Archive for post-election stress

January 2018 Qigong & Yoga Classes; Simplification for the New Year

Happy 2018 to you all.  Let’s hope that the New Year is filled with more positivity and peace than the preceding year, and that we all find the tools uniquely helpful for each one of us to best navigate these complicated times with ease, clarity, and a lightness of spirit.


Mexico Sunset 2018 by Melissa Elstein

My personal mantra for the new year is to “simplify” – to streamline and declutter my internal and external spaces.  With our 24/7 information age, social media threads to infinity, email demands, online petitions, etc., it just seems as if we cannot keep up with the onslaught of news, requests to act, donate, join, resist, and other pulls for our attention.  If you are a caring person, it can feel overwhelming as there are so many worthy causes and too little time.  The problems of the vast world can seem so much closer and more personal these days as we view them in our handheld gadgets at all possible moments.  Unlike the days of my childhood, the tv does not turn to gray static once the late news has ended.  There is no end to the news. Last year, many of us sought more and more information to find understanding of what has been unfathomable.  We endlessly clicked, to assuage our anxiety with the false belief that the more we knew, the better we would feel.  Or maybe that was just me.  In any event, I found that game plan does not work so well.  The news keeps coming, whether I tune in or not – and the results are still beyond my control.  So to simplify my life this year, without hiding my head in the sand (though at times, that would seem heavenly) will be a learning process and a goal.  Creating healthy boundaries of what and how much we take in from our external environment, allows more time and space to nurture our own personal inner environment – and that is just as real and important as any headline or breaking news story.  As with so many spiritual lessons, it’s all about finding balance.

And speaking of balance, our next Chair Chi and Prana class will be held this Monday night, January 22 at Integral Yoga.  This unique fusion class helps increase our vitality, and improve 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 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.  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!

Here is a wonderful short article written by a psychiatrist on how tai chi class has benefited her:  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/denise-nagel-md/health-benefits-of-tai-ch_b_7641712.html

Additionally, I am so pleased to be again teaching a telephone class for the Dorot Center for Seniors “University Without Walls” that 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.  We will continue with this course throughout 2018, so 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:// http://www.dorotusa.org/site/DocServer/UWW_Spring_Summer_2018_Catalog.pdf

May 2017 Schedule; DC Climate March; Sun Salutation Workshop; Love Your Street Tree Day

Happy May!  I am back from an inspiring weekend in DC, marching in the People’s Climate Movement “March for Jobs, Justice and Climate.”  In a sweltering hot and humid day of 90 degrees, over 200,000 diverse people joined together in creative solidarity seeking a safer, cleaner, and better future for all. Just like the 2014 historic march in NYC, the vibe in DC was so uplifting, the artwork beautiful, the signs super creative, witty, and poignant.  It again demonstrated (no pun intended) how beautiful it is when people from all walks of life peacefully come together in support of causes greater than themselves to envision policies that curb runaway climate change, create a clean energy economy, support ethics in government, and bring about a more just system. I truly hope these newly invigorated political and environmental protests manifest those visions.  For those of us too young to remember the Civil Rights, Peace, and Anti-Nuclear movements that started in the 1960s (not to mention the preceding Suffrage Movements), the last six months has witnessed a remarkable shift in our country and in many other places abroad.  I do believe we are a part of a historic shift at this time – and all shifts have challenges, struggles, disappointments, successes, failures and victories along the way. Just like an EKG reading of our heartbeat, movement is not a straight line but rather a zigzag.  Let us rejoice in this new spirit of shared positive activism and keep the faith.

One tip for keeping the faith: I have been more content since I recently reduced my post-election habit of TV news watching time.  I am still staying informed, and not burying my head in the sand, but I have made a conscious decision to limit the amount of television news that I watch as, no matter the network, they focus on the drama, the negativity, and conflicts in a away that is emotionally draining (I believe) to the viewer.  So for me, I am learning to find that balance of being informed and not overwhelmed. Anyone else in a similar state of mind?

For  the climate march, I created a “vision board” on the back of my climate march poster.  I love creating vision boards, as the process is meditative, artistic, and a visible manifestation of one’s desires and intentions (either conscious or unconscious).  Perhaps, if there is interest, we can do a vision board circle in the near future – please let me know your thoughts!

On Monday, May 8th I will be teaching a “Sun Salutation Workshop” at Integral Yoga during which we will break down each pose and transition of the famous yogic salute to the sun, and explore ways to make it more easeful for each participant. If you have ever struggled with all or parts of the Sun Salutation, then this workshop is ideal for you.  And don’t worry, there will be lots of discussion time – so we will have breathers between the physical practice.  🙂  Bring a pen for note-taking as I will hand out take-home outlines.

For those of you interested in neighborhood beautification activities in NYC, my neighborhood non-profit organization (along with many co-sponsors such as elected officials, environmental groups, local businesses, students, government agencies) is hosting a large community cleanup and planting day on Sunday, May 21. It is rewarding to know that this is our Third Annual “Love Your Street Tree Day” Spring event, and each year it has been a fun and effective way to clean up our tree beds, bring awareness to our street trees, and beautify various NYC blocks!  If you are interested, please rsvp via the Eventbrite link. Please note it is first come, first serve for a free gardening bag, with tools, educational materials, and a “Love Your Tree” double-sided Curb Your Dog sign.  See http://www.loveyourstreettreeday.com
for more information!

March Schedule; Staying Grounded in Qigong; Women’s March Post Cards; Baby Boomer Fitness

Happy March 2017 to you all!  What a bumpy ride we are on – from our political situation, to extreme weather shifts. This week, I was eating in a sunny outdoor cafe one day and the next day freezing in my winter coat!  In many respects, it feels like we are on a roller coaster ride, and staying grounded is so very key.

I find in addition to doing standing poses in yoga, especially mountain pose, standing qigong meditation is also very helpful for grounding.  Like seated meditation in yoga, one follows the breath as a tool for quieting the mind.  But instead of sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the yoga mat or meditation cushion, we stand in the qigonghorse stance“.  To create this position, stand with the legs slightly wider than the hips, leg and buttock muscles will engage by slightly bending the knees, abdominal muscles will be slightly lifted to protect the lower back muscles, and the arms are in front of you as if you are wrapping them around a tree in nature.  Feel all areas of the feet (the toes, the ball of the foot, the heel) grounding down into the earth, and if you are not outside on the earth doing this meditation, imagine you are in a beautiful place in a favorite natural setting.  Feel the breath expand across your chest, your back, your rib cage area, along your spine from tail to crown as you inhale, and crown to tail as you exhale.  Soften your gaze, and you can even bring the tongue to the roof of the mouth. You decide how long to stay in this calming and grounding meditation pose.  Try one minute and then increase it as you develop your inner and outer strength with practice.  Please let me know what you think!  For those of you who take my classes in person, you will recognize this practice from the Tai Chi Easy(tm) part of my classes.


Seated Meditation            Standing Meditation

I recently saw on social media that March 15th this year is being hashtagged #TheIdesofTrump and is an international day of sending postcards to the White House.  These postcards can be sent in support of the administration or for voicing one’s opposition to this new administration’s policies and stances. If you send a postcard on March 15, you can take a selfie with the card and post the photo to your social media pages with the above hashtag.  You should decide how comfortable you are with using your social media platforms for political advocacy and review the various privacy setting options. Alternatively, just send a card and know you are joining hopefully millions of others to voice your First Amendment right of free speech.  If you would like to use a Women’s March postcard, my local mom and pop copy center, 85 Copy & Graphics, has the template below and you can order them in bulk for the following prices: 30 cards $35; 20 cards $25; and 10 cards for $20.  85 Copy Center is located at 173 W. 85th Street, just east of Amsterdam Avenue.  Call (212) 769 – 4470 or email 85copyny@gmail.com and say Melissa referred you.

Most of you know I am a fan of cross-training, as I often discuss that in class.  I love yoga, but do not believe that practicing yoga to the exclusion of other fitness activities is sufficient. To achieve my fitness goals, in addition to yoga, I do cardio, weight training, pilates, gyrotonics, walking, boxing, and dance classes. Not only does varying the activities keep me interested and prevent boredom, but it also challenges my body and brain. Last month, I met Jason Greenspan, owner of “Silver Stars Fitness” at an open house (he was recommended to me by a lovely yoga student). Jason and his team of trainers specialize in fitness for the “Baby Boomer & Beyond“, and I was impressed with his presentation and understanding of the workout needs of the older person.  It is very important as we age that we adapt exercises and weight training to our unique bodies with our individual histories, and not just be engaging in the latest fad exercise.  Safety is paramount. If you would like to learn more about “Silver Stars Fitness”, their next Open House is on Wednesday, March 22 from 10 am – 6 pm.  Attendees will receive 20% off all future services, a free copy of Jason’s book “Fitness For Real Life“, and a free fitness consultation.  To RSVP call 646-573-9724 or by email:  info@silverstarsfit.com . “Silver Stars Fitness” is located at 850 7th Ave (West 54/55th Streets), Suite 305. Lunch and snacks will be served as well!  If you attend, please let me know your thoughts and tell Jason I say “hello”!  Check out his website at http://www.silverstarsfit.com

February Schedule; Thoughts for Turbulent Times

Wishing everyone a February filled with Valentine’s Day love all month – love for one another, for our country, for our planet!

During this turbulent political time, cultivating love may be more challenging than before, or you may be finding the opposite – that the more some (those who will not be named here) espouse hate and separatism, the more you are seeking and finding love and harmony.  For me, joining with others in peaceful protest and community organizing (as well as teaching and taking movement and spiritual classes), makes me feel more connected to others and more positive about the future.  Even though I highly value solitude and my peaceful walks in Central Park, sharing my feelings with others has been an important tool for support. After just two weeks of a new “presidency”, most of the people I know (including myself) are aghast, petrified, depressed, anxious, embarrassed for our country, fearful for our democracy, and desperately wishing that we are going to wake up from this horrible situation to find that it was all a nightmare in our dreams.

So how do we deal with this unique time in our history?  How do we stay involved but also protect and nourish ourselves, our health and sanity in the process?  How do we not burn out?  To be honest, a part of me since the inauguration, is already feeling exhausted and burnt out.  In part, because I was already doing so much organizing and environmental protesting during the last 10 years, and I felt like we had made progress. Then the election happened, and it feels like there will be a huge concrete wall (no pun intended) blocking any more progress.  I know we are currently facing enormous obstacles towards making progress on not just environmental issues, but every issue I care about from human rights, rights to a living wage, money out of politics, animal welfare, education, gun control, free internet, voting rights, separation of church and state, ending gerrymandering, income inequality, corruption, corporate greed, government transparency, criminal justice, the Supreme Court, and the list goes on and on.  It honestly feels overwhelming and we are just two weeks in.

During this time of transition, I have felt so much compassion for those who have lived or are currently living under even more challenging political situations.  For my generation of Americans who have not been overseas fighting in the Irag or Afghanistan wars, we have not had the experience of living in such uncertain and stressful times – unlike our recent ancestors who experienced the World Wars and the turbulence of the 60s. If we were born here, we have not lived under dictatorships, strong men or military regimes. We have not experienced life under a repressive system, such as North Korea’s. We have not lived through coup d’etats. I cannot even imagine the stress and fear that citizens under those types of political situations must suffer.  I know that those of us fearful of losing our democratic system here in the US are seeing warning signs under this new administration, and we feel that we are literally fighting for our country, and more globally for the environmental health of the planet and the prevention of nuclear war.  And that feels heavy, depressing, and infuriating – especially given that we are such a technologically advanced society and yet, in the year 2017 that we are still having to fight against greed, hate, power-mongering, and short-sighted visions.  All the qualities specifically listed in the ancient yoga sutras’ yamas.

So these are the thoughts and feelings I have been experiencing the last two weeks.  I hope you will appreciate my honesty and my openness about my inner struggles at this time. What are some of the things that have lifted me from my despair?  Joining with others in solidarity, humor (thankfully, we have so many genius comedians/ennes), movement (from yoga, dance, qigong, running/walking in the park), being with open young children who are still not yet conditioned by society, petting a dog, listening to beautiful classical music, attending the theater, gentle bodywork, aromatherapy, and yes, probably having a little more wine, chips, and dark chocolate these days.  But maybe most importantly, is having the belief that this is a historic international moment and movement that perhaps needed to occur to truly awaken us. That not only are we witnessing history, we are also co-creating it.  And in that, we have power. How will we each co-create our present and our future is individualized.  But my intention is to not be an angry activist, even though I do have a lot of anger at the situation and injustices I observe. But if I can channel that anger and that despair into fighting for what I believe in with positivity and good energy, I think that will ultimately be more helpful for myself and for others.

Towards those goals, I hope to, in addition to continuing to march and engage in community work, create and host vision board and manifestation circles. Please email me back if you are interested in this as well, and we can organize one hopefully soon.  This would be a group of us creating visual representations of how we each envision a positive future. I believe it would be a very powerful and uplifting event.

January 2017 Yoga Schedule and Post Election Satsang Sharing Circle

Wishing everyone a peaceful and healthy New Year, and hoping you had joyful holidays.

This past year’s Christmas and Hanukkah were celebrated on the same day – an event that had not occurred in 40 years!  Let us hope that is a good sign for more tolerance and harmony in the world for 2017.

I was raised celebrating all the main Jewish and Christian holidays (of course, loving all the extra gifts). But now as an adult, I appreciate having been exposed at a young age to many holidays and traditions. I was also raised in Teaneck, NJ after my parents moved from NYC when I was a toddler.  My town was a true melting pot of ethnicities and races, and I believe was the first town to voluntarily desegregate its’ schools. When I look at my old class photos, I am amazed at how diverse my class truly was.  We just accepted it as normal, and I do not remember any racial issues or religious intolerance between the young students. Looking back at that formative time of my life, I also appreciate that positive exposure to inclusivity and believe that early exposure to differences is key to tolerance, acceptance, and racial harmony.

As a young ballet dancer in NYC, I was further exposed to students with different sexual orientations and that broadened my horizons as well.  When we have friends who some people label as “the other”, we see beyond those externals and to the true inner selves. It is harder to generalize and rely only on unfair stereotypes, when we know the humanness of the individual beyond the color of skin, beyond whatever god that is being worshiped or not, and one’s sexual orientation.  It is not to say that we are completely immune to internalizing some cultural and media-influenced stereotypes, but hopefully our self-awareness cultivated through our meditative and psychological practices allows us to examine those negative thoughts or feelings, and release them without acting upon them.  I am grateful to have lived my entire life in the northeast of America where I have worked and socialized with the world’s multicultural human rainbow.

Many of us are thinking about these issues of inclusion versus discrimination, love versus hate, peace versus violence after what can be described as a depressing and base election season (I believe, a true low point in this great country’s history).  January 2017 will mark the end of our first African American President’s two terms, and I can remember the excitement and pride I felt 8 years ago watching President Obama being sworn in to office.  This month also ushers in a new president and administration, and with any major changes, anxiety and stress may ensue; especially given the tenor and tone of the campaign.

As such, my friend and fellow yoga teacher Deborah Quilter and I are hosting an evening of sharing.  You are invited to a yoga “Satsang” on Thursday evening January 12th where we can share our responses to the 2016 election and our hopes for 2017. This will be a sharing circle where we will create a safe, non-judgmental space for all opinions and feelings. As such, we all will participate in non-partisan political way, and as open-minded yoga practitioners.  We will come together for an evening of chanting, sharing, and support. We thank Integral Yoga Institute for ​providing space for our Satsang! If you know anyone who would like to join us, please pass this invitation along to them, but please let us know who will be attending. This is a free event as IYI is generously donating the room for the event, and Deborah and I are volunteering (“karma yoga”).  However, IYI will accept donations for their continued mission of being an oasis of peace and yoga. We look forward to seeing you on January 12!

December Yoga Schedule; Post-Election

Wishing everyone a peaceful and healthy holiday season!  This beautiful white bird landed on my terrace Thanksgiving Day, and this is the first time in 16 years we have had such a bird come visit us.  This month’s Really Simple magazine also caught my eye while waiting for the subway to Integral Yoga, and so I hope these symbols of peace are prophetic for all of us!

I have seen many, but not all of you, since the Presidential election results in the beginning of November.  For those of us who voted for a candidate who did not win the election, it has been an extremely emotional and challenging time.  Many, including myself, observed that NYC felt as depressed, shocked and traumatized after Trump won as it felt on 9/11. NYC was eerily silent after both of these game-changing life events. Just as after September 11, 2001, we will find ways to move forward by processing the events, digesting emotions, gathering with others, sharing feelings and thoughts, creating coping plans, and cycling through the cycles of grief over and over.  Joining others in dialogue as well as in healing circles, movement classes, protests, prayer gatherings, and meditation groups can be very therapeutic and each of us will find the best way to meet our own unique needs during these turbulent times. For me personally, I am finding it uplifting to be with others at this time, and that includes an all-of–the above approach: yoga and dance classes, human and environmental-rights affirming marches and street gatherings, dinner conversation, lectures and town halls, and organizing meetings. For each one of us, it will be individualized – there is no one recipe and there is no time limit. What is feeding your spirit and soothing your soul at this stressful time?  I would love to hear!


(Gathering in Support of the Water Protectors at North Dakota’s Standing Rock just as the Army Corps of Engineers Withdrew the Oil Pipeline Easement Today!)

Last month, NY1 did a profile of my Chair Yoga teaching and volunteer community work on the UWS of Manhattan, and I was very flattered to be profiled by one of my favorite news channels!  The 2-minute clip is linked below.  The final segment was edited down from 5 hours of me being interviewed and filmed by the lovely reporter Michael Scotto (who by the way, does his own filming, interviewing and editing – impressive!).  Let me know what you think:
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

If you appreciate my community work efforts and would like to contribute, I would be most appreciative! My all-volunteer neighborhood organization is a 501 c3 organization, and so donations are tax-deductible! We rely fully on contributions to continue our work seeking to create a cleaner and greener NY!  Please go to http://www.west80s.org  to make donations, or to see more about community work.  Thanks for your consideration!