ½ Yoga and Thai Massage:

An hour and a half ALL about YOU. Drop into a meditative state while strengthening your entire body with 45minutes of vinyasa yoga. Then become completely passive as you receive 45minutes of Thai massage.

DECEMBER SPECIAL: 1 (90 min) session for $120 OR 3 (90min) sessions for $285

• Guaranteed to reduce stress and tension
• Will increase circulation and flexibility
• Strengthens and stretches muscles
• Perfect gift to put on YOUR wish list

Call 201-240-4288 or email esparkes@gmail.com to book your sessions!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

City Harvest

Feeling full from your Thanksgiving meals?
Now is the perfect time to do some giving.

One of my favorite organizations to donate to is City Harvest.


"Now serving New York City for more than 25 years, City Harvest is the world's first food rescue organization, dedicated to feeding the city's hungry men, women, and children.

This year, City Harvest will collect over 25 million pounds of excess food from all segments of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms. This food is then delivered free of charge to nearly 600 community food programs throughout New York City using a fleet of trucks and bikes as well as volunteers on foot. Each week,
City Harvest helps over 260,000 hungry New Yorkers find their next meal.

City Harvest also addresses hunger’s underlying causes by supporting affordable access to nutritious food in low-income communities, educating individuals, families, and communities in the prevention of diet-related diseases, channeling a greater amount of local farm food into high-need areas, and enhancing the ability of our agency partners to feed hungry men, women, and children."


You can donate your time in volunteering, individual or corporate gifts, or food drives.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gluten-Free Girl and Thanksgiving


Many of you already know that I am a gluten-free girl. Not the Gluten-Free Girl (a well known blogger, chef, and author), but a gluten-free girl.

What is gluten, and why would I be free of it? Read about Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease at www.celiac.com


My favorite hip and cool gluten free resource is Celiac Chicks. You can watch one of the celiac chicks in this (long but informative) video.

Now, how does all this relate to THANKSGIVING?
Holiday eating can be torturous with food allergies and restrictions (missing out on bread stuffing, pies, sauces, etc.), especially on a holiday that's all about one enormous meal.

BUT...
there's hope.

One of my personal training clients, a chef, suggested that instead of trying to replace those holiday staples with gluten free alternatives, try new recipes that will appeal to gluten eaters and gluten free alike.
This makes me happy.
Very very happy.
:)

You can experiment with recipes that will give a new flair to your traditional Thanksgiving meal too!
I'll try to make Quinoa Stuffing and maybe Rum Apple Cake.

(recipes & photos from www.food52.com)

There are also some good recipes at Gluten-Free Girl Thanksgiving 2009


Want some other tips for the holidays? Read my post from last year: Thanksgiving 2008

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

have FAITH see CHANGE

This weekend, in my yoga teacher training course at OM yoga center, we began to delve into the teachings of The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali.

Patañjali organized the study of yoga. He wrote the Yoga-Sutras in the second or third century and people still use it today as a guide for observing the human mind. The word sutra means thread, an appropriate description of the work, as Patañjali threaded and interspersed the ancient yogic ideas with practical meditative techniques.

According to Chip Hartfranft's translation the Yoga-Sutra is a, "collection of 196 compact observations on the nature of consciousness and liberation [that] remains unrivaled for its penetrating insight. Though brief, the Yoga-Sutra manages to cut to the heart of the human dilemma."


This is one of my favorite quotes from the translation...

"The forces that give rise to change exist before change becomes visible."

To me this comes down to having FAITH. Faith that you are where you are supposed to be at any given moment.

Do you ever feel like you're NEVER going to get what you want?
Or that you've been working SO hard towards one goal, which always seems to be unattainable?

I do and I often find myself getting stuck in the "What If's" of a situation.
What if I don't make enough money?
What if I never lose those 5lbs?
What if my foot pain never goes away?
What if I'm single forever?

And then when things do happen, (I financially support myself, I make positive changes to my body image, my injuries heal, I'm in an amazing relationship, etc.) I look back on the stress and worry of the "What Ifs" and wish I could've just relaxed and had faith that everything would work out.

This reminds me of my previous post Living RIGHT NOW! with a Buddha Body
If I have FAITH that I am doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing RIGHT NOW! then it is impossible to label something 'good' or 'bad'. If something is neither good nor bad, it just Is. If everything just Is at any given moment in time, then you can feel content in knowing that you are on your path. The forces that give rise to the changes you want may be unrecognizable to you until after the change has occurred.

All you need is FAITH that you are on your path!

(cue Beatles song)

;)



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yummy Root Veggies

Roasted root vegetables are easy to prepare, packed with nutrients, and definitely my favorite healthy dish in the fall and winter.

Here's a straightforward recipe to try.

Feel free to experiment with your own combinations of root veggies and flavorings.

Choose a few different root veggies:
Beets
Potato
Sweet Potato
Carrots
Parsnips
Fennel bulb
Onion

Choose your seasoning:
Garlic
Rosemary
Thyme
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil


1. Preheat oven to 425 F
2. Wash veggies & chop into small chunks
3. Mix veggies with seasonings & evenly distribute on oiled baking dish
4. Bake covered for 30min, uncovered for an additional 15min (times may vary for your oven)

Allow to cool and enjoy with some steamed greens and healthy protein.

YUMMY!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Art of Self Care & Healing Massage Workshop

I'm teaming up once again with lululemon athletica (my all time favorite exercise clothes store) to present a new workshop The Art of Self Care & Healing Massage. This time in partnership with Zoe Levine, personal trainer extraordinaire and MELT method instructor.



@ lululemon athletica

472 Bergen St. @ Flatbush Ave in Park Slope (2/3 to Bergen)

Wednesday, November 4th, 7-8:30pm

It's FREE!!!

In this workshop, body practitioners Zoe Levine and Elyse Sparkes will share techniques on self-care and healing others through the MELT method and Thai yoga massage. Learn easy ways to make your body feel great on your own and with the help of a partner. Awaken and energize your hands and feet with MELT methods, and then use your increased sensitivity in full body assisted stretches and Thai massage. You'll leave feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

The M.E.L.T. Method® (MELT) is a self-treatment technique that helps prevent pain, heal injury, and erase the negative effects of aging and active living. In this workshop MELT instructor Zoe Levine (www.everydaybalancenyc.com) will guide you through simple yet powerful self-treatment techniques that reduce pain and tension in your whole body by treating just your hands and feet. Regular treatment can provide relief from neck and low back pain, arthritis, bunions, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

These quick self-treatments can be done anywhere – home, work, or travel.

Thai yoga massage is a modality that combines stretching, reflexology, energy line work, yoga poses, and massage. Learn to be both the giver and the receiver in this workshop, which will focus on increasing flexibility and improving circulation for your whole body. Your instructor Elyse Sparkes, www.sparkeswellness.com, will show you ways to reduce stress and feel completely relaxed.

Bring a friend so you'll be able to practice these new healing techniques at home!


Workshop attendees practicing Thai massage & Assisted Stretching

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Park Slope Parents

I was recently added to the Park Slope Parents website as a recommended personal trainer!

"Elyse is a great personal trainer with a lot of energy, skill, and knowledge. She's patient, but pushes you to be your best."

Park Slope Parents is an online resource for raising children in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Want to write a review? Add your entry HERE.

Thanks parents of Park Slope!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Climbing the Knife Edge @57

My dad recently celebrated his 57th birthday by taking a 10 hour hike up 5000 feet to Mount Katahdin and across its most dangerous and narrow ridge: The Knife Edge.


(Can't imagine traversing loose rock piles only 3 feet wide on the very top of a mountain? Watch this short video and you'll get the point pretty quickly).

I've always known my dad to be active and adventurous, and upon thinking about this impressive feat I realized how much physical endurance, dedication, and passion for life he has in order to accomplish this. He is absolutely a role model for me in my health and the ultimate inspiration for fitness and longevity.

I'm always curious about what motivates people to keep a continuous healthy lifestyle. How can I make sure I'm fit enough to climb a mountain on MY 57th birthday?!? Well, I asked the man who did it himself....

ELYSE: How long have you been hiking?

DAD: Since I went to the International Ranger Camp in Leysin, Switzerland, in 1962. I was 10 years old and hooked by seeing the Alps.

ELYSE: What was hiking the Knife Edge like?

DAD: Totally exhilarating...beautiful...wicked good! We were up 5000 feet traveling a narrow ridge about a mile from Baxter peak. There are several old codgers like myself up there, but mostly 20, 30, and 40 somethings.

ELYSE: How did you train for this hike?

DAD: I trained this summer with yoga classes, daily lake swimming, kayaking, biking, and 3 preliminary lower elevation mountain hikes. I was in good shape by early September.

ELYSE: How did exercise become part of your lifestyle?

DAD: My father and mother started yoga, stretching, and walking when they were in their 50's. They are now 94 and have a personal trainer for strength training and physical therapy for rehabilitation. My father still goes to the gym on his own to do leg presses. They are inspirational to me at their age, so I made exercise a priority in my lifestyle as well.

ELYSE: Do you think hiking/fitness/exercise keeps you feeling young?

DAD: Yes! Keeping the blood flowing like that is good for the body, mind, and spirit, which creates agelessness!!

ELYSE: Any advice you have for those of us who also want to climb a mountain at age 57?

DAD: The only thing between you and staying fit are the barriers you put up to exercise. I am not the most graceful or athletic person (they used to call me Mr. Peabody). I've had numerous injuries throughout my life, but I committed to the idea of starting to go for body toning & endurance, and stick to a meal plan geared to obtain my goals. I got a personal trainer and followed a program. There have been highs and lows, but I know now that I can do it. Truly, fitness is the key for alignment with self, energy, and longevity. It's a blast!

ELYSE: Wow, how true!
"Fitness is the key for alignment with self, energy, and longevity. "
You are such an inspiration.

Happy birthday and many many many more!!
Mount Everest at 75 years old perhaps?!?

;)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

STRETCH class in Prospect Park

Back by popular demand :)

Meet @ Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park
Thursday, Oct. 15th, 6pm

*** ONLY $10 ***



Take advantage of the autumn weather in the beautiful Prospect Park. You'll be able to breathe in fresh air as you lengthen your muscles and relax your mind. Bring a towel, yoga mat, and/or clothes you don't mind getting dirty.

We'll meet at Grand Army Plaza entrance @6pm and settle on the Great Lawn.

Rain Date TBA.

Bring your friends!

***All attendees will receive a coupon for a $50 Thai Massage with me (normally $80/hr)***

Monday, October 5, 2009

...5k fun in the mud...


30'x90' mud pit right before the finish line of the RunAmuck 5k race



What exactly IS RunAmuck?? Watch this VIDEO.

There were lots of obstacles before we even got to the race!...Our team went from 4 to 2 members, it was cold & rainy, and we feared we hadn't trained well enough.

Well, I'm sure glad we persevered because it was a BLAST!!

The first mile of the race was the most difficult for me. It was trail running with a lot of steep hills. I had expected the obstacle course challenges to be interspersed in the 5k (to give my non-runner legs a rest), but no, all the extras were at the very end. The pace slowed down a bit when the trail turned into a true hiking path, navigating around rocks and tree trunks and (most of all) mud puddles. Of course, after you're fully exhausted -and muddy, muddy, muddy- the course goes straight through a lake. I had the not-so-brilliant idea to try to swim because running wasn't really an option anymore. Ha! I quickly found out that it is impossible to swim in mud filled sneakers. So now, completely soaked and freezing with numb legs, we had to do high knee jumps over ropes, hurdles, and army crawls under nets. Right before the finish line there was the 30' x 90' mud pit to dive in, splash in, and get just a little bit more muddy. We did the whole shebang in 44minutes, not too shabby!! ;)

final muddy jump at finish line


I highly recommend RunAmuck for a super fun way to exercise, meet other folks with healthy lifestyles, and laugh a lot!



Oh yeah, and did I mention that you get really muddy?!?!?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WIN a session with me at the Equality Now Party!!!



On Wednesday, September 30th, come out and enjoy an evening of fun at Jimmy's 43. Kim Braun and Christine Elmo are hosting a party for Equality Now. ALL money collected at this event will go towards transporting people from NYC to DC for the National Equality March on October 11th, 2009.

With cheap beer, fun performances and an amazing line-up of raffles, you are bound to have an incredible night. We have a grand list of prizes to win, all which have been donated by local NYC body practitioners, hair artist and photographers. A live auction as well!


Jimmy's 43
43 E 7th St.
By Subway: Take the 6 to Astor Place Take the R/W to 8th Street Take the F train to 2nd Avenue

Performances by:

Kara M. Tyler aka Red Sonja (Burlesque)
Shani E. Manor (Musican)
Siobhan O’Malley (Musician)
Ben Carroll (Musician)
Jay Paranada, Laura Nell Dubuisson, Megan Buzzard, Calvin Thompson and Roderick Borden with accompanist: Rachel Kaufman (Cabaret)

Raffles donated by: (1 for $5 or 3 for $13)

Esther Ahn
G. Oscar Anderson
Charlotte Blake
Michelle Boule
Paige Martin
Katy Pyle
Antonio Ramos
Elyse Sparkes
Colin Stilwell
girlscenenyc.com

Dance Theater Workshop

treats from BABELAND and more!!!!!

Live Auction donated by:

Chef Joe Aponte - picnic for you plus two



Tony award winner Sutton Foster sponsered a bus for the march. Watch her video HERE

Points being addressed at the march are the following:

**The repeal of the defense of marriage act so that every marriage in every state has the same federal rights.

**Repeal of the don't ask don't tell so that lgbt persons may serve in the military openly with the same rights as straight people.

**End to workplace discrimination for everyone with the employment non discrimination act.

**Right to adopt children.

**Hate crimes legislation that include lgbt people and protects them like other targeted groups.

**Immigration reform that recognizes same sex couples and ends the needless seperation of families.

**Anti-bullying policy in our schools via the safe schools improvement act.

Further information about the march can be found here http://www.broadwayimpact.com/.

If you are unable to attend the party, but are still interested in making a contribution to the cause, click on the link below and scroll halfway down the page to find instructions for how to make a donation.

Find Facebook Invite HERE

Sunday, September 27, 2009

RunAmuck is in one week!!!

I'm so excited for this next Saturday...working out AND playing in mud?! hells yeah.


"This is the New York RunAmuck Mud Run! The Mud Run is a challenging 5K run with hills, beach crossings, water, walls, inflatables, and MUD. Finish it all up by jumping into our 90' mud pit as you cross the finish line. This will be the most fun you'll ever have!" -RunAmuck Festival



The registration is still open HERE

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Approaching 30?...Hydrate your Spine!


Are you approaching 30 and all of a sudden starting to feel stiff and achy?


Well, there's a valid reason for that. According to Judith Hanson Lasater PhD., PT, after 30 years of life your spine stops receiving a direct supply of blood, the disc dries out, and creates problems in your body.

In her book Yoga Body, Lasater says, "The nucleus pulposus [substance that is the weight bearing axis for all spinal movement] has no direct blood supply after the third decade of life. Yet it is made up of 80% water. So what keeps the disc plump and full of water?"

Yikes. Sounds scary, but don't give up hope just yet. There's an answer, and thankfully it doesn't involve popping pills or invasive surgery.

So... What does keep the disc plump and full of water? (Drum roll please...)

MOVEMENT!

"Movement is what causes the disc to take up fluids. By bending forward, bending backward, and twisting, pressure on one side of the disc causes the other side of the disc to take up fluids passively, which helps them stay plump and healthy."

Phew.

Here's a simple warm up/cool down stretch that moves the spine in all possible ranges of motion. For best results match the movement with the breath.
This can be done from pre-teens to age 100, so there are no excuses!

How to Hydrate your Spine:

Stand up with your feet touching, arms by your sides, shoulders rolled back and down
-Inhale, your arms out to the side and up overhead
-Exhale, interlace your fingers, face the palms up to the ceiling
-Inhale, side bend to the right
-Exhale, back to center
-Inhale, side bend to the left
-Exhale, back to center, arms down by your side
-Inhale, interlace fingers behind your back, lift sternum up to ceiling
-Exhale, fold forward over your legs, release your hands to the ground
-Inhale, reach right arm up to the ceiling, allowing your gaze to follow the right hand creating a small spinal twist
-Exhale, release the right arm, fold forward over legs
-Inhale, left arm up to ceiling, twisting to left
-Exhale, fold forward over legs
-Inhale, roll up to neutral standing position

Repeat 3-4 times for a happy, healthy, hydrated spine at any age!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

parkWORKOUT in Prospect Park

Wednesday September 16, 2009 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Prospect Park (meet @ Grand Army Plaza entrance)


It's September and time to fall back into shape! Get strong, get buff, get sweaty...all outdoors in the beautiful autumn weather. Be prepared for a smorgasbord of squats, lunges, pushups, and everything else hardcore.
This is not for the faint of heart (ie: your butt will be kicked).

*Suggested $5 donation. RSVP to esparkes@gmail.com by Sept. 14th


Bring a towel, water, and wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty (you will be touching the ground...think Plank!!).

We'll meet at Grand Army Plaza @6pm and settle on the Great Lawn.

Rain Date TBA.


All attendees will receive a pass for 2 personal training sessions for $100 (normally $160...wow, now that's a deal!)

Bring your friends!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Returning to September

Oh, *sigh*, it's September.

Even though autumn is my favorite season, it still brings so much along with it...the feeling of starting anew, winter looming ahead, the end of beach weekends. I certainly have felt these shifts during this past week.

I received this article from my longtime mentor and friend, Judith Indira Parsons. She is the author of The Clear and Simple Way and has elegantly reminded me of the cycle of the seasons and how that correlates with the cycles within myself.

Read on for some autumn inspiration...



RETURNING TO SEPTEMBER
RETURNING TO YOURSELF


It is September once again, time for students and teachers to return to school, time for summer to return to autumn, and time for me to return to Europe for my annual tour where I will be giving seminars, talks, and readings.

Returning to September can remind us that there is a cycle to everything.

Sometimes you feel energetic, sometimes less so. Try not to judge yourself too strongly for your different moods. There is an ebb and flow to all of life. See if you can just sit back and notice yourself feeling energetic or unenergetic, feeling creative or uncreative, without putting negative labels on your experience. Trust that your ebb will lead to a flow.

Notice when your mind is harshly judging the ebbs in your life . . . telling you that you should be more productive, you should be doing something. Nevermind the mind! Go deeper than the mind can go. Get to know the ebbs and flows of your life. Trust that just as the earth has its cycles, so do you. Breathe. Relax. Enter into the natural flow of life, which always knows the way to go, even when your mind does not.

Enjoy autumn to the fullest, wherever you are. It comes only once a year.

Monday, August 31, 2009

STRETCH class in Prospect Park

Back by popular demand!!!

Meet @ Grand Army Plaza, Wednesday, Sept. 2nd, 7pm
***$5 suggested donation***


Get your stretch on in the beautiful Prospect Park.
You'll be able to breathe in fresh air as you lengthen your muscles and relax your mind.
Bring a towel, yoga mat, and/or clothes you don't mind getting dirty.

We'll meet at Grand Army Plaza @7pm and settle on the Great Lawn. Be prepared, it will most likely be dark by end of class @8pm.

Rain Date TBA.

Suggested $5 donation. Bring your friends!



***All attendees will receive a coupon for a $50 Thai Massage with me (normally $80/hr)***

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Greenmarket Goodness...

Shopping at local farmer's markets is one great way to take the 'edge' off city living...

"Greenmarket promotes regional agriculture and ensures a continuing supply of fresh, local produce for New Yorkers. Greenmarket has organized and managed open-air farmers markets in NYC since 1976. Greenmarket supports farmers and preserves farmland for the future by providing regional small family farmers with opportunities to sell their fruits, vegetables and other farm products to New Yorkers."



The River Garden cut flowers & wreathes from Greene County, New York




Eat Local!

"Eating locally grown food is nothing new. A hundred years ago, over 95% of Americans lived on farms. City dwellers ate food brought by horse and cart from nearby farms. In the 1800s, Brooklyn was the top producing agricultural county in the US. In the 20th century, farms moved west and many local farms were paved over. By the 1970s, New Yorkers complained of brown lettuce and hard tomatoes while local farms went bankrupt. Greenmarket was a natural solution to a two-fold problem: by selling their homegrown crops in New York City, local farms could stay in business and bring fresh food to city neighborhoods. What began with twelve farmers in an empty lot in 1976 has grown into the largest network of its kind in the country, with rigorous "grow-your-own" standards."

-Excerpts from Council on the Environment of New York City website


Oak Grove Plantation vegetables, plants and pork from Hunterdon County, New Jersey




Find your closest NYC Green Market here
My favorites? Union Square (M, W, F) and Grand Army Plaza (Sat), both open year round!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

FREE Thai Massage & Partner Stretch workshop!!!!

Thai Massage & Partner Stretch Workshop @ lululemon athletica

Wednesday, August 26th, 7-8:30pm
472 Bergen St. @ Flatbush Ave in Park Slope (2/3 to Bergen)

It's FREE!!!***


A new lululemon athletica (my all time favorite exercise clothes store) just opened a new shop in my neighborhood. Wohooo!
And they're all about offering the community free classes & workshops.

Yup, I said FREE!***

On August 26th, I will be teaching a Thai Massage & Partner Stretch Workshop. You asked for it, you got it. Learn how to do those amazing assisted stretches that you get at the end of your personal training sessions. You will have a chance to be both the giver and the receiver of the stretches.

Bring your friend, lover, roommate, so you'll always have someone who knows how to stretch you out!! ;)

Wear comfy clothes and get ready to purchase some new fitness gear after the workshop. lululemon athletica will still be open exclusively for workshop participants.

Relaxing, stretching, and shopping all in one night? Does life get any better than this?

***Call the store (718) 636-6298 to reserve your spot!!***

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stingrays & Dragons in NYC

Yes, you read it correctly...dragons. In New York City!

Last weekend I competed with my team, The Stingrays, in the 19th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Flushing, Queens.




Dragon Boat racing is an ancient Chinese tradition that dates back 2,000 thousand years. There are about 12-18 people rowing in one boat. Our races were 250 meters or 500 meters. We finished in approximately 1minute 11sec and 2minutes 29sec, respectively. Talk about explosive power! It looks like it would be all about upper body strength, but really the power comes from your legs and obliques.

According to Dragon Boat Festival Chairman Henry Wan, "A very well-known scholar and high court officer named Qu Yuan was very fed up with the new king's failed policies. So he drowned himself in the river in order to protest the failed policies. Since he was so well liked all the villagers raced out to try to save him. They couldn't save him but every year they reenact it and that became dragon boat racing."

Watch a news clip on NY1 and look for the Stingrays in blue life jackets ;)


Stingrays showing muscles after our warm-up of 100 jumping jacks and squat thrust push ups. Hardcore!

See more pics of the boats and festival here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

BLOG-iversary: 1year of the SPARKES WELLNESS blog!!

The SPARKES WELLNESS Blog turns 1year old!!!

So much has happened in the last year! Usually we wait until January 1st to look back on the last year and make goals for the upcoming year. Why wait?!? Now is as good a time as any! So, with the SPARKES WELLNESS' BLOG-iversary I took time to reflect and realized some important goals that I had set and saw manifest since last July.

One goal I had was to develop Sparkes Wellness into a full private practice.
Now it is!...

Sparkes Wellness offers wellness counseling, personal training, dance, stretch, and Thai yoga massage. Schedule a session for one or all of these amazing wellness modalities to ignite health in your body, mind, & soul!

Another specific goal of mine in the last year was to try activities I've always wanted to pursue, but never had the time (or insert any other excuse here) to do.

I challenged myself to expand my general routine of ballet, yoga, and strength training to incorporate new forms of exercise into my life.

Here's a list of links to the exciting new activities and adventures I participated in...

~Indoor Rock Climbing & Gymnastics @ Aviator
~Whitewater Rafting @ Whitewater River Challengers
~Hip Hop dance @ Dance New Amsterdam
~Turkey Trot run @ Prospect Park Track Club
~Jiu Jitsu @ Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
~Lindy Hop dance @ Dance Manhattan and Sandra Cameron Dance Center
~CrossFit Training @ CrossFit Brooklyn
~Tumbling & Trapeze @ Lava
~Rope Course & Zip Line @ Alpine Adventures, New Hampshire
~Lap Swimming @ The Berkeley Carroll School pool
~Dragon Boat Racing with the Stingrays @ Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
~Kickboxing @ Park Slope Fitness Collective
~Pilates @ Park Slope Yoga Center
~5 Rhythms @ Gabrielle Roth's The Moving Center

...all of these activities were fun, social, and active!

Have you tried any new activities yet this year?
If so, Great!, what are they? If not, what is it you'd like to try??

I challenge you all to participate in one of the above (all highly recommended) or find an activity of your own to experiment with this year. You'll work your muscles in a new way, expand your exercise techniques, make new fitness friends, and stimulate your mind.

As a wellness counselor, I can help you find those activities that are so much fun you won't even realize it's exercise!

Let me know how it goes ;)

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Invigorating Park Workout

We're well into summer and even though the summer storms abound, you can still go outdoors and exercise in the park!

It's approaching the one year anniversary of my blog (check back for the upcoming special Blog-iversary post). Incidentally I was inspired to write another park workout, much like my first post The Lazy Sunday Workout.

Last weekend I knew I needed to get some exercise, but was only going to motivate myself to take a fast walk around the park. Luckily I met up with two friends, and together we created a kick butt park workout. I find working out with a buddy is the best way to challenge myself and have fun at the same time!

We did this is Brooklyn's Prospect Park, but you can be creative and bring it to any park, playground, beach, hiking trail, track, gym, etc.

Special thanks to co-personal trainers Leah and Sandra for helping with this workout ;)

The Invigorating Park Workout

Warm Up:
Walk 5min
Run 12min

1. Sprint up Stairs (approx. 8 flights)
2. Alternating Side Shuffles 2min
3. Single Leg Step Ups on Stair 15x/leg

REST 1min & REPEAT 1-3

Run 10min

4. Pull Ups 10x
5. Leg Raises 10x (hang from monkey bars, lift both legs up until hip height & lower, try not to swing)
6. Push Ups 10x
7. Reverse Row 10x

REST 1min & REPEAT 4-7

Run 12min

8. High Plank 30sec
9. Side Plank 30sec/each side
10. Forearm Plank 30sec

REST 30sec & REPEAT 8-10 2x

Stretch:
Downward Facing Dog
Straddle & Side Bend
Spinal Twist
Lunge
Pigeon Pose
Child's Pose

Cool Down:
Walk home 5min

...and at home use a foam roller to roll out your ITband and quads!!! :)



Contact me if you have any questions and let me know how it goes!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Sailing



Sailing in Maine...requires a surprising amount of corework!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Change is in the Air...

...can you feel it?

Every area of my life is in a period of transition right now.
I see this happening in my client's lives as well.

The shift into summer automatically brings some new situations...the end of school or work...the beginning of travel and new adventures...

You may be:
~moving to a new apartment
~spending more time with family
~developing a relationship
~transitioning in your career
~getting married
~adjusting to a new job or work schedule
~experiencing the death of a friend, family member, or celebrity figure
~expecting a baby

These major life changes -whether you label them "Good" or "Bad"- affect your daily mental state, exercise, and nutrition patterns.

How can you cope with all this 'newness' and maintain your health?

Here are some guidelines I've been using to help stay centered through life transitions...

#1 Combine SOCIAL LIFE with EXERCISE LIFE:
Choose activities that create a supportive social outlet and keep you active at the same time. You could...
~Join a recreational sports team
~Go out social dancing
~Gather friends for a group jog & follow up with a picnic in the park
~Plan a beach day highlighting a volleyball tournament

#2 Keep to a TIME SCHEDULE
Your daily routine is going to get off kilter if you're packing up your apartment for a move, taking a camping trip, or preparing for your wedding... Try to keep as close as possible to your normal time schedule in your nutrition, exercise, and sleep patterns.
~If your personal training session is usually at 8am, reserve that hour for your exercise - even if it's a fast paced walk or some yoga & stretching.
~Even a healthy amount of stress affects when, where, and how you eat. Keep to your meal & snack times, even if the types & quantity of food is different.

#3 Breathe, Breathe, and BREATHE!
(Oh, and did I mention to Breathe?)
So simple and so important!!
Wherever you are, whatever you're going through, take the time to slow down & observe your breath.
~Lie down or sit in a comfortable position.
~Take one hand to your chest and one hand to your low belly.
~Focus on the sensation of your breathing. Take note of the placement and movement of your hands as you breathe. Which area (chest or abdomen) feels more at ease?
~Stay here for at least 3 minutes (set the timer if you need to!), 1x per day.




Observe all these changes around you and approach them as opportunities for growth, love, & acceptance.

I look forward to hearing about all the coping strategies you use throughout these transitions... let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thai Yoga Massage: the TOP 10!!!

Why receive a Thai Yoga Massage?

Oh, there are so many reasons!

Thai Yoga Massage is a form of bodywork that combines massage and deep stretching. The receiver wears loose comfortable clothing and is completely passive. Call or email me today to book your first Thai Yoga Massage session at an introductory rate!!

The benefits are endless...but here's an idea of the TOP 10!*


1. Relieve your STRESS!

2. Heal your chronic muscle pain

3. Rejuvenate your body

4. Increase your flexibility

5. Help you breathe better

6. Promote a calm meditative state of being

7. Increase your circulation

8. Heighten your body-mind connection

9. Release & cleanse blocked energy lines

10. It feels good and you deserve it!!!!!!

One client's response to her first Thai Yoga Massage,
"I can not thank you enough Elyse. The massage was amazing!!!"

-Leah M, Fashion Designer & Stylist, New York City


*adapted from the Lotus Palm Thai Yoga Massage Centre

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Eat your (Sea)Veggies!

Ok, y'all...it's SUMMERTIME!!

The trees are green and in full bloom (feeling those allergies, anyone?) and we're gearing up for the beach.
Put that together and what do you need??...

...An amazing recipe using Sea Vegetables to help you boost your immune system, lose weight, and pack tons of nutrients into this delicious green dish! Plus, it's a no fuss, super quick and easy recipe to make.

What you'll need:

WAKAME- 1/2 cup, soaked & chopped

This is a sea vegetable that has a sweet flavor. Soak the wakame in a bowl filled with cold water until it expands. Drain this water and then rinse again in water and let it soak about 10-20minutes.
You can buy it in long strips (cut it into small pieces prior to soaking because it will expand a lot) or flakes.
I like the Eden Foods brand or other types of sea veggies from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables (yay, Maine!). You can also find it at your local health food store or Whole Foods.
Check out the nutrient content of similar sea vegetables here... low in calories, high in nutrients!

KALE - 1 bunch
Or any other dark leafy greens (spinach, collards, mustard greens, etc.)

OLIVE or SESAME OIL- 1 tablespoon
JUICE of 1/2 LEMON
DASH of SALT
TOASTED SESAME SEEDS- optional to sprinkle on top of finished dish

1. Wash & soak wakame
2. Wash & chop greens
3. Cook wakame in a little bit of water for about 5 minutes
4. In a skillet, heat oil, add greens & saute for 5-7 minutes
5. Add dash of salt
6. Add wakame and lemon juice
7. Saute everything for 3-5 more minutes
...sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with a balanced meal like grilled salmon, brown rice, and a salad.

mmm, YUMMY!

*recipe adapted from The Energy Balance Diet by Joshua Rosenthal

Sunday, May 10, 2009

***My Mom is YOUR Inspiration***

On this Mother's Day, I have an urge to share my mother's inspirational story with you all. Sometimes I mention her briefly to clients and friends, but like those fitness magazine 'success stories', it's not really comprehensive until you witness someone you know change their life. Luckily I get to witness many people transform to a more positive lifestyle through my professional career. The guidance and encouragement I give you comes directly from my experience of seeing the people closest to me change their lives. Each and every member of my family has gone through extreme life transformations in the last few years, but today I'd especially like to highlight my mother's life story.

She is hard evidence that IT'S POSSIBLE. 'IT' representing anything you want to happen in your life. She knew living a healthy, happy life in a fit body was possible and made it happen. At her heaviest she was 236lbs and depressed. Now she is beginning a certification to be a yoga teacher and stronger, healthier, and happier than she has ever been. Read on for her personal account of overcoming lifelong challenges with weight loss, dieting, and body image.

***This Mother's Day MY MOM is YOUR inspiration***


At 236lbs in 1994


A healthy, happy, yoga teacher in training!





"My earliest memories are of being out of breath when I tried to run and play with the other kids, splitting the seams of my pants because they were always too tight, sweating profusely all of the time and always, always wanting more food to eat before I was even done with the first bite. My pediatrician put me on a diet at a very young age. At age 10 my physician prescribed amphetamines to curb my appetite. I was very ashamed of my body and my eating habits. Real food didn’t appeal to me as I had stuffed myself on candy, cake and chips and lots and lots of it. I had 20 cavities each time I went to the dentist from all of the sugar I was consuming.

I did every kind of diet that was available. I was a great diet follower and lost large amounts of weight at a time. I knew how to “white knuckle it”. And I gained it back faster than I lost it. I come from a long line of obese people. My mom was obese for most of her life until she was stricken with tongue cancer. Her obesity made her so miserable that after the horrors of tongue cancer surgery, radiation and subsequent deformity, she stated on many occasions that the cancer was worth having in order to live in the normal size body that she finally acquired. Her mother died of obesity related causes. Her brother died of obesity related causes.

In my late 40s I had gotten so large that the seat belts in the backseat of many cars no longer fit me. My knees hurt so badly that it was painful to climb stairs. I had constant backaches and neck aches. I would not go for walks, bike rides, dances or to parties with friends. I didn't have any clothes to wear that fit me, I didn't want to be seen in public and I was quite depressed. Heck, I needed to practically hoist myself out of the chair.

In 2001 I began again. My goal at that time was to embark on a sensible get healthy program. I began to follow Weight Watchers one more time and set out on an exercise program. I gradually lost 105 pounds. Then I learned that there was some evidence that certain people really did have addictions to certain foods. These foods trigger a chemical response in the brain that creates uncontrollable cravings. When I heard this evidence I knew they were talking about me. I learned to abstain from any substances with sugar, flour or wheat. I learned to eat whole foods that contained no artificial ingredients in controlled moderate portions. I connected with a 12 step support group and my life began to improve dramatically. I learned that there is a higher power that connects me to a universal spirit within and that this universal spirit is stronger than my ego. My daughter Elyse encouraged me to take yoga classes and do some core strengthening. She did some private coaching with me and I followed her suggestions, experiencing a relief from many of my aches and physical limitations after just a few sessions. One time I developed a sciatica pain and after her Thai Yoga Massage session, by the next morning the hip pain was completely gone.

When I first started yoga I had to modify almost every pose because of the pains in my body. I was not able to raise my right arm higher than my shoulder. I was not able to do plank pose because my wrists were too weak. I could not sit cross legged because my knees hurt. Now I am able to sit crossed leg in lotus pose. I am flexible, strong, limber and can easily do balance poses- even breaking through my fear of standing on my head! Clothes fit me beautifully. I am not yo-yoing and I wear the same size clothes each season. I am no longer insecure in developing new relationships and nurturing older ones. My relationships with my daughters, my husband, my brother and extended family have blossomed. At 56 years old I am able to keep up with well toned 20-year-olds in advanced yoga classes. I realize that I am capable of overcoming fears and old habits and do not have to let them control me. I am no longer the obese, sweaty, out of breath clumsy being that I was for the first 48 years of my life. I am embarking on an exciting challenge next month as I begin a yoga teacher certification training program.

I am oh, so grateful for my life today."

~Lynn Sparkes

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thai Yoga Massage





It's official! I am certified in Thai Yoga Massage through the Traditional Thai Yoga Massage Center in New York City.

You know you want to try it out...
Read my article Need A Massage? for more info.

Contact me for **introductory offers**
esparkes@gmail.com
201-240-4288

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dance and Aging: Celebrating the life of Charlotte Klein and Frankie Manning


A few years ago Lauren Tepper*, my good friend/yoga instructor/dance teacher/journalist, wrote this exquisite article about the affects that dance has on aging. In this article she interviews my grandmother and personal idol, Charlotte Klein, who showed me that to dance is to live (In the picture to the left, we were on the dance floor for her 80th birthday -she's one hell of a lead!!).
The article also highlights Frankie Manning, my professional dance idol and the man accredited with inventing Lindy Hop aerials in the New York swing scene in the 1930's.
These two incredible individuals have recently passed on, March 14th and April 27th, respectively. They both embodied the love of dance and continued doing it until their very last days here. My grandmother always told me that even when her legs hurt too much to walk she would always be able to dance. And that's just what she did...the week before she died we celebrated her birthday with a dance party at her bedside.
In the same manner Frankie Manning was prepared to dance with 95 women consecutively at his 95th birthday bash to represent his 95 years of age!

These two remarkable people stayed fit and healthy their entire lives by finding an activity they loved to do. They danced because they LOVED it, not because it was exercise, or to burn calories, or because their doctors told them they should lose a few pounds. I encourage you all to find that activity that you just can't live without, and do it until you drop!

In Loving Memory of Charlotte Klein and Frankie Manning....



Dance and Aging: Sashay your way to health and longevity
by Lauren Tepper

“I don’t know but I’ve been told, if you keep on dancin’ you’ll never grow old…” Steve Miller Band

I’m an addict. I can’t help it. Dance keeps me in shape, challenges my mind, enables me to express myself creatively, and connects me to others. Though some telltale gray hairs give a reality check, I still feel like a kid most of the time. Has dancing kept me young? Although it’s never that simple, dance does have a unique combination of potent anti-aging properties. Recruiting the faculties of body, mind, self-expression, and social interaction all at once, dance melds all the essential ingredients for health and longevity.

That’s all icing on the cake for me. What really keeps me hooked is that dance makes me feel more alive. Medical advances increase the average American lifespan, but doing something you feel passionate about makes a longer life worth living. People who pursue their passions have more energy and vibrancy; they almost seem to glow. If dancing floats your boat you’re in luck because it is about as close to the legendary fountain of youth as you can get with one activity.
You don’t have to dance professionally or do triple pirouettes to reap the benefits. Many people mistakenly believe they lack the physical prowess or inherent musicality required for dancing. There is also the false notion that dance is only for the young. An African proverb states, “If you can walk, you can dance.” It really is that simple.

Creative Aging

Aging is a natural process, a continuous path of growth and change that we’ve all been traveling since we were born. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that worships youth while marginalizing elders. Inactivity, isolation, frailty and disease are often assumed to be inevitable pitfalls of aging.
Fortunately, a new paradigm is emerging. Dr. Gene Cohen, Director of the Center for Aging, Health, and Humanities at George Washington University calls it Creative Aging. His research has shown that adults involved in creative arts programs stay healthier and happier longer. Dance is playing a vital role in this arena.
Kairos Dance Theatre, based in Minneapolis, MN is partnering with the National Center for Creative Aging to raise awareness about the importance of movement at all stages of life. Research has shown, for example, that children who don’t learn to crawl often have trouble reading. “If we don’t move, our brains don’t develop properly,” explains Maria Genné, Artistic Director of Kairos’ intergenerational dance company.
Kairos initiated a project in 2002 called Dancing Heart: Vital Elders Moving in Community. They encouraged frail elders at a senior center to dance, at first in chairs, then progressing to more vigorous movements. Elderly participants expressed joy and amazement at being able to re-connect with their bodies through dance. The program was so successful that some participants began performing with the company. One of the most dramatic examples, Ocie Mae Young began her dancing career at age 87! “She finished her life having a glorious time dancing and telling her life stories through movement,” recalls Maria.

Kairos is now working with patients in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Contrary to popular beliefs, Maria finds that they are able to learn new things. “They are learning the language of dance, and I see cognitive changes happening. There’s so much we don’t know, and the arts give a possibility of learning a lot more.”
The Kairos performances are changing attitudes about aging and dance. Elders’ experiences are valued, and become part of the artistic creations. “Audiences cry during the performances, seeing the beauty of what community can be,” said Maria.

A sustaining way of life

In many cultures, dance is woven into the fabric of society. It provides a healthy lifestyle, and builds community. “For us [Latino-Americans], dancing is a way of life,” says Raúl Montoya in Greensboro, NC. “At American parties it’s mostly drinking, talking… In Latin culture if there’s no music it’s like a funeral.” Raúl overcame adversity as a child by learning to dance. “Learning salsa kept me going. It keeps your mind occupied, and it helped me to get over grief and move on in life.”

Dance brought romance again for Charlotte Klein and Sandy Saunders in Brooklyn, NY at ages 80 and 91 respectively. “We found one another through dancing,” laughs Charlotte. “We’re really having a wonderful life together, and I put it all on dance. I could have any problem on my mind, but when I hear music and I dance, it just leaves me.” “It’s very good exercise,” adds Sandy, and it provides laughter and enjoyment. “The more you laugh, the better you feel, and I always laugh when I’m dancing,” he says.

Even after two heart surgeries and bouts with cancer, Charlotte keeps coming back to her passion. “Dance is what keeps me going,” she says. Her granddaughter Elyse Sparkes, also a dancer, recalls Charlotte’s remarkable recovery. “Literally, the day after her surgery she was doing the hustle down the hospital hallway with her I.V. in one hand and my hand in her other. That is the image of what dancing can do.” Dance runs in the family. “I don’t really think about it as keeping me young,” ponders 24-year-old Elyse, “but when I’m not dancing I just don’t function as well.”

Fellow dancer Julie Mulvihill in Raleigh, NC put herself through college teaching and doing choreography, and then went on to a graduate degree in Dance. Dance has kept her feeling energetic and engaged in life. “I think that dancers stay younger longer,” she says. “I am more inclined to want to skip and play than someone my same age of a different profession.”

Research is scientifically illustrating what many dancers have discovered. Associate Professor Barbara Resnick at the University of Maryland School of Nursing linked dance to significant improvements in balance, flexibility, cardio-respiratory endurance, and bone density in her 2003 study Elders Urged to ‘Dance to Your Heart’s Content.’ “Although the long-term physical benefits of dance are certainly of value, for many older adults, the immediate psychological benefit of exercise is even more important,” she writes. Social dancing in particular, such as ballroom or line dancing “can result in increased communication, social engagement and positive feelings.”

Ballroom dancing takes center stage for keeping the mind sharp according to a study by Einstein College of Medicine published in the June 2003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that of physical activities evaluated (including swimming, bicycling, and group exercises), dance was the only one associated with a lower risk of dementia. Mental activities such as doing crossword puzzles, reading, or playing board games improved brain functioning in older adults, but dance out-performed them all. The 130 avid ballroom dancers in the study reduced their risk of dementia by an amazing 76%.

Still Swingin’ at 92

Lindy Hop legend Frankie Manning in New York suggests that partner dances are the most fun and beneficial. “You’re dancing with someone, you’re holding them in your arms. Partner dancing is communication. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Lindy Hopper who wasn’t smiling,” he muses.

One of the founding fathers of Lindy Hop during Harlem’s 1930s dance renaissance, Frankie developed a signature style that included the first aerial moves ever seen on a ballroom dance floor. Recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship in 2000, Frankie is renowned for his musicality, his fast footwork, and an unwavering vigor year after year.

“Dance is a very nice exercise, but I don’t look upon it that way. It’s just something I enjoy doing,” says Frankie.
This spry 92-year-old is still swinging, with more vitality than most twenty somethings. “I don’t think if I wasn’t dancing that I would live to be this age. The movement keeps you fresh,” he says. He jokes about his “trademark,” a birthday tradition of dancing in succession with a different partner for each year of his life. Gearing up to dance with 93 consecutive women in May, now that’s something to live for!

Kick up your heels

You can get your groove on at any age, regardless of body type or physical conditioning. As Kairos Dance Theatre’s work shows, even those confined to chairs can get a lot out of dancing. “It’s something for all people,” says Frankie. “If you sit and play cards or watch TV, your bones get stiff. Dance keeps you moving and that’s much more fun.”

Maria believes, “We were all once fluent in the language of dance; we’ve just forgotten.” A good way to start is by just finding music you love and letting yourself move. “Realize there are many ways to dance,” suggests Maria. “Let go of what you thought dance was, or how you thought your body should look. Turn the lights off if you want to.” Dance alone, or with a partner or group. “It’s most important to have fun and play. That’s what’s so enlivening about dance, is that it’s also play. As long as we’re playing we’re also growing,” Maria concludes.

Call it playing, growing, or aging… it’s all part of the same process. Roget’s Thesaurus defines ‘aged’ as “brought to full flavor and richness.” Imagine if we viewed aging that way, and created conditions at every life stage to enhance our unique flavors. Like a fine wine, we can grow more complex and fulfilled as we mature, discarding the stereotype of demise and decline.
Staying physically, mentally, and socially active while doing what you love makes life richer at any age. Dance, blending all these elements, is a power-packed anti-aging elixir that’s accessible to anyone. But don’t do it for that reason. Dance because it just makes you feel more alive. Come on, you know you want to.

*Lauren Tepper can be reached at laurentepper@hotmail.com for inquiries about this article

Saturday, April 25, 2009

KUMQUATS!!!!

What in this world is a Kumquat, you ask?

Kumquats are my new favorite snack! They look like grape-sized oranges and you can pop them in your mouth and eat the whole thing (no peeling necessary and very few seeds). A sweet n'sour, absolutely delicious, low calorie, highly nutritious summer time snack!

Learn about them in this article from NPR: KUMQUATS -scroll down in the article and you'll find some super Kumquat recipes too....

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Precious Human Life

Every day, think as you wake up,
Today I am fortunate to have woken up,
I am alive, I have a precious human life,
I am not going to waste it,
I am going to use
All my energies to develop myself,
To expand my heart out to others,
To achieve enlightenment for
The benefit of all beings.
I am going to have kind thoughts towards others.
I am not going to get angry,
Or think badly about others,
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

~His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stretch of the Month: Flying Angel Chest Opener

Spring is here and we are ready to soar! The Flying Angel Chest Opener will stretch your pectoral muscles resulting in a more open chest, easeful breathing, and better posture. This pose uses the floor as resistance to roll back the shoulder and increase the pectoral stretch. Remember to warm up before you try it out, especially through the shoulder joint, as it is a very intense stretch. By the end of the month you'll feel like you're standing up taller, breathing better, and ready to wear those spring tank tops!

-Lie down with your front side on the floor.
-Take your arms out to your sides to form a T position. Bend your right arm and place the palm on the floor close to your shoulder. The left arm will remain straight with the palm faced down to the floor.
-Cross your right leg behind the left so that your right hip stacks on top of the left. Your right toes should still be in contact with the floor.
-Internally rotate your left arm so that the back of the hand is in contact with the floor and your thumb is pointing towards your feet.
-Reach the right arm behind you and interlace the fingers of the right and left hands.
-Pull your fists away from your body and move your chest forward.
-Take 3-5 deep breaths, release, and practice on the other side.

Modifications: "What if...?"

"I can't do this on the floor..." Take a similar position at a wall. You will start facing the wall with your left arm extended at the wall at shoulder height. Keep it there as you move the chest away from the wall. You can also stretch both sides of the chest at a doorway. Stand in the doorway with both arms out to your sides and elbows bent. Place the forearms on the sides of the doorway. Move your chest forward until you feel the stretch.

"My neck hurts and my head is hanging down to the floor..." Use a block, rolled up blanket, or small pillow underneath your head.

"I can't balance on my side..." Make sure both feet are in contact with the floor. Pull your belly button in towards your spine.

"My elbows are hyper-extended..." Keep your elbows slightly bent and try to keep your palms touching as you pull the arms away from the body.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Need a Massage?

Of course you do! Your daily stressors, tight muscles, the "economic crisis", intense workouts and anything else causing tension in your body will release after an assisted stretching session with me.

These sessions include techniques from Thai yoga massage, a modality that combines stretching, reflexology, energy line work, yoga poses, and massage. In this method the receiver is completely passive, and gets a full body stretch to increase flexibility, improve circulation, reduce stress, and feel completely relaxed. Thai yoga massage and assisted stretching also help the lymphatic system, muscle function, posture imbalances, sciatica pain, chronic back & shoulder tension, and much more.

In a session we will discuss your health history and assess the current state of your body. I will design a unique plan for you, which will incorporate my knowledge from my extensive background in personal training, yoga, Pilates, postural alignment, dance, assisted stretching, and Thai yoga massage. You will feel rejuvenated and more prepared to handle any 'crisis' in your life!

Here's what some clients have experienced...

"When Elyse trained me with her new body conditioning technique which incorporates Thai massage and stretch, I discovered greater strength and awareness in my core muscles almost immediately after our sessions. I noticed my dance and movement skills improving especially in hip flexibility and balance. Her method released much of my tension in a way that was very gentle even though it worked at a deeper muscular level. Thanks so much Elyse!" -Leah, Actress & Business Owner, New York

"I have to tell you, Elyse, your support is touching in a way more than I can express. You have a very profound healing energy and so much love comes out from you." -Amy, Personal Trainer, New York

"Last week, due to an injured toe, I found myself hobbling about unevenly. This caused a re-occurrence of intense sciatica pain in my right hip. Elyse gave me a Thai yoga massage and stretched me out. I was incredibly relieved when, after I walked around for a couple of minutes the next morning, I realized the pain was completely gone. I had to make a 7-hour car drive that day and was concerned that the sciatica would come back as it has in the past, during a long drive. I am very grateful that Elyse's caring work on my body alleviated the pain. Thank you Elyse!" -Lynn, Audiologist, Maine

***INTRODUCTORY OFFER***
Call 201-240-4288 or email esparkes@gmail.com to schedule an appointment in the comfort of your own home and details on the INTRODUCTORY OFFER.

Monday, March 30, 2009

***New Class Time***

My open level STRETCH CLASS at the Park Slope Fitness Collective is now at 7pm instead of 6:30pm!!

Come this Thursday, April 2nd, @ 7pm to try out the new Stretch of the Month!!!

Stretch of the Month: Downward Facing Donkey

Downward Facing Donkey is a variation of the traditional yoga pose Downward Facing Dog. You get all the benefits of Downward Facing Dog, plus even more! You'll stretch the back of your legs, lengthen the muscles around the spine, and strengthen the shoulders and arms. This pose will also help combat depression, reduce headaches, relieve menstrual pain, and calm the nervous system. Proper alignment is essential in Downward Facing Donkey to achieve an additional stretch in the calf and achilles tendon.

-Start on all 4's with your shoulders over your wrists and hips directly over your knees. Tuck your toes, press down through the palms and lift your hips up to the ceiling to form a Downward Facing Dog (your body should form a triangle shape).
-Lift the right leg up so that it is parallel to the line of your torso. Extend energy through the right heel as if you were going to step on a wall behind you. Make sure to keep the right hip in line with the left (don't allow the hips to stack). Roll the right inner thigh up to the ceiling so that the right leg is internally rotating and the toes are pointing straight down to the floor.
-Bend at the right knee without changing the position of your hips. Now the sole of your foot will be facing up to the ceiling.
-Move the foot up toward the ceiling a few inches. Make sure to keep the right hip in line with the left and the right leg internally rotated.
-Send the left heel down toward the floor.

Modifications: "What if...?"

"My wrists hurt..." Press down through the index finger, thumb, and all 10 knuckles. You can also elevate the palms of the hands by placing them on a rolled up mat. Or try the pose from the forearms.

"My back in over-twisting..." Make sure your right hip is level with the left and the right leg is internally rotated. Support this position by engaging your abdominals and keeping your shoulders square.

"My left knee is hyper-extended..." Keep the left knee soft and slightly bent, while maintaining the lengthening from sit bone to heel.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Living RIGHT NOW! With A Buddha Body

As some of you know, death has been on my mind lately as a loved one of mine is in the process of dying. To help myself cope with this I have been reading books on spirituality, life, and death (I admit, I'm a self-help book junkie).

In his book, Mind of Clear Light Advice on Living Well and Dying Consciously, The Dalai Lama interprets, analyzes, and expands upon a poem that the Buddha wrote about death and dying. This week I read this quote:

"Understand that this body, which you sustain at any cost, will someday desert you."

I'm not trying to be morbid or suggest that we all become Buddhists, but after reading this I immediately felt differently about my body. Instead of being so critical of myself I felt like I wanted to be kind, generous, and show love to my body starting RIGHT NOW!

To me this quote raises the question, "If I were to lose my physical body tomorrow, how would I treat it today?"

I'm willing to bet you would chose to make it feel good. Your body feels and functions its best when you give it enough exercise with movement, strengthening, and stretching; when you allow your body sufficient rest and recuperation time; when you sustain it with healthful foods; and when you respect it via the mind and soul. Here are some examples/suggestions:

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Sitting on the couch watching reality TV might be tempting, but how do you feel after an hour of channel surfing compared to an hour of hardcore personal training session or a relaxing stretch session? Just getting up and taking a walk around the block will help keep your body functioning for the rest of your life!

NUTRITION
Comfort foods like ice cream, pasta, cookies & cakes, or anything you've ever restricted from your diet might be the first thing you want to eat when you give yourself 'permission' to indulge. Take a moment to examine and visualize how you really feel after you've eaten them...probably not as fulfilled and satisfied as you feel after you've eaten a balanced meal made from all whole foods!

REST
Taking 5 minutes for meditation or getting an extra hour of sleep could be of more value to your body than cramming in a few more emails or checking your facebook every night. Tune in to the true needs of your body and allow yourself to rest when you need. Or treat yourself to a massage ;)

MIND AND SOUL
"I'm fat" or "I hate my thighs" could be the exact thoughts that are keeping you from your goals. What if you substituted those thoughts with "I love my body" or "I'm healthy and fit"? Your mind is powerful and pretty soon your body will adjust to align with your thoughts!



My intention is to uplift you with these thoughts and encourage you to engage in activities that make you feel great at this very moment. Feel Good Right Now!
The Dalai Lama...Buddha...regardless of your political/religious affiliations, you've got to admit these guys are awfully wise!

I'm interested to hear your feedback...make comments or email me your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stretch of the Month: The Wall Twist

We're at the wall again this month for a standing pose, The Wall Twist. This stretch is way more than just a stretch! February's Wall Twist requires strength, balance, coordination, and abdominal work (all the stuff that's amazing for your full body fitness)! Make sure you've done at least a few minutes of warming up before trying it. Need a reminder of good stretching techniques? Check out the info at January's Stretch of the Month The Wall Lunge.

-Approximate the length of your leg and stand at that distance, facing a wall.
-Keep your left foot parallel and rooted down into the floor, step your right foot onto the wall. Your right leg and your back should be as straight as possible.
-Inhale and lift your arms overhead. Exhale and twist your body to the right.
-Let your left hand touch your right leg wherever it reaches (could be the thigh, calf, or foot). Stretch your right arm directly behind you (ideally your right hand will be in line with your right foot).
-Keep both legs engaged by pressing the left sole of the foot down into the floor and the right foot into the wall.
-Let your gaze follow the right arm so you're looking over the right shoulder.
-Inhale lengthen, exhale and twist even more. Stay here for 3 deep breaths and do the other side!

Modifications: "What if....?"

"My back is rounded..." Move a little bit closer to the wall and bend your top leg. It is more important to maintain a neutral spine than to have a straight top leg.

"I can't stay balanced..." Take the entire position down to the floor. You will be lying in a spinal twist with the top leg extended to a straight position, just as if you were standing. *AND set up personal training sessions with me to improve your balance!!!!!

"I need more of a challenge..." If you can hold your top foot and keep good form in this pose with ease, then try the pose standing in the center of the room.


*Let me help you make sure you've got superb form in The Wall Twist, and achieve your best strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and corework!!! Call 201-240-4288 or email esparkes@gmail.com for sessions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Surviving the Winter Slump

It's halfway through February and technically there are only about 4 more weeks of winter. The spring equinox (March 20th!) is approaching, but nevertheless this time of year can seem endless. Goals and intentions set during the beginning of the year may fade away and hibernation mode might prevail for the rest of the winter. Here are some ruts that you may be stuck in and suggestions for surviving the rest of the winter in good health :)

THE COMMON COLD: This one is a doozy because a simple head cold can interrupt your regular schedule, affecting your exercise, work, family, and social life. This, however, is an important interruption because it's clueing your body in to some essential information. Your body is telling you that you need to rest. As difficult as it is, try to honor that and get extra sleep, eat quality whole foods, and SLOW down your schedule!
Getting back into your fitness routine post-cold can be a challenge because your body is still weak. Be patient with yourself. *Keep your body moving and start off with something less vigorous like a fast paced walk or a restorative yoga class. Once your muscles have regained strength you can sweat the rest of the cold out of your system with an intense personal training session.

STALE ROUTINE: You're following through with your goals (getting to the gym 3 times a week, eating healthy portion sizes, etc.), but you're starting to feel like you're stuck in a rut. To avoid feeling bored or burned out with your routine try to mix things up a bit. **Try a new class to challenge your muscles or an active social event to get extra cardio. ***Buy an unfamiliar vegetable and experiment with ways to create a healthy meal.

LOSING SIGHT OF RESOLUTIONS: Goal setting is a great tool to reach your desired level of health & fitness. If these goals came in the form of New Year's resolutions, by this time something else may have taken precedence over the lifestyle changes that you need to make in order to reach your goals. This is an opportunity to go back and reevaluate those goals. Are they realistic? What steps do you need to take to see them through? Reread them, rewrite them, and most importantly start NOW. It's never too late to create a goal or make lifestyle changes. You can start at this very moment. ****



I've personally experienced ALL of these issues this month! Here are some ways I'm getting myself through...
*I tried to go for a run after I felt better from a cold, but my body just wasn't ready yet. Instead I took a fast paced walk in the park, stopped at every other park bench for 20 step ups, 15 push ups, and 15 dips.
**To spice up my fitness routine I've been taking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (a detailed post on this coming soon!), kickboxing, and lindy hop swing classes. I'm sore in all new places!
***Blend all these ingredients for a delicious and healthy salad dressing or dip: 1 large carrot (peeled & chopped), 1 large shallot (peeled & chopped), 2 TB chopped fresh ginger, 1 TB sweet white miso, 2 TB rice wine vinegar, 1 TB roasted sesame oil, 1/4 c grapeseed oil, 2 TB water
****Reread January's post, "Are you ready to shine in 2009"

*****Contact me for more suggestions and to set up personal training sessions!!*****

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stretch of the Month: The Wall Lunge

It is the beginning of the new year and we are starting with a brand new Stretch of the Month, The Wall Lunge. This stretch targets your quadriceps and hip flexors. Since it is January, month #1, and this particular stretch can be quite intense let's go over some basic safety tips for stretching...

1. Remember to breathe throughout the entire stretch. If one area feels particularly tight, send the breath directly to that spot.
2. Only go to the point of "good" pain. If you feel a pull, strain, or pain in any position release it and ask for a modification. This way you'll get the full benefit of the pose without injuring yourself.
3. Always warm up prior to stretching. This could be marching in place, a light walk/jog, or circling the joints.

For The Wall Lunge make sure you have a blanket, towel, or rolled up mat to protect your knee in this pose. The Wall Lunge can feel extreme especially for runners or people with tight thighs and hips. Practicing this pose will decrease low back pain and create more range of motion in your hips for your everyday and fitness activities.

-Place your knee padding on the floor up against a wall. Get on all 4's facing away from the wall. Place your right knee in the crease where the floor and the wall meet. Your right shin should be against the wall with your toes pointing up to the ceiling.
-Place your hands on the floor in front of you and step your left foot in between the hands.
-Square off your hips by pulling the left hip back and moving the right hip forward. Engage your abdominals by bringing the low belly in towards your spine.
-Bring your hands to the top of your left thigh so that your body is upright (shoulders directly over the hips). Let your hips sink forward with the tailbone curling forward slightly.
-Make sure your low back is lengthening and the shoulder blades are sliding down the back. Front ribs are knitting in and together, and the sternum is reaching up to the ceiling to broaden the chest.
-Take 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

Modifications: "What if?..."

"This is too intense for my leg against the wall!..." Move your knee a few inches away from the wall. If this is still too much, move completely away from the wall and keep the entire lower leg on the floor.

"I don't feel anything..." Make sure your upper body is upright, you are engaging your abdominals, and the pelvis is slightly moving forward.

"I need more of a stretch..." Reach your arms up to the ceiling and take a high arch in the upper back. Try to reach the wall behind you without compromising good form in your low back.

Good luck with this one! (Stretch class can't wait to move on to February's Stretch of the Month). Contact me if you need ideas for special modifications, or come to class to give it a try and get hands on help!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Are you ready to SHINE in 2009?

Happy New Year!

A mentor of mine introduced me to this fabulous phrase for the New Year: "Prepare to Shine in 2009!"

I love this because it creates a personalized uplifting image to start the new year. This time of year can be overwhelming with to-do lists piled up after the holiday season, getting back into full time work schedules, and pressure to determine your resolutions for the entire year. Instead of making the traditional resolution list (lose weight, make more money, etc.), try restructuring your list into ways you'd like to shine in 2009! Or better yet, challenge yourself to find ways to make yourself and others shine everyday. Start upon waking tomorrow, by committing to do at least one thing during the day that will make you and someone else feel great. If you do this everyday, you will absolutely have an exceptional year.

It's never too late to have a happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise year. Begin at this moment! Go ahead, and SHINE...