Author Archive for Melissa "Mati" Elstein

Fall Musings

I hope you are doing well and enjoying the beginning of the Fall season. This time of year always reminds me of the excitement I felt as a child of starting a new semester at school. My mother always brought my sister and me shopping for new school clothes (she was a traditional Swede, so no jeans or sweats for us – instead, always beautifully tailored skirts and slacks, and collared shirts with sweaters). We had our new paperback books from Scholastic, empty notebooks to soon be filled with creative writing, and leather containers of pencils and pens. The fresh, crisp air on our morning walks to school invigorated us for the school day ahead. Each day was filled with new experiences and growth opportunities, and the expansion of young minds absorbing new lessons – both academic and social. Decades later, as a mid-life adult, I still get excited about the fresh start that Fall offers – new classes to teach and take, new opportunities to learn and grow. After all, life is a continuous lesson if we allow ourselves to experience all we observe with the wonder of a young child. I believe, in Buddhism, that is described as “beginner’s mind”. Not assuming we already have all the answers, and not going through our lives on remote control. Instead, truly observing and experiencing all that surrounds us, as well as our inner worlds. As we practice yoga, qigong, dance, or any forms of exercise, we can aim to approach the movements with a fresh perspective – even if we have done that pose or move hundreds of times before. After all, our bodies are different day to day, moment to moment, as are our thoughts. Just like the young child reading her new books or running on the school playground, life is more interesting and full when we are truly experiencing it in the moment.             

Oberlin College – 2019

Celebrating Broadway with a Free Community Outdoor Movement Class!

Sat., Sept. 21, I taught a free outdoor Tai Chi Easy™, Qigong and yoga class at UWS Streetopia’s first ever street fair. See their flyer below and their website to learn more about this new community group aiming to improve the upper west side of Manhattan and give a stronger voice to New Yorkers in local municipal decision making – https://www.streetopia.city. I also tabled there during the afternoon to spread awareness about my street tree care advocacy work with my Love Your Street Tree Day coalition – http://www.loveyourstreettreeday.com. It was a lovely community event and I was happy to participate wearing my two hats, so to speak.  

Adult Ballet Classes and Tai Chi Easy™

ADULT BALLET CLASSES

Finis Fridays Adult Ballet Class 

Sunday August 4th, I am teaching two adult ballet classes (subbing for my ballet teacher, Finis Jhung) at the Alvin Ailey Dance Extension Program. These “Adult Basic Ballet” and “Adult Beginner Ballet” classes are taught in the style of Finis Jhung, as I have completed a teacher training with him, and continue to study with him. We will be using compilations of his beautiful classical music cds, composed specifically for his classes. You can wear yoga clothes if you don’t have dance leotards and tights, but I do suggest you purchase a pair of canvas ballet slippers (at Capezios, Bloch, or elsewhere) for under $ 20. The Alvin Ailey boutique also sells our ballet barre instructional DVDs, so you can practice at home too. If you have any questions about ballet supplies, please email me!

Alvin Ailey Dance Extension Boutique

RECOMMENDING MY QIGONG TEACHER’S KRIPALU WORKSHOPS:

This August, my qigong teacher and Tai Chi Easy™ founder returns to the North East to teach special workshops at Kripalu. Dr. Roger Jahnke created this more simplified version of Tai Chi so that the profound benefits (balance, stress-reduction, self-healing) could be available to everyone no matter the age or condition of the students. Traditional Tai Chi requires years of study, but Dr. Jahnke’s shortened and flowing version will bring you those benefits almost immediately. I know it may sound too good to be true, but it really does work!  I teach Dr. Jahnke’s Tai Chi Easy™ in my Integral  Yoga classes and during my Dorot telephone series (a seated version). 

If you are interested in doing 5-day courses with Dr. Jahnke this Summer, he will be at Kripalu Yoga Center mid-August: https://kripalu.org/search/jahnke  I highly recommend studying with Dr. Jahnke – he is a true spiritual teacher who walks the tai chi walk!

My July Classes; Qigong & Tai Chi Easy™ Trainings with Dr. Roger Jahnke

RECOMMENDING MY QIGONG TEACHER’S WORKSHOPS:

This July, my qigong teacher and Tai Chi Easy™ founder returns to NYC to teach special workshops at The Open Center. Dr. Roger Jahnke created this more simplified version of Tai Chi so that the profound benefits (balance, stress-reduction, self-healing) could be available to everyone no matter the age or condition of the students. Traditional Tai Chi requires years of study, but Dr. Jahnke’s shortened and flowing version will bring you those benefits almost immediately. I know it may sound too good to be true, but it really does work!  I teach Dr. Jahnke’s Tai Chi Easy™ in my Integral  Yoga classes and during my Dorot telephone series (a seated version). 

Here are the links to his NYC Workshops on Saturday, July 13: https://www.opencenter.org/the-healer-within/ and Sunday, July 14 https://www.opencenter.org/qigong-as-gateway-to-inner-peace – choose one day, or both! If you are interested in doing 5-day courses with Dr. Jahnke this Summer, he will be at Kripalu Yoga Center mid-August: https://kripalu.org/search/jahnke  I highly recommend studying with Dr. Jahnke – he is a true spiritual teacher who walks the tai chi walk!

Dr. Roger Jahnke and a few graduates of his programs at our awesome Reunion this year outside of Austin, TX.  

MY SUMMER CLASS SCHEDULE:

This Summer, I am happily teaching many movement classes including yoga, qigong and ballet. In addition to teaching Monday morning Gentle/ Level 1 yoga classes at UWS Yoga & Wellness, there will be two Thursday evening Gentle Yoga & Qigong classes at the beautiful Integral Yoga Institute. I will be back at Dorot on August 19 for a Chair Yoga class, and my telephone Qigong, Tai Chi Easy™ and Guided Meditation series starts again Friday, July 5 (by the way, you can start this 10-week series at any time).

Additionally, I am subbing Sunday adult ballet classes for my ballet teacher, Finis Jhung, at the Alvin Ailey Dance Extension Program. These “Adult Basic Ballet” and “Adult Beginner Ballet” classes are taught in the style of Finis Jhung, as I have completed a teacher training with him, and continue to study with him. We will be using compilations of his beautiful classical music cds, composed specifically for his classes. You can wear yoga clothes if you don’t have dance leotards and tights, but I do suggest you purchase a pair of canvas ballet slippers (at Capezios, Bloch, or elsewhere) for under $ 20. The Alvin Ailey boutique also sells our ballet barre instructional DVDs, so you can practice at home too. If you have any questions about ballet supplies, please email me!

Alvin Ailey Dance Extension 

Adult Ballet at Ailey Extension This Summer

I am teaching four Sunday adult ballet classes for my ballet teacher, Finis Jhung, at the Alvin Ailey Dance Extension Program. See below for the exact dates and times of these “Absolute Beginner Ballet” and “Beginner Ballet” classes.  Both levels are taught in the style of Finis Jhung, as I have completed a teacher training with him, and continue to study with him.  We will be using compilations of his beautiful classical music cds, composed specifically for his classes. You can wear yoga clothes if you don’t have dance leotards and tights, but I do suggest you purchase a pair of canvas ballet slippers (at Capezios, Bloch, or elsewhere) for under $ 20. If you have any questions about ballet supplies, please email me!

Alvin Ailey Dance Extension 
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CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

Absolute Beginner Ballet for Adults on Sundays, June 9 and August 4 at noon – 1:30 pm:
This class is open to all, whether you have ballet experience and want to review the basics or you are a brand-new beginner.  Non-dancers will not be intimidated as the instructions are clear and the class moves at a slow pace. We begin standing ballet exercises at a portable barre in front of the mirror. Most exercises are done with both hands on the barre and proceed slowly and methodically, and the second time we practice away from the barre so balance and strength are further developed. In Absolute Beginner Ballet, students learn the basics of correct dance posture, positioning, and balancing on one leg. The centerwork includes stretching on the floor, as well as basic dance movements which travel across the floor.  Ballet helps increase coordination, balance and memory, and movements are coordinated with beautiful classical music.  I enjoy taking the Absolute Beginner class, because I find the slow, mindful dance movements to be like a zen yogic flow — meditative, but also with the added benefits mentioned above.  I am very happy to be teaching this class as I believe in Finis’ movement principles, and see many parallels with the Tai Chi Easy/ Qigong classes I teach (fall prevention, movement quality, strength and grace, etc.).     
 

Melissa Elstein at the barre.

Beginner Ballet for Adults on Sundays, June 9 and August 4 at 2:00 – 3:30 pm: 
The Beginner Ballet class is for people who have had prior dance experience, because the barre moves much faster and the center includes turns and jumps. The combinations are longer and more complex than the Absolute Beginner Ballet, but the underlying technical principles remain the same.   

photo by Stephen Von der  Launitz___________

Recommending Health Journeys’ Guided Meditations/Affirmations

For some time now, I have been an avid listener of guided meditations but only recently did I discover one of the oldest companies of this helpful wellness modality – Health Journeys. Because of my positive personal experiences, I feel compelled to highly recommend Belleruth Naparstek’s guided imagery CDs (also available in digital downloads on iTunes). Her offerings range from pain reduction to preparing for surgery, stress relief, alleviating tinnitus, increasing self-compassion, reducing depression, and so much more. Belleruth is a psychotherapist whose CDs have been used in over 3,000 hospitals and clinics for years. Guided imagery bypasses the conscious mind, and works on the subconscious to promote healing and well-being. Each CD/download includes a guided meditation with visualizations as well as affirmations – all accompanied by beautiful relaxing music. To maximize the healing benefits, it is recommended that one listens once or twice per day for several weeks. I’ve found listening before sleep is very effective. Of course, everyone is different and voice preferences are subjective.  I enjoy the CDs that are personally narrated by Belleruth. My hope is that you too will benefit from her meditations and affirmations.  Please check it out at www.healthjourneys.com or on iTunes – enjoy! 

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March Classes; New Gentle Ballet at Dorot for Seniors; Yoga and Qigong Workshops

I hope this email finds you well on this snowy and rainy Sunday evening. Please commute safely tomorrow! 

I am delighted to be returning to the Dorot Center on the Upper West Side to teach a special series – “Gentle Ballet for 60+”.  The full description of this new weekly class (Tuesdays 10-11 am) is below.

Ballet had been an integral part of my life since I was a child. I started taking classes and performing in recitals as a young child in New Jersey, and then auditioned for and was accepted into George Balanchine’s “School of American Ballet” at Lincoln Center.  Performing with the New York City Ballet as a young dancer in classics, such as The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Midsummer’s Night Dream, Harlequinade and others was a gift that I will always cherish.  I so appreciate that I was able to dance at The New York State Theater with ballet superstars Suzanne Farrell, Baryshnikov, Helgi Tomasson, Jacques D’Amboise, Patricia McBride, Merrill Ashley (to name a few) as they were coached by Balanchine. It truly was the heyday of ballet in NYC, if not the world, and I soaked it all in. After high school, I joined the Pennsylvania Ballet Company in Philadelphia, dancing professionally for several years.

Growing up, ballet was my deepest passion.  I never imagined my beloved career would be cut short. But various factors (injury, emotional burnout, immaturity) led me to leave the dance world for a decade to pursue academics and a law degree instead. I thought the ballet for me was just a memory. But while studying for the bar exams, I went back to the other “barre” as well and returned to ballet classes. It was like coming home.  Since then, I never stopped dancing; even while practicing law, I would hop on the express train and take class during lunch or after work. When I left the practice of law and became a teacher of yoga, pilates and Qigong, it was only natural that the appeal of ballet teacher trainings would follow, and I subsequently trained with ballet master Finis Jhung (my ballet mentor to this day) and American Ballet Theater’s school. 

While now teaching ballet to children, adults and seniors, I love to bring joy of movement combined with technical skills – modified to students depending on age and ability. One is never too old to start dance classes, as long as the class allows for the student to respect the body’s limitations and work within safe ranges of motion, as are my guiding principles. Ballet is a beautiful art form that also has practical benefits for students: increase of strength and flexibility; improvement of balance and coordination; focus, attention and memory can improve. Plus, it feels wonderful to move to classical movement.  It truly uplifts the spirit!           

Dorot Center – photo by Shannon O’Connor

CLASS DESCRIPTIONS

“GENTLE BALLET” AT DOROT FOR SENIORS (60+):

Stretch and strengthen like a ballet dancer, and learn ballet barre technique in a modified gentle ballet class that uses a chair for support.

We start with seated warmups for legs and arms, and gentle core strengthening.  Once the body is warmed up, we will stand holding the chair for the traditional ballet barre exercises.  Ballet class has been shown to improve coordination, balance, flexibility and muscular strength – all while moving to beautiful classical music!

Please rsvp to Shannon O’Connor before class and note the standing movements are best wearing ballet slippers, socks with traction, or flexible sneakers (i.e., allowing the feet to flex and point).  

Melissa Elstein at the barre.

 photo by Stephen Von Der Launitz

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“TAI CHI EASY & CHAIR YOGA”:

Tai Chi Easy™ and Chair Yoga continues at the beautiful Integral Yoga Institute.  This fusion class supports the immune system with gentle movement, energy work, and self-care techniques. Our practice combines all the above, as we warm up, strengthen and stretch the body with Chair Yoga exercises, standing balancing poses (optional use of the chair for support), Tai Chi Easy™ weight shifting and walking for balance and coordination, and Qigong energy cultivation.  Class ends with an extended yoga nidra deep relaxation and guided meditation to refresh the body and spirit. This class, formerly called “Chair Chi & Prana“, is accessible to all ages and levels.  Please wear or bring traction socks (like pilates or Barre socks).  

February 2019 Classes

On this balmy Superbowl Sunday, it feels like Spring may be right around the corner, and I certainly hope so!  This week’s Arctic Blast left my body feeling stiff and tense, as I found myself bracing against the chilly winds on my daily walking commutes. During the Winter months, it is even more important to take time for stretching and relaxation, as our muscles reflexively contract in the cold and it is mentally exhausting dealing with such inhospitable conditions.  This month, I am teaching numerous styles of movement modalities all of which will assist with such gentle stretching with a meditative focus.  See the side bar for the February dates and below for descriptions of Adult Beginner Ballet; Chair Yoga & Tai Chi Easy™; Gentle Hatha Yoga; and a special Gentle Yoga & Qigong for Heart Opening on Valentine’s Day.  Hope to see you in class!  As always, email me any questions you may have about these classes.  

Hudson River Sunset 2/3/19 by Melissa Elstein

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CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

Special Valentine’s Day Class:

On this 2019 Valentine’s Day, you are invited to a special Heart-focused Yoga & Qigong class 5:15 – 6:45 pm at Integral Yoga Institute. Qigong and yoga are heart opening practices, opening to our own hearts as well as to others. Yoga and Qigong cultivate acceptance and non-harming (Ahimsa) towards oneself and others. In this special class, welcome to everybody (all genders, singles/ couples), we will collectively and individually create more openness of body and spirit as we practice asana and energy work with a gentle heart-centered intention. 
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Chair Yoga. Qigong & Tai Chi Walking:

This fusion class combines gentle movement, energy work, and self-care techniques. Our practice will include all of the above, as we warm up, strengthen and stretch the body with Chair Yoga exercises, standing balancing poses (optional use of the chair for support), Tai Chi Easy™ weight shifting and walking for balance and coordination, and Qigong energy cultivation.  Class ends with an extended yoga nidra deep relaxation and guided meditation to refresh the body and spirit. This class, formerly called “Chair Chi & Prana“, is accessible to all ages and levels.  Please wear or bring traction socks (like pilates or Barre socks).  

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ADULT BEGINNER BALLET LEVEL 1:

This class is open to all, whether you have ballet experience and want to review the basics or you are a brand-new beginner.  Non-dancers will not be intimidated as the instructions are clear and the class moves at a slow pace. You will begin standing at a portable barre placed in front of the mirror. Most exercises are done with both hands on the barre and proceed slowly and methodically, and the second time you will practice away from the barre so you develop balance and strength. In Ballet Level 1, students learn the basics of correct dance posture, positioning, and balancing on one leg. Your muscles will develop properly so you gain strength and control of your movements. The centerwork includes stretching on the floor, as well as basic dance movements which travel across the floor.  Ballet helps with increasing coordination, balance and memory, and movements are coordinated with beautiful classical music.

Melissa Elstein at the barre.

photo by Stephen Von Der Launitz

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Gentle Hatha Yoga:

Restore your balance in this gentle Hatha yoga class that focuses on proper alignment and inner awareness during each yoga posture, deepening the meditative aspect of the yoga practice. This class is designed as a moving meditation that helps us slow down our thoughts so we can connect to our true essence – our higher self.  We begin with the Integral Yoga chants and eye exercises, before exploring the yoga asanas allowing for modifications for each practitioner if appropriate.  Class includes a guided yoga nidra (deep relaxation technique) and savasana (relaxation pose) leaving us feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  We conclude with breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation, as well as the Integral Yoga peace chants – creating a well-rounded and thorough yoga practice suitable for all levels, from beginners to advanced practitioners.

Happy 2019! Resolutions and my Tai Chi Easy/Chair Yoga Returns

Wishing you a magical and wondrous New Year filled with happiness, harmony, and abundance!

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Often as we think about our plans or resolutions for a new year, we have been conditioned by society to create unrealistic or onerous resolutions, such as to lose 15 pounds in a month or eliminate sugar or “bad” carbs completely.  Perhaps there are some who will be able to succeed in their quest and maintain such a rigid restriction or goal for the long term.  But most such resolutions get broken fairly quickly, creating more disappointment and negative self-talk for the goal seeker.  However, if we can flip the resolutions so that they are not about removing something desirable from our lives (let’s be honest, sugar tastes delicious!), but instead is about adding things (such as, I will eat more fresh fruit and veggies), we won’t feel the same level of deprivation.  By focusing on the positive side of a new dietary lifestyle (note, I did not use the word “diet”), we will not feel as if we are on punishing ourselves – as we eliminate the things have been used to eating or craving.  Instead, it is more likely that if we add more nutrients and fiber from fresh fruit, berries and veggies, for example, we probably won’t be craving as much sugar or unhealthy carbs. Psychologically, we are adding to our lives – not detracting –  which is very different than a resolution that focuses on depriving ourselves.  As soon as we vow to not have something anymore, ironically it becomes all that we seek.

I used the sugar issue as an example, but there are so many more examples of how we can create positive goals instead of punitive ones.  Let’s say we want to spend less time on our electronic devices, social media, tv, etc. If that is our resolution, we are likely to go through withdrawal, experience FOMO (fear of missing out, especially in these politically charged times). But instead, what if our goal was to add activities such as going to more museums, plays, concerts, yoga and dance classes, walks in the park?  We reward ourselves with these positive lifestyle changes and as a secondary consequence, it is likely our screen time will diminish without any feelings of deprivation or loss.  So in this 2019th year, let’s ask ourselves what we would like to add into our lives that makes us feel inspired, excited, healthy, and optimistic!  What are the things we experience that uplift us and what do we find energetically draining?  Take some time to create two lists noting this, and after a week or so of adding to the lists, reflect upon the answers. Can we find a way to nourish ourselves by increasing the things we now explicitly see uplift us?  Now, that’s a New Year’s resolution I can make and stick with! 
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     WINTER TAI CHI EASY & CHAIR YOGA CLASSES:

I hope to see you this Monday night at our first Tai Chi Easy™ and Chair Yoga class of the Winter semester at Integral Yoga Institute.  The chilly Winter season is a time when it is tempting to hibernate in one’s abode, but is important to continue to support the immune system with gentle movement, energy work, and self-care techniques. Our practice will include all of the above, as we warm up, strengthen and stretch the body with Chair Yoga exercises, standing balancing poses (optional use of the chair for support), Tai Chi Easy™ weight shifting and walking for balance and coordination, and Qigong energy cultivation.  Class ends with an extended yoga nidra deep relaxation and guided meditation to refresh the body and spirit. This class, formerly called “Chair Chi & Prana“, is accessible to all ages and levels.  Please wear or bring traction socks (like pilates or Barre socks).  

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Additionally this Friday morning, we continue my Fall/Winter Tai Chi Easy™  telephone course with the “University Without Walls” Dorot for Seniors program.  I love teaching this course as it brings the benefits of seated qigongmeditation, and breathwork to those who cannot attend in-person classes. This is now our fifth semester of our teleclass, and I have found that distance is no obstacle to having a profound group and individual experience.  Written materials are provided in advance of the class (included my teacher’s book “The Healer Within” by Dr. Roger Jahnke), and each session is devoted to reading and discussing the materials, alternating with experiential movement and guided meditations.  Please call Dorot to sign up, and for a catalog.  No prior experience is necessary!  In general, Dorot’s University Without Walls is a wonderful resource for telephone learning and community-building, and their courses cover a myriad of topics.  If you know someone who can benefit from at home learning, please share this wonderful resource! http:// http://www.dorotusa.org/site/DocServer/UWW_Spring_Summer_2018_Catalog.pdf

Tai Chi Easy™ and Chair Yoga Workshop & Telephone Tai Chi Easy™ Classes

Dear Friends and Family,


I hope to see you this Monday night at our last Tai Chi Easy™ and Chair Yoga class of the Fall semester at Integral Yoga Institute.  The changing of the seasons is a time when our bodies can be more vulnerable and susceptible to ailments, so it is especially important to nourish oneself this time of year with gentle movement, energy work, and self-care techniques to boost the immune system.  Our practice will include all of the above, as well as an extended yoga nidra deep relaxation/ guided meditation to refresh the body and spirit.

Additionally this week, on Friday morning my Fall/Winter Tai Chi Easy™  telephone course starts with the “University Without Walls” Dorot for Seniors program.  I love teaching this course as it brings the benefits of seated qigong, meditation, and breathwork to those who cannot attend in-person classes. This is now our fifth semester of our teleclass, and I have found that distance is no obstacle to having a profound group and individual experience.  Written materials are provided in advance of the class (included my teacher’s book “The Healer Within” by Dr. Roger Jahnke), and each session is devoted to reading and discussing the materials, alternating with experiential movement and guided meditations.  Please call Dorot to sign up, and for a catalog.  No prior experience is necessary!  In general, Dorot’s University Without Walls is a wonderful resource for telephone learning and community-building, and their courses cover a myriad of topics.  If you know someone who can benefit from at home learning, please share this wonderful resource! http:// http://www.dorotusa.org/site/DocServer/UWW_Spring_Summer_2018_Catalog.pdf