Archive for Seasons

February Classes; Telephone Qigong & Meditation; Weight Training for 50 and Older; Chair Chi & Prana

Happy February!

Berkshires Fireplace – Melissa Elstein

This short Winter month brings us Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Black History Month.  It is a month when we tend to long for Spring to arrive, but grudgingly know we still have a couple more months of Winter.  So for those of us in the North East, how do we brighten our days and motivate when we are still dealing with snow and ice storms, and frigid temperatures?  I find myself wanting to hide under a warm blanket with a good book, and hibernate until the Spring thaw.  But, given I am not a bear, hibernation is not an option!

Taconic Trees by Melissa Elstein

I find that signing up for group classes keeps me committed to my workouts and my spiritual practices, and the group solidarity helps boost my mood as well (you all can tell by now, I am not a Winter person!).  Whether I am teaching a group class or taking one, the group interaction and solidarity is extremely motivating.  One of the classes I recently signed up for is a fun conditioning circuit class geared towards those of us 50 years of age and up,  taught at Silver Stars Fitness (fitness specialists for baby boomers and beyond).  I highly recommend this specialized fitness studio; see below for more details on their classes and training!

Another class I find personally uplifting due to the positive group interaction is the telephone class I offer for the Dorot Center for Seniors “University Without Walls”:  Seated Qigong, Tai Chi Easy Arms, & Guided Meditation.   Each week we discuss and read tai chi articles and my teacher Roger Jahnke’s qigong books. The intellectual understanding of this ancient philosophy is enhanced by guided gentle movement, guided meditations, and relaxation exercises.  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.  In fact, I have found that focusing on the phone actually enhances our powers of concentration as we also must visualize what we are hearing described.  The next semester starts this Friday, Feb. 9, so please call Dorot to sign up, or to receive a catalog: (877) 819-9147.  No prior experience is necessary, and since this class continues through May 2018 you can sign up at any time (though I do recommend starting sooner rather than later)!  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://

Last year, I organized at home personal training for my father with a trainer from Silver Stars Fitness so that he could maintain and even improve his strength while he was going through various health challenges.  He really enjoyed his workouts with Mary who visited him in his apartment, as he could not commute to the Silver Stars Studio.  Mary brought the necessary equipment (like bands and other resistance tools), and because she has specialized training working with seniors, was able to safely teach him strengthening exercises, stretches, and balancing skills.  My father raved about Mary, and her visits were one of the highlights of his week!

In addition to Silver Stars’ roster of specialized trainers who will do at home training, they also offer small group classes and individual personal training in their beautiful gym located at 7th Avenue and 54-55th Streets.  Classes are limited to a maximum of 6 students, so there is much individual attention to form and safety.  I signed up for a weekly “30-Minute Circuit” class, which is a lot of fun and a well-rounded workout using weights, bands, balls, and balance boards, and including movement across the floor.  This class is offered five times per week, and they also offer a very practical “Balance & Fall Prevention” class.  If this sounds interesting to you, you can contact owner Jason Greenspan to schedule a consultation or attend their next Open House:  (646) 370-3843 or info@silverstarsfit,com  I believe that functional cross training (doing multiple modalities of fitness) is very important, especially as we get older, and that yoga or dance alone is not sufficient for full body conditioning.  As that saying goes, variety is the spice of life!

Working out at Silver Stars Fitness

Speaking of variety of movement, our next Chair Chi and Prana class will be held on a Tuesday this month – Feb. 27.  This class too has a great group energy.  The beautiful and historic yoga ashram Integral Yoga Institute has been hosting this class for many years, and it is accessible to both newcomers as well as experienced students.  This unique class is designed to 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!

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!