Archive for society and culture

In-Person Yoga Class Cancellations Due to Pandemic, Telephone Classes, and More Important Covid-19 Information and Blessings

Dear Friends and Family,  


                        March 2020 Full Moon Over Central Park – Melissa Elstein

I am sending out positivity and healthy vibes to all of you and our global community at this extremely stressful time – we thought climate change and the United States presidential election were stressful enough, and now we are in the midst of a global Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn. Wow, the start of this important new decade has been one for the history books. This daunting situation demonstrates, that despite growing political movements towards identity politics and separatism, and discriminatory rhetoric from world “leaders”, we truly are all connected – physically, economically, and energetically. We have one home planet, and as we humans have evolved on it, our interconnectedness continues to become more obvious. We are all global citizens in this situation together. It is challenging for all of us to not go into constant fear and anxiety mode, especially with the 24/7 news cycle and social media. But these are the times to put into real-life practice the tools we learn in yoga, qigong, meditation, and dance – focus, mindfulness, flexibility, flow, letting go, centering, calm, and steadiness. Yes, negative emotions will understandably surface (and often), and that’s ok. At those times especially, let’s send healing energies and loving thoughts to ourselves and one another, just as we do during the Metta Mantra Loving-Kindness Meditations at the end of yoga and meditation classes. We can both stay informed and take proper precautions (see helpful links below), and continue our spiritual practices to support ourselves and one another.            

In terms of my in-person group classes, I have been informed that classes at Dorot for Seniors and the Children’s Dance Program at Steps on Broadway have been cancelled until further notice, including this Thursday’s Chair Yoga/Qigong class at Dorot. Hopefully, at some point soon in the near future that class will be rescheduled.

In the meanwhile, if you are interested trying a telephone class before my Dorot University of Walls telephone series starts in April, or my Queens Library April 8th group phone call, please email me. This can be arranged as a group conference call, a private telephone session, Facetime, or Zoom. I have years of experience teaching seated qigong and Chair Yoga over the phone, combined with meditation and visualizations, and I find this medium works very well – especially if you already have experience with those modalities. 
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While the virus situation continues to evolve, here are some helpful suggestions from UWS Yoga & Wellness  (http://www.uwsyoga.com) – one of the lovely yoga studios where I teach. These suggestions are helpful for all exercise environments:

“The best thing for all of us is to stay calm and clear-headed, wash our hands often and thoroughly, not touch our eyes/noses/mouths (it’s a great time to stop a nail-biting habit), and stay home if we feel sick. The Center for Infectious Diseases has a very helpful page for preventing illness that you can also print out: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html
 
When you are at the studio, we ask that you: 
* Wash your hands on arrival. Use the paper towel to open up the bathroom door, then throw it out in the garbage.
* If you refill your water bottle, please make sure not to touch the spigot with your water bottle. We are cleaning the spigots regularly, but please be extra careful. 
* Should you find yourself suddenly blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, please do so into a tissue or into your elbow (but then, wash your clothing that day!). If into a tissue, please wash your hands immediately. If this is a cold coming on, considering going home. 
* Please use a tissue or paper towel any time your face is in contact with a bolster or blanket, or bring a clean towel from home to use at the studio. 
* Do not touch your nose or mouth – the virus is lung-specific. This is why people are using masks.
* Students have asked us to request that everyone be extra careful about not walking on each other’s mats or belongings. Creatively walk around each other’s stuff, please!
* Keep your immune system strong by taking care of your body with yoga and meditation, walking outdoors, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy, unprocessed food (and, sorry, minimizing sugar and alcohol, which can deplete the immune system). 
* For the outside world, consider using surgical gloves for contacting surfaces. Avoid opening and closing doors with your hands — try using knuckles instead. Elbows are great for elevator buttons. Be creative with greeting others — no shaking hands! Try …. ankle bumps, bowing, or even the Spock salute. : )
MOST IMPORTANTLY, wash your hands. A lot. Sing Happy birthday twice (or repeat lots of healthy affirmations) while you’re washing every nook and cranny of your hands, up to your wrists. Use something clean to dry them. 
 
Here’s a helpful video about the coronavirus and how it works:   https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/videos/what-actually-happens-if-you-get-coronavirus-331164
 
This article explains why soap is better than hand sanitizer: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/deadly-viruses-are-no-match-for-plain-old-soap-heres-the-science-behind-it-2020-03-08
 
But, sometimes hand sanitizer is helpful when you can’t get to a sink! Since hand sanitizer is sold out in most places, have some fun making your own! It needs to be at least 60% alcohol to be effective.  https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Gel-Alcohol-Hand-Sanitizer
 
This simple experiment with bread and various states of dirty hands will certainly inspire your kids to wash their hands! https://www.sciencealert.com/this-simple-experiment-with-bread-is-a-genius-way-to-get-kids-to-wash-their-hands
 
Disposable rubber gloves are definitely better for the environment if you need to touch a lot of public property and want a fresh pair each day:
https://www.amazon.com/Compostable-Food-Prep-Gloves-Eco-Friendly/dp/B07P7N17XQ

Here are some important online resources from New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s newsletter as we all navigate through this very new situation:

Visit http:// nyc.gov/health/coronavirus on a daily basis for the most up-to-date and complete information regarding the new coronavirus/COVID-19.  Additional resources:

World Health Organization – Coronavirus Disease Advice for the Public
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

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Here is an informative map of NYC coronavirus cases:

COVID-19 NYC
https://goo.gl/maps/pMbERzmpb11jpvH9A
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With blessings to all for safety, health and well-being! 

Namaste,
Melissa Mati

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 2015 – Happy New Year and Travels to Colombia

Dear friends,

Happy New Year!  Wishing you all wonderful things for 2015 – peace, happiness, abundance, health, love, joy, and more!

I just returned from a enjoyable trip to Colombia – a beautiful country with lovely people, great sights, and delicious food.  I am so happy that tourism is increasing there, as the country has gotten safer.  I enjoyed our sight-seeing there – from the small Caribbean city Cartagena, the coffee and wax palm tree region of Pereira, to the mountainous capitol of Bogota.  When travelling, whether nationally or abroad, I am fascinated by observing and experiencing both the commonalities and the differences between people from place to place.  The more I travel, the more I realize that basically most humans want the same things – connection, security, good food, love, safety, peace, fun and laughter (in no specific order).  And within these common desires, is often the uniqueness of how one’s culture expresses them.  So travelling for me is a study of the beautiful blending of commonality and diversity on this glorious planet.  It makes me a better person as I open myself to ways that are different from my cultural and societal upbringings, and yet I can still find the universal commonality of humankind.  It may sound corny, but I do truly believe that the more we are exposed to others by direct personal experience (rather than through the lens of the mass media or propaganda), the more we can find connection and engage in less discrimination.  After all, at the end of the day, we are all just finite skeletal structures encapsulating infinite souls.