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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.

Happy 2019! Resolutions and my Tai Chi Easy/Chair Yoga Returns

Wishing you a magical and wondrous New Year filled with happiness, harmony, and abundance!

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Often as we think about our plans or resolutions for a new year, we have been conditioned by society to create unrealistic or onerous resolutions, such as to lose 15 pounds in a month or eliminate sugar or “bad” carbs completely.  Perhaps there are some who will be able to succeed in their quest and maintain such a rigid restriction or goal for the long term.  But most such resolutions get broken fairly quickly, creating more disappointment and negative self-talk for the goal seeker.  However, if we can flip the resolutions so that they are not about removing something desirable from our lives (let’s be honest, sugar tastes delicious!), but instead is about adding things (such as, I will eat more fresh fruit and veggies), we won’t feel the same level of deprivation.  By focusing on the positive side of a new dietary lifestyle (note, I did not use the word “diet”), we will not feel as if we are on punishing ourselves – as we eliminate the things have been used to eating or craving.  Instead, it is more likely that if we add more nutrients and fiber from fresh fruit, berries and veggies, for example, we probably won’t be craving as much sugar or unhealthy carbs. Psychologically, we are adding to our lives – not detracting –  which is very different than a resolution that focuses on depriving ourselves.  As soon as we vow to not have something anymore, ironically it becomes all that we seek.

I used the sugar issue as an example, but there are so many more examples of how we can create positive goals instead of punitive ones.  Let’s say we want to spend less time on our electronic devices, social media, tv, etc. If that is our resolution, we are likely to go through withdrawal, experience FOMO (fear of missing out, especially in these politically charged times). But instead, what if our goal was to add activities such as going to more museums, plays, concerts, yoga and dance classes, walks in the park?  We reward ourselves with these positive lifestyle changes and as a secondary consequence, it is likely our screen time will diminish without any feelings of deprivation or loss.  So in this 2019th year, let’s ask ourselves what we would like to add into our lives that makes us feel inspired, excited, healthy, and optimistic!  What are the things we experience that uplift us and what do we find energetically draining?  Take some time to create two lists noting this, and after a week or so of adding to the lists, reflect upon the answers. Can we find a way to nourish ourselves by increasing the things we now explicitly see uplift us?  Now, that’s a New Year’s resolution I can make and stick with! 
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     WINTER TAI CHI EASY & CHAIR YOGA CLASSES:

I hope to see you this Monday night at our first Tai Chi Easy™ and Chair Yoga class of the Winter semester at Integral Yoga Institute.  The chilly Winter season is a time when it is tempting to hibernate in one’s abode, but is important to continue to support the immune system with 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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Additionally this Friday morning, we continue my Fall/Winter Tai Chi Easy™  telephone course with the “University Without Walls” Dorot for Seniors program.  I love teaching this course as it brings the benefits of seated qigongmeditation, 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 (included my teacher’s book “The Healer Within” by Dr. Roger Jahnke), and each session is devoted to reading and discussing the materials, alternating with experiential movement and guided meditations.  Please call Dorot to sign up, and 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.  If you know someone who can benefit from at home learning, please share this wonderful resource! http:// http://www.dorotusa.org/site/DocServer/UWW_Spring_Summer_2018_Catalog.pdf

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

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!

December 2014 – Happy Holidays and DVDs Sale

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season!  It can be a hectic time of the year, so please remember to take time for yourself – whether it is a yoga, dance or qigong/ tai chi class, a walk in the park, quiet time for reading/ contemplation, a massage or acupuncture, or even sleeping in on the weekends!  This is the season for giving to others, but we must also take time for giving to ourselves in a healthy way so that we stay replenished.  There may be feelings of guilt that come up when we give to ourselves (but those feelings are usually a result of societal and/or family conditioning).  We must remember that giving to and taking care of ourselves, and not just others, creates balance in our lives.  That balance will allow us to better approach the holidays with calm, patience, and positivity!    

If you are looking for exercise or dance dvds as gifts, I am offering my Finis Jhung DVDs on sale for $ 30.  If you are interested, just let me know and I can bring some to class.  Here are some excerpts to watch:    “Ballet Barre Stretch and Strength,” http://finisjhung.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=367 “The Ten-Minute Stretch Break”, http://www.finisjhung.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=44&products_id=345

If you are around NYC through the holidays, I highly recommend the new Broadway show “Sideshow” which is unfortunately closing January 4.  It has received uniformly excellent reviews, and my friend and I absolutely loved it.  We were very impressed with the cast’s talent, the show’s score and staging.  The entire audience gave them a standing ovation.  It is not to be missed!  http://sideshowbroadway.com/ 

November 2014 – Overview of Integral Yoga “Enlightened Health Forum” at Lenox Hill Hosp.

On the evening of my return from Omega, I attended a fantastic evening event at Lenox Hill Hospital hosted by Integral Yoga Institute — the “Enlightened Health Panel Discussion: The History and Future of Yoga in Medicine” with Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Sandra Amrita McLanahan.  I was very impressed with all the speakers as well as the moderator, Dr. Graham, who is running their Integrative Practice at Lenox Hill – it even includes an edible, herbal rooftop garden, as well as Reiki, yoga, pet therapy, music therapy, meditation, and walking and exercise clubs! How far hospitals have come!

The three speakers (as well as artist Peter Max) spoke about their connections to Integral Yoga and its’ founder Swami Satchidananda, as well as the health benefits of the yogic lifestyle.  Dean Ornish spoke movingly about how when he was a medical student, he was depressed, stressed and suicidal, a fortuitous meeting with the Swami saved and changed his life forever.  The Swami taught him, among many things, that we cannot look for happiness outside our selves (hence, the letdown we may feel after acquiring things and achieving goals.)  Rather, through our yogic practices we quiet ourselves down enough to find the happiness and peace within.  After incorporating walking meditation, yoga and diet changes into his life, Dr. Ornish graduated with high honors, and became one of the most influential doctors linking diet with health and heart disease.  He continues to expand his holistic approach to medicine, calling for a new paradigm of “health care, not sick care”, to create a “Lifestyle Medicine” that includes love and compassion in the medical model (this is also Dr. Bernie Siegel’s model and basis of success with his cancer patients described in his many books, including “Love, Medicine, and Miracles”!)

Dr. McLanahan, who is a very impressive speaker, is based at Yogaville in Virginia.  Among the many things she discussed was the importance of the body-mind-spirit connection, and that intimacy is the route of healing, and that we “need to learn how to relax as a culture” through tools anyone can use, such as laughter, yoga, deep breathing (which also improves lymph flow and reduces inflammation).  She discussed that shame and guilt do not change people, but love, compassion and acceptance heals, and suffering can be used as a catalyst for change.  She and Dr. Ornish actually did yoga at the White House with the Obamas!

Dr. Oz was initially taught yoga by Dr. McLanahan, and that changed how “his mind saw the world” and influenced his opening of a complementary medicine center.  At the Lenox Hill evening, he graciously ceded much of his speaking time to Peter Max who was brought on stage from his seat in the audience.  Peter Max famously was the person who brought Swami Satchidananda to NYC in 1966 after meeting him in Paris.  And the rest is history!  Yoga in America greatly expanded, and the Swami even addressed the crowds at Woodstock.  I feel so fortunate to be teaching at the NYC center founded by Swami Satchidananda, and that Integral Yoga Institute is on the forefront of yoga and medicine by expanding therapeutically-based yoga beyond the yoga studios. 

P1120872See attached photo of the event with current Integral Yoga Swamis Ramananda and Asokananda!

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October 2014 – Overview of Climate March with Yoga and Spirituality Group

I hope you are P1120802enjoying this beautiful Fall season.  I am headed to Omega for a 5-day retreat, and am looking forward to visually feasting on the vibrant hues of the Hudson Valley’s Fall foliage, and taking long walks in the crisp country air. 

Tonight, as I took a break from packing, I uploaded my photographs from the People’s Climate March this September 21 in NYC.  It is hard to believe that less than a month ago, 400,000 people from all over the world came together to march peacefully in defense of clean energy policies, and a non-toxic, safe, and democratic planet.  Organizers had expected ¼ of the attendance, and the crowds were so large that those of us who were gathering towards the end of the waiting areas along Central Park West did not start actually walking until after 2 pm – over 2.5 hours from the start of the March at Columbus Circle, where UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon was marching alongside Mayor DeBlasio, Al Gore, Leonardo DeCaprio, and my personal favorite, the anti-fracking activist and lovely actor Mark Ruffalo.  Indigenous people were part of the groups leading the March, a large number of City Council members marched at some point behind them.  Labor unions and inter-faith groups gathered in large numbers, and were involved in the organizing of the March from early in its’ inception.  What struck me as I spent the day walking amidst the colorful crowds was how diverse the March was in all respects.  It was a true melting pot of humanity, and an example of how people from all walks of life can peacefully join together and act towards a common goal – and yet have diversity within those goals too.  There were many anti-fracking signs, divest from fossil fuel banners, flood wall street art, signs promoting socialism, marchers seeking a ban on mountain top removal coal mining, marchers carrying flowers and seeking protection for the bees and butterflies, beautiful artwork depicting the planet, puppets embodying the greed and destructive practices of certain corporations, people seeking climate justice for island nations and victims of hurricanes, protestors seeking bans on oil and gas pipelines and LNG ports, posters demanding clean, renewable energy policies and implementation, and so much more! 

The Yoga & Spirituality Contingent started our March with a powerful meditation at 10 am.  At that early hour, we were a small group of six who sat in a circle on West 83rd Street and Central Park West listening to the Sri Shankar meditation that was being broadcast all over the world simultaneously on cellphones!  It was a very beautiful meditation for peace and unity, as Sept. 21 was also World Peace Day.  After our meditation, the crowds started forming and our group was joined by many of you – yoga practitioners from many studios and ashrams, such as Integral Yoga Institute, Sivananda Yoga, World Yoga, UWS Yoga & Wellness, and others.  Some people had instruments and we created a large circle on the street for a high energy “call and response” kirtan.  In keeping with the democratic theme of the People’s Climate March, we took turns leading chants and even my Omega friend, Izzie, who happened to be walking by joined in to lead a 60s’ song!  We sang, danced and chanted until everyone began lining up preparing to walk.  Then came the 2-minutes of silent contemplation for the victims of climate change.  The energy was intense as hundreds of thousands of people stood still with hands raised over head and joined together in mindfulness.  The stillness was moving and profound;  it felt as if we were all breathing as one.  After our 2-minutes of silence, a wave of sounds started from the front of the march and cascaded to the back in beautiful discordant harmony.  

In Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, Yoga means “union” and “to join”.  Yogis recognize the underlying unity of life, the interconnectedness of all, and that we are One.  At this pivotal time in history, spiritual practitioners, joining with political, environmental and social activists, and others, and are being called in many ways to protect Mother Earth.  One such way, was on September 21, 2014, when we left the yoga studios, meditation centers, and ashrams and marched on the streets of NYC, joining our voices with hundreds of thousands of others in seeking government and corporate energy policies harmonious with the planet and all beings.  On that historic day, many of us felt more connected to one another, to the earth, and to our true selves as we joined this vibrant example of the best of humanity. 

It was a March filled with such beautiful and creative art, joyful music, festive colors, and good vibes that it was almost hard to believe we were basically marching for our future and next generations’ futures.  Usually, contemplating the seriousness of what humanity is facing is discouraging.  That people still have to advocate for their rights to clean water, land and air, and now additionally to prevent climate catastrophe is daunting.  Yet, on this very special day, the mood was so positive and elevated, it made one feel that real, positive change is possible.  The People’s Climate March was Day One towards a better future.  It has changed the conversation, and now we will continue with our next “steps” on the long and every day march towards a just and safe future.      

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July 2014

I hope you had a fantastic Fourth of July holiday!  I am back in town after a great vacation upstate in the Adirondacks (Lake George area).  We celebrated my husband’s and his friends’ 50th birthday party with hiking to a waterfall gleaming with rainbows, white water rafting (my first time) on the Hudson River with lovely nature guides Link and Lori of www.squareeddy.com(Lori also bakes the MOST amazing gluten-free baked goods), shopping at the local Farmers’ Markets, and sight-seeing around some charming towns, such as Bolton Landing.  It is a very beautiful area of New York State, and I highly recommend a visit.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the maple syrup from New York was even better than what I normally buy from VT.  I also discovered a great natural skincare company – check out www.radsoap.comand for an online discount order, use code: shugabub1.  I purchased their natural bug spray that has garlic in it (but, don’t worry, you won’t reak of garlic because the other essential oils smell delicious), some aromatherapy shower soaps, and an evening skin lotion with lavender and melatonin to help this night owl drift to sleep.  Radsoap is now in some Whole Foods, so look for their products there as well.

 

Speaking of the Hudson River, the downstate region of the glorious Hudson is being celebrated with fun “City of Water Day” activities this Saturday on Governor’s Island, the Southstreet Seaport, and Hoboken, NJ.  Check out this local alliance’s website for the link to the day’s events:

 http://www.waterfrontalliance.org/about 

I plan on volunteering on Governor’s Island in the afternoon with the anti-fracking organization United for Action.  If you are there, come look for our UFA table, sign a petition to keep our waters clean and free from fracking toxins, and say hi.  Also, if you are interested in this Sunday’s climate march in Washington, DC (seeking a ban on gas exports and gas ports which creates more demand for fracking in our country), please see www.unitedforaction.org

 

Here are some relevant and inspiring quotes!

 

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember that you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

– Margaret Atwood 

“In today’s highly interdependent world, individuals and nations can no longer resolve many of their problems by themselves. We need one another. We must therefore develop a sense of universal responsibility . . . It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members, and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.”  THE DALAI LAMA

June 2014 – World’s Oldest Man

I am very intrigued by a news story last week regarding a NYC man designated by Guiness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest man – he is 111 years young (and yes, the oldest human is a Japanese woman).  Alexander Imich lives near me at the Esplanade on West End Avenue, and he is a professor of the occult, a WWII POW, and had a book published in his 90s!  He seems to embody the spirit, humor and curiosity of a yogi – even though I do not know if he did or does practice yoga.  In the online West Side Rag article, he is quoted:  ‘“How long can this go on?” he told the Times. “The compensation for dying is that I will learn all the things I was not able to learn here on Earth.”

His quote reminds me of the ancient Upanisad Sanskrit chant that we do at Integral Yoga at the end of each class:  “Lead me from Unreal to Real, Lead me from Darkness to the Light, Lead me from the fear of Death to Knowledge of Immortality.  Om, Shanti, shanti, shanti.”  It is a beautiful and powerful chant (and by the way, it was chanted at the end of the first Matrix movie), and at Integral we chant it in Sanskrit and English.  When I was at Rasa Yoga, we chanted it repetitively in Sanskrit during cobra pose.  It speaks to so many spiritual aspirations, but the most challenging one for most of us is the deep-rooted fear of death.  Even for those of us who believe in soul reincarnation, there is still likely a sense of unknowing and fear (either in our conscious or unconscious) regarding what happens to us (the spark that makes us unique individuals) when the body dies.  Maybe I am reading too much into his quote, but it does seem that this interesting man who has lived on this Earth for 111 years has summarized the sanskrit chant in his concise and unique way.

And on a lighter note, he seems to have the yogic understanding of balance:  “Eat sparingly, but enjoy chocolate ice cream.”

For the full TV interview and news report:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2621334/111-year-old-New-Yorker-Alexander-Imich-oldest-man-world-admits-no-idea-hes-alive.html

And West Side Rag article:

http://www.westsiderag.com/2014/05/21/upper-west-sider-certified-as-worlds-oldest-man

May 2014

Dear friends,

I hope you are enjoying our long-overdue Spring weather! Spring is in the air – the welcome sound of the birds returning north, the trees now in full bloom, and all the annual flowers bringing color back to the parks and tree beds. Not being a “Winter” person by nature, I truly welcome the longer days and warmer weather. My husband and I have “adopted” a tree along the Columbus Avenue bike path right near Upper Westside Yoga, and today we planted beautiful pink and purple flowers in the tree pit. People walking by us as we planted were so appreciative. Knowing that our neighbors notice the improvements, makes the uniquely urban gardening (discarding chewing gum, cigarette butts, glass, and garbage found in the dirt) worthwhile. To learn more about urban planting, I just signed up take a month-long class with Trees NY ( www.treesny.org ) to become an official NYC Tree Steward. If you too are interested, there are still some spots left in the training – details are on their website.

I recently learned about Trees NY when I organized a large community symposium last Saturday – part of my volunteer work with my neighborhood association. We were able to bring together community leaders, block associations, garden groups, government agencies, non-profits, local businesses, environmental organizations, students, and elected officials (Public Advocate Letitia James, NY State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Council Member Helen Rosenthal) – all gathering to discuss ways we could improve NYC, and learn from one another. As with the past two years, it was a lot of work, but ultimately was a very positive experience as it all came together on the day of the event. Swami Satchidananda, who founded Integral Yoga, often defined yoga as “selfless service” – the practice of Karma Yoga. I truly believe that community work and/or volunteer work is yogic. After all, it is an outward expression of the realization that we are all connected. It is an opportunity to be involved with something that transcends the self and benefits others, without expecting payment for services. I find it especially rewarding when it is a group project – knowing that I am just one piece of the puzzle working towards the common good. I am attaching an article about the symposium here, and this is the link: http://nypress.com/block-symposium-brings-community-leaders-together/.