Author Archive for Melissa "Mati" Elstein

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


October Classes; IYI Fall Fundraiser

Hi friends and family,

It may not feel like Fall yet, given the current heat and humidity in NYC, but at a visit to the Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshires, they had a festive Fall pumpkin display that reminded me how wonderful this season truly is. The leaves were just starting to turn to their bright orange, yellow and red hues.  The evening mountain air felt crisp, cool and clean while the days were warm enough to enjoy a morning walk and afternoon latte outside in the sun. Although NYC is usually a few weeks or so behind the Berkshires in terms of seasonal shifts, soon our city trees will  also be creating a kaleidoscope of colors for our viewing pleasure. Let’s allow the metamorphosis of the deciduous trees to inspire us as well; shedding what we no longer need in our lives and preparing for new growth and personal expansion.

Tree pose in yoga is one of the most grounding asanas; not only does it help us work on our balance, but it also helps us focus and still the mind as one cannot easily balance on one leg if the mind is scattered and not connected to what the body is doing in that moment.  Whether one is balancing on the yoga mat, or holding on to a chair or wall, envision the soles of your feet as if they were the roots of the tree reaching down towards the center of the Earth, your legs and torso as the strong, steady tree trunk, and your arms as the tree branches connecting to the sky above or laterally towards other trees in the forest. One nice, and challenging option, is to wave your arms and torso slightly from side to side emulating a tree swaying in the gentle breeze and further challenging our balance in the pose.  Perhaps next time you practice tree pose (vrikshasana), embody a beautiful Fall tree with its’ vibrant colors inspiring awe to those who view it.  Have fun with your experiment, and remember no judgments (employing the yogic concept of ahimsa in all our poses) – even if you come out of the pose sooner than you had planned! Yoga is all about practice and process, being in the moment and letting go of goals.

See below for this month’s class schedule.  Please note that I will be on vacation until mid-October, but hope to see you before or after my trip!  I will be attending the Integral Yoga Fall Fundraiser,and perhaps you will be there as well?  See below for the information on what will no doubt be a special evening supporting this historic NYC yoga center and ashram. IYI directors, Chandra and Swami Asokananda, are truly lovely people and dedicated yogis; you will have an opportunity to converse with them and your fellow students outside of yoga class, enjoy a delicious meal, and help support this yoga non-profit organization.

Gentle Yoga; Fall Equinox 2018

Happy Fall 2018! I hope you had a wonderful Fall Equinox weekend.  I spent a good portion of the beautiful weekend in both Riverside and Central Parks, and it looked as if most of the city was there as well enjoying our urban nature! Every time I step into Central Park, I feel a wonderful energetic shift as I breathe in the fresh air, park trees and flowers, and soak in the beauty around me.  I highly recommend adding a park walk to your work commute, or general daily schedule. If you have not been to the Central Park Conservancy’s lotus and lily pond at 100th Street off 5th Avenue, please check it out.  The pond and the surrounding gardens are spectacular!

Here is an interesting article on the Fall Equinox as well!  https://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/12-facts-about-autumnal-equinox.html

This Thursday morning, I am teaching a Gentle Yoga class at Integral Yoga on West 13th Street. See below or right for the details.  I hope to see you there, and I am delighted to be be teaching at one of my favorite yoga centers again this week.  I realize that there is an important Senate Judiciary Committee Supreme Court hearing at the time of this class, and many of us are finding this whole situation very stressful, so I recommend setting your television DVR and watching it (or reading about it) after connecting to your inner centered place during yoga.

gentleyoga

Class Descriptions:

Gentle Yoga:

Restore your inner balance in this gentle yoga class that combnes toning and chanting with flowing posture, deepening the meditative aspect of the practice. This class is designed as a moving meditation that helps us slow down our thoughts and connect to our true essence; balance our chakras (the subtle energy centers so vital to overall health, well-being and spiritual development); and harmonize our body, mind, and spirit.   Class concludes with a guided yoga nidra (deep relaxation technique) and savasana (relaxation pose) leaving us feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

This class is suitable for all levels, from beginners to advanced practitioners.

Fall 2018 Schedule: Fall Prevention Workshop; Tai Chi Easy and Chair Yoga; Telephone Classes

Hi friends and family,

Wishing to those of you who celebrate the Jewish New Year, a blessed holiday and all the very best for the New Year – 5779!   Here is a cute song and dance video a friend sent me, and I thought it would bring a smile to you as well!  http://www.aish.com/h/hh/video/Get-Clarity-Aishcoms-Rosh-Hashanah-Music-Video.html

See below for my Fall classes and also for information on my cousin Michelle’s Fall yoga retreat for women in Vermont!  Sounds heavenly!

Falls Prevention Talk and Practice with Tai Chi Easy™ 

Friday, September 21:  1:00 – 2:30 pm

With Melissa Elstein, Tai Chi Easy™ Facilitator & 
Shannon O’Connor, DOROT Staff

As part of Falls Prevention Week at Dorot, this workshop is a part-lecture, part-exercise class.  Shannon will introduce tips to prevent falls and become more mindful when moving throughout your home or the community. Melissa will teach Tai Chi Easy™, a simplified yet practical version of Tai Chi created by Roger Jahnke, O.M.D.  Learn weight shifting exercises (and starting with Melissa’s chair exercise warmups), to gain confidence and leg strength.  This Tai Chi Easy™ class will include standing while holding the chair for support and weight shifting, but not tai chi walking.
Focus in motion with us!

Rsvp to Shannon O’Connor required for attendance to this Workshop:
(917) 441-3743 or soconnor@dorotusa.org
Main Tel:   (212) 769-2850
www.dorotusa.org

Check out DOROT’s Wellness Program!

Seated Tai Chi Easy TM Teleclass:
Dorot Center for Seniors “University Without Walls”

This telephone class 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, and each session is devoted to reading and discussing the materials, alternating with experiential movement and guided meditations.  This class meets Fridays 10 – 11 am November 2 – January 18.  Please call Dorot to sign up, or 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.  Please help spread the word about this wonderful resource!  http://www.dorotusa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=seniors_programs_on_phone_D#.W5fW6ehKiUk

Check out DOROT’s Wellness Program!

www.dorotusa.org
(212) 769-2850

Core Strength Hatha Yoga/Pilates Classes

Hello Friends and Family!


Summer Meadow – Melissa Elstein 2018

I hope you are having a wonderful Summer, and enjoying all the fresh local produce that July brings forth – I was so happy to receive our first local corn of the season last week from my wonderful CSA farm membership. I highly recommend the Roxbury Farm CSA; if you’re on the UWS, their farm distribution is on Thursdays from 4-7 pm at 86th Street & WEA.  Memberships are seasonal, but they may be still accepting members as it goes through the Fall. For more information, please see http://www.roxburyfarm.com  I have been a member for years, and it is still a treat to pick up my weekly farm bounty (I split my membership with a friend). CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and our memberships support the work and future of these local, small, organic farms.

CORE STRENGTH HATHA I YOGA CLASSES:

I am delighted to be teaching at UWS Yoga & Wellness again the next two weeks!  Join us at Noon on Thursdays, July 26 and August 2 for Level 1 Core Strength Yoga which is a fusion class of pilates and yoga poses. We utilize small, soft exercise balls to assist with low back support but also to increase the abdominal strengthening.  Back strengthening is included, as well as standing balancing poses. We will focus on alignment and breath-centered movement so that strengthening is practiced in a safe, functional and effective manner. Learn how to effectively strengthen your core without doing abdominal crunches!  Class ends with yoga nidra/savasana to fully relax the body and spirit after our total body workout.  Hope to see you there!  Check out  http://www.uwsyoga.com for more information.

“Chair Chi & Prana” Class at IYI NYC

I hope you are having a wonderful Summer!  This Monday night is our final “Chair Chi & Prana” of the season, and I hope to see you there at the beautiful and peaceful Integral Yoga Institute.  After July 16, there will be a short break for August, and I will be looking forward to resuming this class in the Fall. (When the Fall dates are confirmed, I will email you as well.)  See below for more details on this Monday’s class; you may sign up at http://www.iyiny.org or simply sign up as a walk-in.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and hopefully I will see you tomorrow!

Class Descriptions:  

Chair Chi and Prana is hosted by the beautiful yoga center – Integral Yoga. This fusion class increases our vitality, and improves balance and coordination by combining Chair Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi Easy™ walking. Seated and standing Yoga poses strengthen and stretch the body, gentle and flowing Qigong movements enhance our life force energy (chi or prana), and Tai Chi walking increases balance and helps with fall prevention.  Additionally, these practices are a moving meditation that calm the nervous system, increase immune support, focus the mind, and are accessible to all bodies and ages.  We end class with a long savasana and yoga nidra (deep relaxation) to fully relax and absorb the benefits of our practices.  All levels are welcome! No prior experience is necessary.