Archive for Caretaking

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



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. 

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).  



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


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.

October Classes; My Father’s Passing

Many of you have known about my father’s health challenges this year, and my challenges juggling teaching and community community work due to my care-taking responsibilities for my father.  That is why I decided to take a Fall – Winter sabbatical from my weekly group yoga classes.  I knew that my father’s valiant battle with metastatic cancer would likely require even more time and care from me, and I wanted to be as supportive and fully present during what I expected would be a very challenging time.  My father’s doctors recently had informed us we were looking at months to live, but not years.  As a result, I was beginning to research both hospice and palliative care home visitation doctors.

So although I knew my father was in a rapid health decline, it came as a surprise to me and my family when he passed away just days after being admitted to the ER for catheter complications – an issue that, unfortunately, had been all too normal for him this past year.  But since it had been a somewhat frequent side-effect of my father’s prostate cancer, and always resolved after anywhere from hours to a couple of days in the ER (which in NYC is a place one wants to spend as little time as possible), we were unprepared for the reality that this time my father would not be walking out of the hospital again.

This is a bittersweet time for me; sadness for losing my father but gratitude that he did not suffer very long. It was a short hospitalization;  two days in the ER, two days in a hospital room, and 12-hour stay in the hospital hospice – a beautiful wing of Mount Sinai overlooking Central Park.  Considering the possibilities of a long hospice in his home or a facility, it was a blessing that he died peacefully, fairly quickly, hopefully not in pain, and that my father never had to move out of his beloved apartment. Up until that last ambulance trip to the ER, he was living mostly independently in his apartment with some nursing aide assistance.  I know it was important to him that he never lost his physical independence at home. He passed into spirit before it got to that point, and I am grateful for that as I know that’s what he would have wished for.

Additionally, because my father declined while in the hospital, I am grateful that it gave our family members the opportunity to visit with him. Before he started losing consciousness, he knew we were all there for him.  That is a blessing, as too many people do not get that opportunity to say loving good-byes to their loved ones. Truth be told, it was very hard to watch my father’s life force diminish, his personality slip away, his body shrink, and his eyes become vacant.  But because I believe that one’s soul is ever-present, it was important to me to be there and communicate my feelings to my father’s higher self, sharing my acceptance of him leaving his body of this lifetime.

This had been a tough last year: two surgeries, multiple transfusions, multiple hospitalizations, and a weakening body due to cancer. Yet, through it all, my father was a trouper – few complaints, a happy disposition, a willingness to persevere through pain with some assistance from PT, OT, his doctors and aides, he attended his art classes, and kept up with the news and his beloved NY sports teams.  I grew to respect my father more in this last year than in all our prior 51 years together. He faced his health challenges with stoicism and humor.  This was the culmination of other serious hospitalizations and life challenges the past 17 years; my family always said my father had nine lives as he rebounded each time.  So, the fact that my father did not rebound this time, feels surreal.  The only constants in life are impermanence, and that everything eventually dies.  And yet, truly accepting these principles is a huge challenge for us as we understandably are attached to that which we love.  Death is the big unknown.  When a loved ones passes, not only is there that void in our lives, but it also brings up our own mortality.  It is a topic from which we tend to shy away.  It takes courage and strength to speak honestly about death, and these are conversations that we need to be having.

I will never forget the lovely women, the nurses and NPs, who were like angels greeting us at the hospice. I knew my father was safe in their sweet company during his final hours in human form.  To pass with dignity, ease, comfort and care should be a universal right.  Since that unfortunately is not always the case, when it happens, it is a gift.  I am comforted with the knowledge that my family and I, with love for my father, advocated for and provided that setting.

Because this past year has been such a challenge for me and my family, I am listening to my inner guidance which is telling me to slow down, take time for myself, and to process the illness and loss of my father.  I trust you will all understand my situation, and my need for time to decompress.

As such, I am taking an extended sabbatical from my weekly daytime group yoga classes. 

My Chair Chi and Prana class will be held during this sabbatical period on three Monday nights (Sept. 25, Oct. 30, and Nov. 27) instead of weekly during the daytime. It will also now be 1.5 hours so we will have time for a longer savasana and yoga nidra (deep relaxation). I hope that you will appreciate this enhanced version of this fusion class!

During my sabbatical, I will continue to be on the sub list.   This month, I am subbing “Gentle Yoga & Qigong” at Integral Yoga on Thursday, October 26th at 5:15 pm.  I hope to see you there!

I hope you know this change is not a reflection of my feelings towards any of you. But rather, a needed self-care adjustment to support my well-being.  Please email me any questions, concerns, and thoughts.

September 2017 Classes; Eclipse and Yoga; Adult Ballet; Self-Care Sabbatical

Hi friends and family,

I hope you are enjoying the last couple of weeks of August, whether you are on vacation or back at work. Maybe you had the opportunity to watch the solar eclipse today.  Although those of us in NYC did not have the total eclipse other parts of the country experienced, it was still pretty exciting watching NASA TV, observing the amazing eclipse effects and the excitement of the crowds and scientists. Were you aware that “hatha” yoga actually means sun-moon?  In other words, hatha yoga is the balance of the masculine energies within ourselves with the feminine.  This is an individualized personal assessment for each practitioner to explore. Similarly, tai chi state is the balance of the yang with the yin energies. Achieving that energetic balance in our yoga and tai chi/ qigong practices will be different for everyone, and will likely differ with each personal practice as well. So when we design our practice, or take group classes, we ideally want that balance of effort and ease, stability and mobility, rigor and rest, energetic and relaxation. These principles as well shall be applied both on and off the mat, so that we don’t suffer burnout or physical strain yet we do not become lazy or complacent – in our exercise and in our lives. Seeking balance, or the middle ground, is the heart of so many spiritual practices (even though we often observe how that middle ground is usurped by fundamentalism and extremes).  So it is our own quest to continually seek and find balance, knowing that there is no end result but rather a lifetime practice.  Enjoy the process, keep an open mind, and be non-critical to one’s self (ahimsa).

Speaking of balance, I am also making some yoga class schedule changes starting this month.   As many of you know, this past year has been a challenge for me and my family, as my father has been dealing with various health issues that have necessitated numerous trips to the ER, hospital stays, and doctor visits. He has been rising to each medical challenge with a level of determination that is admirable and I hope he continues to fight to regain his strength and health. However, the number of doctor visits and specialists has grown and it has been challenging for me to coordinate all those appointments around my daytime class teaching schedule. Truth be told, it has also been emotionally and physically exhausting, and I am listening to my inner guidance which is telling me to slow down and take time for myself and my family.

As such, I am taking a 4-month sabbatical (September – December) from my weekly daytime yoga classes.

My dear friend and fellow Integral Yoga teacher, Nobue Jaya, will be teaching the Monday morning Chair Yoga class at Dorot.   Many of you already know and love her classes, as Nobue has been teaching at Dorot’s Memory Tree program for a while. You are in lovely and capable hands with Nobue!

Jessica, who already teaches Core Yoga at UWS Yoga and Wellness, will teach both the Tuesday and Thursday Core Strength Hatha 1 Yogaat noon. I know that many of you already take both my Tuesday class and Jessica’s Thursday class, so again you are in capable and lovely hands with Jessica!

My Chair Chi and Prana class will be held during this sabbatical period on three Monday nights (Sept. 25, Oct. 30, and Nov. 27) instead of weekly during the daytime. It will also now be 1.5 hours so we will have time for a longer savasana and yoga nidra (deep relaxation). I hope that you will appreciate this enhanced version of this fusion class! If this new time slot goes well, we will likely add a December date too.

During my sabbatical, I will continue to be on the sub list (so for example, I will be teaching Core Strength Yoga on Tue. Sept. 12 at noon at UWS Yoga and Wellness).

I trust you will all understand my situation, and my need for a bit more space (“sukkha”) in my life due to changed family circumstances. Since I plan to sub, I will notify you when I sub, and hope to see you in class on those occasions. I also know we will stay in touch via emails, and perhaps by getting together in person.

I hope you know this change is not a reflection of my feelings towards any of you. But rather, a needed self-care adjustment to support my and my father’s well-being.  Please email me any questions, concerns, and thoughts.

Adult ballet classes this month:  Additionally, my ballet mentor Finis Jhung will be having surgery early September, and so I will be helping to sub his adult ballet classes at the Alvin Ailey Extension School. These classes are open to the public and to adult beginners.  If you have had dance experience, you can take either the basic or beginner class, and if you are a brand new beginner, please take the basic class. I hope to see you in ballet class, and please join me in sending ballet master Finis Jhung healing energies for his surgery and a quick and full recovery!