By Chris Watson
“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.”
Tucked just off of River Road in Perrysburg, near where drivers rumble over the Maumee on the Ohio Turnpike, is a quiet, meditative space. It is not the type of space that you would expect in a facility called “Graystone Hall”, which is much more suited for weddings and family reunions than yoga and fitness training. Yet here, in a corner suite on Hufford Road, Joe Sparks, Owner of Joe’s Yoga & Fitness, has carved out a still and relaxing niche.
“I finally pulled all the aspects of my profession together in this location,” says Sparks as he reflects on his studio. “I started in this location with massage therapy and had a studio in West Toledo at Common Space 2. When space became available here I pulled my kettle bell training and yoga practice to here as well. It has been a haven ever since.”
“The key to all of my guided fitness training is exploration,” says Sparks, whose demeanor is less yogi and more coffee buddy. “I started my yoga and fitness career in a feeling of exploration and I think that is a perfect place to remain.” His personal expedition began as
a Phys. Ed. Major at the University of Toledo. “I was really into trying new stuff,” claims Sparks, with a smirk that comes from all who have looked back at college through the lens of experience. “In one year, I took Into to Logic, a course on human sexuality, field hockey and economics.” He also took a yoga class because the field hockey coach taught the class.
“I don’t play field hockey any more but I still do yoga. And it was that class that got me on my way,” says Spark, who has been teaching for over 20 years. “The key to my approach is that feeling of exploration. One of the things I teach is to explore what is personally comfortable and what is empowering. In my hot yoga classes, we use a variety of moves and they vary from class to class and I always encourage people to ‘check in’. I always ask, ‘how do you feel?’ The goal, from the very first class someone takes, is to create an atmosphere not only of fitness work but also of a safe and comfortable environment to explore yourself and your body. In our classes, the instructor and classmates meet the student where they are and guide them where they want to go. I am a tour guide, not a drill sergeant.”
Experience and Innovation
Sparks has been on the cutting edge of fitness in the area for 17 years. He opened his first studio in 2000 while working as a massage therapist and racing as a tri-athlete. He was the first yoga instructor to have a dedicated studio in the Toledo Metro Area and became a POSE Method Running coach in 2001. In 2005 he added Kettlebell training and was the first in the area to offer hot yoga in 2009.
“When I first started there were a lot of trendy things happening, including hot yoga. I stuck with it because I feel it is a great way to help make the body warm, relaxed and therefore naturally more flexible.”
In 2013, Sparks added YogAlign® to his practice–a method of practicing proper biomechanics that help long-term joint stability. “It is an integral part of what I teach,” says Sparks. “We are fluid creatures that are mostly water. We need mobility AND stability. My classes are about putting people back together from the many directions they are pulled in. We use movement, breathing, slowing down, and self-awareness to come back to a stable, flexible, and strong way of moving and existing.”
Work, Play, Relax, Repeat
“At the core of what we do in all of our fitness classes is a cycle of work, or strengthening, followed by a release of tension and a rest phase,” says Sparks. “Because I don’t overly focus on the poses, the terminology, or the length of time for a movement, we remove that overwhelming feeling that so many can get from their first yoga class…or really any fitness class. You always have choices in my class. Choices about intensity and participation. The class is about you and how you feel.”
Whether a beginner or seasoned yogi or athlete, Joe’s Yoga and Fitness offers a protected, almost sacred space. “I have always believed that the purpose of yoga and exercise in general is to create a long, sustainable, enjoyable life. Our people feel the work in our studio but they also feel loved and nurtured. My goal is to get people to enjoy the work but also slow down. Our goal is to ‘re-train’ our minds, our breath, our body…everything. My goal is to help people return to being open, creative, physically strong, balanced and creative human beings.”
Whether you are coming into fitness for the first time or are a long-standing athlete, Joe’s Yoga and Fitness has something to offer. “People need to feel like this is their home. In that safe space, people can discover more about themselves, what stresses them and what doesn’t. Not being hard on yourself but being pleased with what you have accomplished…even the fact that you showed up in the first place. Let’s celebrate the fact that we took some time for ourselves.”
For More Information and Class Schedules
Perrysburg, OH 43551