Archive for Health

Outdoor Qigong/Tai Chi EZ Classes on Thursday, Sept. 17

This Thursday September 17th (2 – 6pm), the UWS is celebrating PARK(ing) Day on West End Ave for 6 city blocks from 88th – 94th streets. I will be tabling on W. 88th St. for my community organizations “The West 80s Neighborhood Association” and “Love Your Street Tree Day”, and teaching mini standing and walking Tai Chi EasyTM /Qigong classes twice during the event. Please come visit me and the other presenters! 

PARK(ing) Day is a day when residents, artists and community organizers transform curbside parking spots into public spaces for community use for art and civics. The goal is to reimagine how public spaces are used.

Here’s the full line-up:
2:30-3:00 – Tai Chi EasyTM /Qigong with Good Energy Movement & Wellness (between 88th/89th Streets) taught by Melissa Elstein
3:00-3:30 – Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance – Plastic Harvest excerpts (between 91/92 Streets)
3:30-4:00 – jill sigman/thinkdance – ground | gradient | people | sky (an improvisation) (between 89/90 Streets)
4:00-4:30 – PS 166 Parent String quartet – from the Met Orchestra (between 91/92 Streets)
4:30-5:00 – Tai Chi EasyTM /Qigong with Good Energy Movement & Wellness (between 88/89 Streets) taught by Melissa Elstein
5:00-5:30 – Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance – Plastic Harvest excerpts (between 91/92 Streets)
5:00-6:00 – Bar Crawl Radio live podcast recording/broadcast (between 92/93 Streets)

As per CDC guidelines, mask-wearing will be required and social-distancing will be enforced. Also please bring hand sanitizer.
Click the image to view larger

September 2020 Yoga & Qigong Classes; Honoring First Responders on Labor Day; Yoga – Ballet Bear

Dear Friends and Family,

On this Labor Day, I would like to especially honor all those who continued to work on the front lines during the pandemic: our nurses, doctors, medical staff, grocery workers, sanitation workers, firefighters, police officers, transportation employees, elected officials, delivery workers, farmers, building staff, news reporters, teachers, government officials, mail carriers, merchants, and so many more! When most of us were and still are to a certain extent, staying home and social distancing, these workers were the lifeline for all of us. The 7 pm clapping for our essential workers was so uplifting and I don’t believe ever done before – even after other crises. In our modern culture that generally worships celebrities and sports figures, it is wonderful to see the general population appreciating every day folks – these are the people who we truly need and rely on, but generally don’t get the credit or respect they deserve. I hope we can continue this level of appreciation for every day folks, and realize we are all equal no matter the amount of social media followers we have or money in the bank. After all, it is not the job or role we have that counts, it is how we conduct that job, the way we show up in the world, and the integrity with which we perform our jobs and roles in society.   

For some related inspiration from the ancient yoga text The Bhagavad Gita, these quotes are still relevant in modern times:

“SHOW GOOD WILL TO ALL Be fearless and pure; 
never waiver in your determination or 
your dedication to the spiritual life. 
Give freely. Be self-controlled,
sincere, truthful, loving, 
and full of the desire to serve.“ 

“Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness. The one who is motivated only by the desire for the fruits of their action, and anxious about the results, is miserable indeed.” 


On another note, I thought you would appreciate my forest visitor who has no problem balancing in yoga tree pose/ ballet retirer position while eating all our bird food!

My tree pose was not standing on the deck poles, so I have deep respect for this feat! Although we loved our fascinating visit, and I am not boring of the videos I took, the bird feeder will now go into hibernation – long before this teddy bear does! 🙂


See you in class soon I hope!

August Yoga, Qigong Schedule; Yoga for Runners and Hikers Workshop; Rebuilding and Adapting Thoughts After the Storm

Dear Friends and Family,   

    I hope that this email finds you and your loved ones remaining safe and well, and that you weren’t negatively affected by the recent storm. Like many along the Northeast, I lost electrical power, wifi, and phone service. Fortunately, we have a decent generator and the power was restored in a day (though still no landline. Update! As I am writing this the Verizon technician popped by and it ended up being a mouse that ate our wires completely coincidental to the storm. Yuck!). During the storm, I was teaching a yoga private on Zoom, and the lights flickered for a moment but quickly went back on. I didn’t think much about the temporary power loss as my laptop was still working so we continued our private yoga class. It was only later that I realized we were in a blackout and that my generator had immediately kicked on. Nor did I realize the extent of the wind damage until the next day, when I walked outside and observed our road being blocked by two downed trees that were pulling the electrical wires down along with them. From speaking with friends and family, and watching the news, I know many people are still without electricity almost a week later, and huge trees are still blocking roads and creating dangerous conditions. 2020 is really throwing us a lot of curveballs, to say the least. So now once again, the rebuilding begins. One big lesson in this topsy-turvy year is the importance of adaptability, flexibility and creativity. 

As you know from my classes, I never teach from the perspective of achieving that perfect yoga pose. As one of my yoga mentors, Leslie Kaminoff, taught the purpose of yoga is to explore the body’s reaction to novel stimuli (such as movement and shape creation) so that it can adapt to varied circumstances, and not be stuck in rigid patterning. This applies to our breath and thoughts as well. If we can challenge ourselves in our classes with learning new choreography, movements, breath patterning, and sequencing (being mindful of creating the balance of the effort and ease) we can apply that openness to adaptation and exploration in our everyday lives. That’s where the yoga practice really counts – off the mat or chair. We all know life isn’t perfect; some years we have more challenges than others (both collectively and individually). How we adapt to these challenges, again both individually and collectively, is the key. Some scientists believe that climate change is not reversible at this point, and that the climate crisis should be approached as a climate adaptability model. We have adapted to the pandemic with new unforeseen behaviors becoming commonplace – mask wearing, foot tap greetings, spacial separating, etc. – and at some point (hopefully soon), those safety behaviors will no longer be necessary and we will adapt again to a new normal. When we don’t resist the unpleasant reality and are able to creatively adapt, socially and professionally, we can not just survive but hopefully thrive. I see that in all of you who zoom in or call in to my classes – many of you are in Covid-19 at-risk categories. Yet, you are individually persevering and positively contributing to the collective. I see that in the teachers I study with, especially my 83-year old NYC ballet teacher – Finis Jhung – who has adapted to a full-time online teaching schedule and gets his fresh air and sunshine safely by his window fire escape (all with a positive mindset and inspiring others around the world with his movement classes and life outlook). A week after the storm, the rebuilding continues, concurrent with the pandemic, political turmoil, economic uncertainty, social unrest, and more –  it can feel overwhelming but let’s remember we are experiencing and adapting to this imperfect world together.       

Photo by Melissa Elstein


Whether you are a serious runner or a weekend jogger, hiking big peaks or local parks, it is important to balance the repetitive forward and contractile movements of running and hiking with proper stretching. Learn Yoga poses and stretches geared for runners and hikers to help you with overall conditioning and to prevent injury. Discover the power of savasana and Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) to enhance your performance. You will come away prepared to use all these techniques in your next run or hike. Includes an emailed outline. Have a pen for taking notes, yoga mat, yoga strap or stretching band, blocks, pillows or yoga blanket, optional eye pillow for relaxation. 

Come with your questions as there will be plenty of discussion time between our yoga practice. Looking forward to seeing you on Zoom!    
Register in advance here: under Workshops.

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 or on iTunes – enjoy! 


November Gratitude; Chair Chi Prana Class; Gift-Wrapping at Book Culture for Love Your Street Tree Cause

Wishing you a peaceful and joyful holiday weekend, filled with gratitude and appreciation!  I saw this beautiful wall hanging at one of my holistic doctor’s offices, and thought it was inspirational.  On Thanksgiving, I share the Dalai Lama’s wisdom with you with the hope you will be similarly touched:

Our next Chair Chi and Prana class will be held Monday night November 27 at Integral Yoga (6:30-8 pm). This fusion class is functional and practical; learn the tools you can do at home or at the office to strengthen and de-stress!  Increase your vitality, improve balance and coordination with a unique practice that combines Chair Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi Easy™ walking.  Seated and standing Yoga poses strengthen and stretch the body, gentle and flowing Qigong movements enhance one’s life force energy, and Tai Chi walking increases balance.  These practices are a moving meditation that calm the nervous system, focus the mind, and are accessible to all bodies and ages. Class includes savasana and yoga nidra (deep relaxation). All levels are welcome! No prior experience is necessary to enjoy and benefit from this class!

Lanai, Hawaii

Also, this holiday season, as in past years, I will be volunteer gift-wrapping at our local independent book and gift store – “Book Culture” on Columbus Avenue at 81st street – to raise funds for my non-profit community organization (the West 80s Neighborhood Association) that does street tree care volunteer work and neighborhood beautification, among other things.  Remember to shop small and local not just during the holidays, but throughout the year!  We all bemoan the empty storefronts in NYC, but if we are supporting big online corporations with online shopping, how can these beloved brick and mortar shops survive?  How and where we spend our money is a choice, and our collective choices have direct consequences. I love the community that local businesses create, and I am very grateful to the community-minded owners of Book Culture (pictured below) for allowing small and local non-profits, like mine, to volunteer giftwrap for tips and to spread awareness of our charitable organizations.  In addition to books, Book Culture sells household products, scarves, hats, handbags, calendars, decorative items, Christmas tree ornaments, and more!  So I hope you will do your holiday shopping in your neighborhood, and come visit me at Book Culture during these November shifts (I will email my December shifts next week):
Monday, November 27 (10 am – 3 pm)
Wednesday, November 29 (10 am – 3 pm)
Thursday, November 30 (3 – 8 pm)

Part of the voluntary community work I do with my neighborhood association is to create awareness about the importance of our NYC street trees and to encourage neighbors and businesses to properly care for them. The West 80s Neighborhood Association, a 501c3 I co-founded with neighbors, is the main organizer of fun and educational street tree care events through our collaborations with other groups, electeds, businesses, schools, and government agencies as part of the Love Your Street Tree Day initiative.  We would love for every street tree to be “adopted” and cared for, as they provide so many environmental, social, emotional, and financial benefits to us.  To learn more about our work, check out  and to make tax deductible donations, please visit  or stop by Book Culture when I will be gift-wrapping!  Thanks in advance for your support!

In front of one of our “adopted” street trees along the Columbus Avenue bike path at West 85th Street. New Fall cabbage arrangement, daffodil bulbs planted for Spring 2018 blooms, wood chips added for Winter protection, and Love Your Street Tree “curb your dog” signs added.
Many thanks for your continuing support of my classes and workshops, and your dedication to the healing arts!  No prior experience is needed to participate in most of these classes; all levels are welcome!  Please, remember that perfume, cologne, or heavily scented lotions or deodorant should not be worn during any of the movement classes and Reiki sessions. It is suggested that one not eat for 1 – 2 hours before practicing yoga.  I recommend for one’s health and the health of the planet, to not bring plastic water bottles to class; instead use reusable steel or glass bottles filled with filtered tap water.  Also, for the safety and consideration of all students, latecomers will not be admitted.

Please forward this e-mail to anyone who may be interested in these offerings!  Many thanks for spreading the word!

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving! In honor of the First Nations of this country, enjoy this beautiful song by a Native American singer on this season’s Voice:


Melissa Mati

June 2017; Graduation Thoughts; Girls Rising; NYU Wellness Forum

I just attended my niece’s high school graduation, and it was a beautiful event filled with such hope and positivity.  The student speakers, the dean, and the guest keynote speaker (Christina Lowery of Girls Rising: and for her documentary trailer: ) spoke to the graduates and their guests about approaching life with gusto and grace, finding happiness along many varied and not necessarily linear life paths, finding one’s unique voice, helping others, the global importance of educating girls, and letting go of perfectionism. Noteworthy to me, was that the speakers emphasized relationship building and developing personal inner qualities rather than traditional academic speeches of past that touted success and achievement more narrowly. The student body at this all-girls school is very diverse, and also very international.  It was lovely to see such a melting pot of humanity of the stage, and I was impressed with the messages of empowerment for these young women. I could truly tell that throughout their years at this historic school their voices were being respected and cultivated in a very positive way.  The future felt very bright as I watched their ceremony this morning, and wondered what each graduate will become as they grow into adulthood.  Although today’s graduation represented saying goodbye to high school, it also represented the beginning of their next chapters of their lives. We are always evolving, saying adieu to something, and bonjour to what is next.

(I add a little French in honor of Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected president of France, who has so far been quite an eloquent international leader. For those of you who may have missed his speech in response to the US withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, please watch: ).

Regarding life changes, due to pressing family commitments, I am reducing my teaching schedule a bit.  My father has been dealing with serious health challenges, including most recently recovering from surgery for a broken hip. I have been spending much time and energy overseeing his health care, and juggling these new responsibilities with teaching and community work.  As anyone who has been a caretaker of a child or elderly parent knows, it is a priority to be there for your family member as navigating the bureaucracy of our health care institutions is complicated, frustrating, and time-consuming. And additionally, there is no substitute for the personal attention, love and care that a family member will give to the parent or child in need.  As such, I am making some room in my life, and will no longer be teaching the Gentle Yoga class at Integral Yoga on Mondays at 3:15 pm.  I will still teach the ongoing workshop series Chair Chi & Prana there at 2-3 pm most, but not all, Mondays. I will also continue to teach my 11am Chair Yoga class at Dorot for Seniors most Mondays as well.

It has been a true pleasure teaching the IYI gentle class and building it up in popularity, as gentle yoga is what drew me into yoga initially and changed my life for the better (I left the practice of law to teach gentle yoga!).  I will still sub gentle yoga; in fact, I am subbing Yoga & Qigong June 15th at 5:15 pm for my friend Nadiya.  I hope to see you there and also in my 2 pm chair yoga and qigong/tai chi walking class as mentioned above.  I have loved our Monday afternoon gentle practice, and know that my relationship with all of you is what makes teaching and learning (we are all teachers and students) so rewarding. Please email me any questions you may have.  I have appreciated all your support throughout the years and know you will be just as supportive now as I reorient some of my life priorities.

My Father On His 85th Birthday Last Week!

Speaking of health, one of my lovely and brilliant body workers, Sara Vogeler, will be speaking at an NYU health expo this Wednesday.  I signed up and thought you would be interested as well.  The expo will address the connection between stress and overall mental and physical health; how to minimize stress through mindfulness, exercise, and nutrition; discover ways to use emotional and physiological responses to stress to your advantage; and develop practical next steps at regulating and reducing stress in your everyday life.

The expo starts at 11:00 am: get tested for blood pressure and blood glucose, learn hands-on CPR, receive a massage, and receive important information about a variety of topics that matter to older adults and the people who care for them. Attendees will also enjoy a light lunch buffet.

At noon, Dr. Max Gomez (CBS Emmy-Award-winning medical journalist) will moderate a panel of health care experts, who will each provide a 15 minute presentation on a variety of topics.  Closed captioning will be provided.  Panelists include:

Dr. Tara Cortes, Executive Director, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, and a Professor in Geriatric Nursing;
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Director, Women’s Heart Health, Lenox Hill Hospital;
Sara K. Vogeler, BMC, LMT, RMT, Founder and Director of The NeuroMuscular Center, Inc.; and
Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, Vice Chair, Clinical Operations, Assistant Professor, Rehabilitation Medicine, and Medical Director, Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation – NYU Rusk Rehabilitation

Guests will need to RSVP for this event :
Maybe I will see you there!  (I can only stay until 1 pm as I need to take my father to a doctor appointment, but the expo seems worth attending even if you can only make part of the event).

February 2016 – Celiac Disease and Gluten

If you are like me, you are enjoying the Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, and Cold Play concert tonight – it is being sandwiched by some modern gladiator event that I do not watch! 🙂

Seriously, I am quite happy to be working on my yoga newsletter while cooking various veggies and fruit from my last Winter CSA pick-up and the farmers’ market, while my husband is in the “man-cave” watching this thing called the Super Bowl. However, I think my kitchen bowl of baby kale, carrots, and squash is the real super bowl! I did “cook” a frozen gluten-free pizza, that was actually delicious and well-received by the football party- probably more than would have been a bowl of kale! 🙂

Approximately six years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (an autoimmune disease for which there is no cure; only treatment is strict avoidance of gluten, which is a protein found in wheat and some other grains, like barley). Many people are gluten-free these days either for choice or medical necessity, like me. Luckily, over the years since my diagnosis, as a result of the growing demand for gluten-free foods, there are many more choices and it has become almost mainstream. I have seen first-hand the growing awareness among laypeople, and the options continue to grow. On the upper westside, for example, right next door to Upper West Side Yoga & Wellness where I teach on Thursdays, there is a great local store that is 100% gluten-free: GFreeNY. There are 100% gluten-free bakeries throughout the city, and now even Baked By Melissa’s cupcakes has a gluten-free line (I think the owner/baker developed a gluten allergy which is becoming more common with chefs).

Many assume that I had had digestive issues before my diagnosis, and actually (although the tests indicated compromised intestinal villi) my symptoms manifested in mysterious skin rashes. Luckily, my wonderfully intuitive general practitioner (who also smartly tested me for Lyme Disease years later, but that is another story) suggested the celiac sprue test for me based on those symptoms. Sure enough that test and a biopsy were positive. I feel fortunate to have been tested presumably early in my disease, as undiagnosed Celiac can lead to malnutrition, nerve damage, cancer, growth issues especially in children, and intestinal damage. I do believe my mother unfortunately had undiagnosed Celiac rather than the colitis with which she suffered throughout her adult life, and that eventually led to fatal colon cancer. If only we knew back then; possibly, a simple elimination of gluten could have changed her life!

I am not advocating for everyone to go gluten-free (our house is gluten-free for my safety reasons, but outside of the apartment, my husband eats food with gluten and has no issues). But if you have mysterious symptoms, such as brain-fog, digestive ailments, skin issues, mood swings, bloating, it may behoove you to check with your doctor about doing tests for gluten sensitivities, gluten allergies, or Celiac. (Note, one cannot be accurately tested for Celiac if gluten has already been avoided – the effects of gluten need to be observed by digesting glutinous foods for some time pre-tests.) It is also easy to do a gluten-elimination diet and keep a journal to see if there are any health changes. If you have had interesting experiences with eliminating gluten or adding it back in to your diet, I would be curious to hear!

See Schedule Page for my February 2016 teaching schedule. There will be subs covering my classes while I am away mid-February. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day!


Tips for a Healthy Transition from Summer to Fall

With the changing of the seasons from Summer to Fall, it is especially important to stay in tune with one’s body and energy levels. We can give ourselves permission to adjust schedules as it starts to get darker earlier with temperatures dropping (especially in the mornings and evenings). I have noticed with the beginning of October that I am already wanting to sleep in longer, and to retire to bed earlier (and that comes from a devoted night owl!). But we notice in Nature how animals adjust to the cooler seasons – whether it is hibernating or migrating, and we too have an “animal” nature that is connected to the external Nature. Often in modern society, we feel pressure to ignore our internal clocks and senses, as our work demands do not change in accordance to external natural cycles. So what can we do to nourish ourselves in the cooler months, and with our shorter days?

Certainly, having more warming beverages and cooked foods will help. I have been adding a little ginger to my hot lemon water in the mornings, and that has felt energizing. I am aware of my pitta constitution under the Ayurvedic medicine model, so ginger should not be over-used, but ginger in moderation feels warming and kick-starts my digestive system in the colder mornings now.

Belonging to a local CSA (community-supported agricultural farm) has been wonderful as I am more in sync with the changing veggies each month. Not having grown up farming, and before the CSA membership having shopped in markets where everything is available at all times due to international shipping, I am now more appreciative of the natural bounty and when it is harvested. This past Thursday, we received acorn and butternut squashes, and potatoes for the first time since Winter. It was so fun to think about Fall recipes for the first time in a year, and to feel more in sync with Nature in my cooking (does boiling count as cooking? lol)! In any event, picking up these new starchier foods made me feel more excited about the Fall season, and thinking about the nourishing aspects of heartier meals.

There are also warming practices in yoga and qigong, through using various breathing practices (pranayama) and certain heating poses. We can explore that in our classes this month!

Please note that in addition to my normal schedule, I will be subbing 3 additional yoga classes in October: “Yoga and Qigong” at Integral Yoga and “Teen/ Tween Yoga” at UWS Yoga. I will be away on Thur., Oct. 8th as I am attending The Nature Conservancy’s annual conference in DC! On Monday, Oct. 12, Columbus Day, I am also away as I am guest ballet teaching in the Berkshires! Please see the side bar and my website for my full schedule. Thanks!

September 2015; Benefits of Nature

I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

I write this newsletter at the end of a wonderful 2-week vacation in the Berkshires mountains in Western Massachusetts. We were fortunate with the weather and I was able to walk/ jog almost every day outside surrounded by a forest of beautiful trees, listening to the sounds of nature – from the wind rustling the leaves to the hum of the Summer insects, and the bird calls. Nature is endlessly fascinating, and I often stop to view interesting sights along the road, such as turkey feathers, rock formations, berries, apples (growing in great abundance this year), dragonflies, butterflies, and other constantly changing beautiful images before my eyes. (Ironically, this year we saw our first Berkshire bald eagle – but it was diving for food along a busy road and not in the forest. But it was quite the sight, and we were awe-inspired by its’ wing-span and by the fact that we now know there are bald eagles up here, which is a great sign). Stretching on the deck after my wanderings while looking at the blue Summer sky and green trees was so relaxing and invigorating at the same time. A great setting to do deep yoga breathing!

Recently, more studies have come out about the benefits of being in Nature – such as the lowering of blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol, reducing feelings of stress, hostility and depression, increasing circulation and improving sleep patterns. In fact, in Japan, walking in their many forests is prescribed by doctors and is called “Forest Bathing” or “Shinrin-Yoku”. There is a fairly recent book on this topic: “Your Brain on Nature – The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality” by Eva Selhub, MD and Alan Logan, ND – but most of us don’t need to read a whole book to know what feels intuitively beneficial to us.
So what to do if we are urban dwellers? Well, as often as I can, I make time in my commuting schedule to walk through Central Park on the bridal path, or end the day by getting into the park. We are lucky that we have a lot of NYC parks (even smaller ones are helpful, such as the charming park near Integral Yoga on Hudson and 13th Street). Spend some time each day disconnecting from technology, and bathing in Nature. Bring plants into your apartment, and meditate on their beauty and health benefits. Of course, if you can get into a local forest on the weekends, like in Harriman State Park, that is wonderful too! (There are trains from Penn Station that get to Tuxedo, NY in less than 1 hour.) Wherever is convenient, reap the benefits of walking in Nature, hugging a tree, doing legs up a tree, and combining your spiritual practices with the natural outdoors! I would like to be able to lead yoga and qigong retreats in natural settings in the near future, so stay tuned! I will set that intention, and hopefully it will manifest.

Sunset trees

Sunset Halo Through Forest by Melissa Elstein c 2015