Archive for New York City

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.

July’s Chair Yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi Classes/Trainings and Finding Balance at Summer Solstice Times Square Yoga

Hi friends and family,

Hope you are keeping your cool and comfort in the midst of this Northeast heat wave!  Please stay hydrated!

Speaking of heat, once again I attended the uniquely NYC “Summer Solstice Yoga” in Times Square.  This year, over 12,000 participants attended yoga classes throughout the day as Times Square was shut down to vehicles, and turned into one large outdoor yoga studio. Attendees were generously given yoga mats by Aerie and the Times Square Alliance, and we literally placed our mats in the center of the city (or the world, depending on your NY-centric perspective!).  Participants braved the high temperature, curious onlookers, photographers, and different styles of yoga to join with New Yorkers of all ages, sizes, colors, and backgrounds to create a beautiful mosaic of humanity.

Times Square Solstice Yoga is always one of my favorite events of the year as I find it uplifting being with so many others practicing yoga in such a large communal way. Even in the midst of chaos and busy urban activity, the practice of yoga prepares us to go inward no matter the external environment.  What better way to test that precept during a packed mid-day yoga class in Times Square! If we can literally balance and focus in dancer pose and other challenging asanas in the middle of 42nd Street, we know that with practice and intent, we can stay steady outside of yoga class no matter the circumstances. During these chaotic and anxiety-provoking times.our daily connection to that deep inner core within each one of us is so necessary for maintaining balance and finding inner peace.  Yoga, meditation, qigong, tai chi, dance, nature walks, creating art, gardening, shamanic journeying, writing, playing music, jogging are some ways during which we can go deeply inward. What do you find works best for you in this moment? Has that changed throughout your life, or has it remained a consistent path?  Enjoy the process and the journey!

This month, my yoga-qigong-tai chi fusion class (“Chair Chi & Prana“) will be held on July 16th at the beautiful Integral Yoga in the heart of the West Village. Much of the qigong and simplified tai chi that I incorporate into my yoga classes I learned from my first tai chi teacher – Dr. Roger Jahnkehttp://www.feeltheqi.com/Dr_Jahnke/   If you would like to meet him in person, there will be a free intro evening at NYC’s Open Center on Thursday, July 5thhttps://www.opencenter.org/awakening-healer-within  I hope you can attend that event this holiday week!

Dr. Jahnke created  “Tai Chi Easy”TM – the system of tai chi, qigong, self-massage that I studied at the Omega Institute in 2007.  http://www.healerwithinfoundation.org/taichieasy   It was a fantastic training, and to this day, it is the style that I primarily teach and practice. It is very accessible to all ages and levels of experience, and as you can see from our facilitator graduation photo, we had a fun and diverse group.

In July, Dr. Jahnke will be at The Open Center in NYC, and in August at Kripalu in the Berkshires.  Please go to his website to see the exact dates and for more information:
http://instituteofintegralqigongandtaichi.org/calendar/  I highly recommend doing one or more of his trainings!

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.

July 2017; Summer Solstice Yoga in Times Square Impressions

Happy July!  I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend!  I am teaching Monday July 3 and Tuesday July 4th, so if you are in NYC, please come to class!

On the Summer Solstice this June 21, I participated in a free outdoor yoga class in Times Square sponsored by the Times Square Alliance – “Solstice in Times Square”.  Yoga in Times Square is now an annual event and has grown from three people in 2003 doing yoga in this hectic “center of the world” to now more than 12,000 people taking classes throughout the day.  Pretty remarkable!  It is always a fun and interesting experience to practice yoga In Times Square.  Because there are so many external distractions from passersby, traffic, photographers, videographers, smokers, feathers and other wind-born items flying about, it actually creates a unique setting in which to practice going inward rather than if practicing in the perfectly serene yoga studio setting. Even though most yoga classes tend to focus on the yoga poses (“asanas“), the central concept of yoga is stilling the mind from the inner chatter, judgments, and external diversions; withdrawing from the senses; and connecting to that eternal inner center.  See the ancient yoga text: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (I.2; 1.3; 1.15; 1.16; 1.17; 1.18; 1.43; etc.)  http://www.yogaincentro.it/uploads/file/PatanjaliYogaSutraSwamiVivekanandaSanEng.pdf

So it is slightly ironic that in the noisy, busy, crowded and hectic metropolis, one can truly find and cultivate a deep, inner calm and one-pointed focus.  We often think we need the ideal conditions in which to find peace and serenity, yet this Yoga in Times Square experience reminds us that the most important conditions are our internal reactions and inner steadiness no matter the external circumstances.  It is important to be reminded of that, especially for those of us who live in urban settings that are often the epitome of the “rat race” – fast, loud, dirty, competitive, and stressful. To maintain that inner steadiness found during one’s yoga and other meditative practices is the ongoing, daily practice. There is a reason the organizers entitled this year’s event Mind Over Madness Yoga!  It our mastery of our minds that will bring us the greatest peace during these these often maddening times.  Given that the ancient yogis who crafted the Yoga Sutras thousands of years ago were writing about these concepts they practiced, we know that humankind has always struggled with finding internal peace when the external world is filled with so many different and difficult challenges.


Another special aspect of the event is the feeling of solidarity and community with fellow yoga practitioners one feels, even though in the midst of thousands of New Yorkers. During this longest day of the year, a central NYC street transforms into a yoga studio floor, the NYC skyline becomes the ceiling, the surrounding buildings our studio walls, and strangers on the mats our classmates. We don’t know what emotions or insights will surface during the class, or what connections will be made.  It is all about being open to the process and experience – as we are in every yoga class, as well as off the mat, in our daily lives.  After the 3:30 p.m yoga class, I met a fellow yoga teacher, Bill, who is the founder of Llamaste.  He creates beautiful and practical yoga bags, as well as yoga t-shirts. I was very taken by his generosity of spirit when he gave me this lovely yoga bag in the photo below.  Bill’s yoga company is based in Brooklyn – check out his great website and his mission: http://www.llamasteinc.com

To read more about this annual solstice yoga event, and to see a beautiful video montage of the day with music of one of my favorite yoga chanters, Donna De Lory, click on this link: http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/solstice-in-times-square   

November 2016 Class Schedule; NY1 Interview

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween!

Some of you have already mentioned seeing my recent NY1 interview during which reporter Michael Scotto shadows me teaching Chair Yoga at Dorot for Seniors and doing community work around the Upper West Side.  It is a nice overview of some of my volunteer work (such as my “Love Your Street Tree” outreach and community events), and there is also beautiful video of the chair yoga class.  I am really honored that NY1 chose to profile me and my work, and that they saw the societal value in both teaching yoga and doing community work focused on urban trees, among other things. By the way, reporter Michael Scotto not only reported on the story, but he does all his own camera work as well. Impressive!  (And he is a lovely person).  Here is the link:
http://www.ny1.com/nyc/manhattan/news/2016/10/12/manhattan-week–the-mayor-of-the-upper-west-side-uses-her-green-thumb-to-keep-the-neighborhood-serene.html

On another note, many of you have asked about where to purchase non-slip socks. I found a supplier of attractive and reasonably priced traction socks in multiple styles and colors. Check out the Silverts website below.  Please wear some type of non-slip traction sock for the tai chi walking in my “Chair Chi and Prana” class, unless you are barefoot. These socks can also be used for yoga in the cooler weather (though I like the toe sox brand for yoga as each toe is separated so you can spread the toes wide in mountain pose, for example). The Silverts catalog also has some nice colorful velcro slippers for home wear, and if you experience leg or ankle swelling, they carry compression socks.  I wear compression socks on all long flights, and they make a huge difference in keeping one’s legs refreshed during the flight and reducing feet swelling due to the cabin air pressure. Let me know what you think of this website!

http://www.silverts.com

September 2016; Campaigning for Lasher for State Senate

I have been enjoying volunteering on Micah Lasher’s campaign and supporting a uniquely qualified candidate for my district’s state senate seat.  Because this will be the third election primary in just several months, and is unfortunately sandwiched between the Congressional and Presidential primaries, inspiring people to come out to vote is a large part of the campaign.  I have been flyering at various UWS locations, as well as hosting and attending meet and greets with the candidate. Micah is a lovely person who has spent much of his life working in the public sector, as an aid to Congressman Nadler, representing NYC in Albany under Mayor Bloomberg, and most recently as Chief of Staff for NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

In the decade we have known each other, I have consistently found Micah to be thoughtful and intelligent, and with the professional demeanor so needed these days in politics.  He is endorsed by the NY League of Conservation Voters for his environmental stances and policies, and I believe his progressive views will be especially valuable in Albany at this time.  To read more about my friend Micah’s campaign, see http://www.lasherforsenate.com If you live in Marble Hill in the Bronx, or reside in Inwood or Washington Heights, or along the west side of Manhattan from Harlem and UWS down to Chelsea, you may be in this State Senate District 31 (I say may because it is not a straight line with so many zig-zags and cut-outs due to gerrymandering). In any case, I am happy to support Micah for political office, and I hope you will enjoy reading about him and consider supporting him as well!  If you have an interest in doing some volunteer campaigning, volunteers are always needed! I have found it an enjoyable way to meet people and discuss local issues.  Please remember to vote on Sept. 13, and tell your friends!

July 2016 Schedule; Core Strength Yoga Returns and OpEd on Urban Greening

Wishing everyone a happy and safe July 4th weekend!  A reminder that Integral Yoga is closed on Monday, July 4th.  Also, I will be on a working and pleasure vacation that holiday week teaching teen ballet classes at the Olga Dunn Ballet School in the Berkshires.

When I return to NYC, some great news:  Core Strength Yoga at UWS Yoga & Wellness will reconvene – we will now be on a new day of the week, but same lunch time spot!  Starting Tuesday, July 12th at noon, my fusion class of yoga and pilates returns!  Thanks to all of you who had communicated your wishes to UWS Yoga, and a special thanks to Ingrid and Stephan for being so flexible (yoga pun intended) and accommodating!  I am very grateful and appreciative!

Many of you already know about my interest in urban greening; when I am not taking or teaching movement classes, I am working on my volunteer community initiatives.  Here is a recent OpEd I wrote on the benefits of urban trees, why NYC needs citizen tree stewards, and the importance of well-permeable soil in tree beds for stormwater absorption and reduction of sewage overflows into our waterways.  I welcome your thoughts and feedback!
http://www.westsidespirit.com/columnsop-ed/20160615/greening-new-york

May Schedule; New Yoga Barre Class; Plastic Bags; Love Your Tree Day

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy May!  I am back from a fantastic vacation to Sedona. I highly recommend traveling to this beautiful area of our country for amazing hiking, sight-seeing (ancient cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, an artsy old mining ghost town, new age stores and crystal shops), and delicious food (found the best vegan garden restaurant and chocolate bar for lunch, and an incredible gluten-free pizzeria).  If you go, email me for travel suggestions!

A few exciting announcements:

First, I have a new 3-week class at Integral Yoga Institute for the next 3 Monday nights: My “Yoga Barre” at 6:30- 8 pm combines yoga warm-ups, pilates, and ballet barre to strengthen and tone the body, and increase balance and coordination.  Come to any one or all three classes! Go to http://www.iyiny.org  to sign up!

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Second, on May 22, please come join my West 80s Neighborhood Association, our elected officials and community board, environmental organizations, non-profits, students, businesses and city agencies, as we clean and green across the UWS. It will be a fun afternoon as we care for our important NYC street trees by adding mulch and compost, clean up litter, engage in a voluntary trash audit, and join with other New Yorkers who want to see our city be cleaner and greener.  Free goodie bags will be distributed with gardening tools, curb your dog signs, and other free items.  Compost and mulch will be provided in free take-home buckets, and coffee and snacks will be served.  We need volunteers to help that day, as well as volunteers to help market our Second Annual  “Love Your Street Tree Day”.  Please let me know if you are interested! To sign up for May 22, go tohttp://loveyourstreetday/eventbrite.com

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Finally, the most recent The New Yorker magazine has a great article on the plastic bag issue, and I am quoted in the middle of the article as the author shadowed me and my neighborhood group as we trained with Bette Midler’s organization, NY Restoration Project, learning how to remove plastic bags from trees with a tool called a bag snagger.  The article is very thorough regarding plastic pollution issues, laws seeking to curtail plastic bag use, and obstacles to that environmental fight.  I do hope NYC’s carry-out bag law currently pending before the City Council gets signed by Mayor De Blasio this week.  The Speaker just endorsed it, and there are 26 co-sponsors now in the Council!   Please see http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/02/saving-america-from-plastic-bags

April Schedule; Earth Day “Bag It” Screening & Plastic Pollution

I am away on vacation April 12 – 17, traveling to the beautiful red rock area of Sedona, AZ.  Hoping to have deep and transcendent meditations in some of the area’s world-famous vortexes while hiking. We shall see!  I am open to the possibilities.

Friday, April 22 is Earth Day 2016, and I would like to invite you to an environmental event I am co-hosting that afternoon. See flyer and links below. Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, and union can be defined many ways, such as the union of mind, body, spirit when we practice yoga and qigong.  But I view union also as our connection to one another, the planet, and all the planet’s inhabitants.  My personal belief is that practicing yoga extends way beyond the mat (in fact, that is generally the least amount of time we may be practicing yoga). The true practice of yoga is how we consciously engage with one another and the planet that is our home and source of life.  As such, my community work is very much a yogic practice to me; it is my karma yoga (volunteer work or selfless service).  I see a direct relationship between my teaching and practicing yoga and my lifestyle choices, and that includes trying to make environmentally-friendly choices as much as I can – such as refusing to use single-use throwaway plastics like plastic bags and bottles (and that includes no longer buying those “healthy” ready-made green juices that come in plastic bottles, and of course not buying plastic water bottles).

One of the documentaries that inspired me to make these personal lifestyle changes is “Bag It”. Because it is so profound, my neighborhood association is showing the 45-minute version of “Bag It“, followed by a panel, and audience Q and A on Earth Day 2016!  Please join us to learn about  the alarming environmental issue of plastics in our oceans and the health implications to ourselves and the planet, as well as our economies – and what we can all do to confront this growing problem, and turn the current disastrous trend around.  The event will end with a free raffle drawing during which we will give away eco-friendly bags and other prizes! This event is family friendly and is co-hosted by the environmental club of the Trevor Day School, so it is perfect for all ages!See http://www.west80s.org

https://www.facebook.com/events/558759577622973/   Please feel free to share this email and Facebook Event widely!

Some sobering facts about plastic:

Did you know it costs NYC approximately $ 10 million per year to transport our single-use throwaway plastic bags to landfills each year, and that New Yorkers use over 5 million plastic bags each year – the majority of which are not recycled.  We have all seen plastic bags stuck in our street trees, clogging storm and sewage drains, and being washed out to our waterways; this creates visual urban blight, harm to animals and marine-life, and contamination of our food system.

A recent local study found that there are at least 165 million particles of plastic floating in the waters surrounding NYC at any given time.  Seehttp://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/waters-nyc-165m-plastic-particles-article-1.2530618
It is estimated that by 2050 if we do not reduce our reliance on fossil-fuel based plastics, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.   http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/01/24/oceans-more-plastic-than-fish/79267192/

Find out more about what we can all do locally about this alarming global pollution issue, and learn about the status of NYC’s pending carryout bag legislation by attending my Earth Day event!  See also www.plasticbaglaws.org andwww.bagitnyc.org

June 2015 – Love Your Tree Day

Last month, my neighborhood group (in conjunction with other non-profits, local businesses, the community board, and my city council member) organized two community events regarding the importance of NYC street trees and a neighborhood tree bed cleanup day. We had noticed how unkempt many of our UWS sidewalk tree beds were after the long, rough Winter. Our community outreach aimed to gather residents, businesses, schools and students to “adopt” trees, and to help clean out the litter, cigarettes, dog waste, and to add mulch, till or cultivate the soil, and in some cases plant flowers and add “curb your dog” signs. Here is my article on our successful “Love Your Tree Day” events:

http://www.westsidespirit.com/local-news/20150513/scrapbook-loving-trees-on-the-uws

With NYC Parks Department employees, New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal and her Community Liasion Jason Harding, Cheryl Blaylock of Trees NY, and Kim Johnson of Curb Allure tree guards: