Archive for Yoga

July Schedule: Sun Salutation, Balancing Poses, Core Strength Yoga Workshops; Zoom & Phone Yoga, Qigong Classes; Spiritual Declaration of Independence; Meditation During Pandemic

I hope that this email finds you and your loved ones remaining safe and well, and enjoying the holiday weekend. This month in addition to my Zoom Yoga & Qigong classes, and telephone classes, I will be offering these Zoom workshops: “Sun Salutation – Take It Apart & Put It Back Together”; “Balancing Poses”; and “Strong to the Core – Yoga/Pilates Fusion”. See my website offerings for the full descriptions of these special yoga workshops.

A Berkshires July 4th – photo by Melissa Elstein


     It has been lovely connecting with so many of you on my Zoom and telephone yoga classes! Not only have I been reconnecting with students from my NYC in-person classes, but I am meeting new students from all over the world. This world wide web of support for one another and growing interest in the healing arts has me very inspired. I have noticed that while many aspects of our society have sadly contracted due to the pandemic (the economy, large in-person social gatherings, the live arts and sports, for example), there is also a palpable expansion that is occurring as well. Yoga and meditation classes that would attract a dozen students in person pre-pandemic, are now drawing at least 4xs those numbers. As our external lives have contracted, our internal lives may be expanding in wonderful ways. The universe is always seeking balance (as are we), and I believe the instabilities caused by the pandemic are compelling us to find that deep inner stability and peace.

     In addition to the classes at the studios and centers for whom I teach (Integral Yoga and Dorot), I have been finding wonderful meditation offerings from the Tibet House (via the Nalanda Institute http://www.nalandainstitute.org), David Nicol’s sacred activism Heal US https://www.earthrising.one/heal-us/, Panache Desai on YouTube http://www.panachedesai.com, and Cynthia Jurs’ Gaia full moon meditations https://mailchi.mp/earthtreasurevase/full-moon-global-healing-meditation . I also recommend the meditation sessions offered by these NYC studios: UWS Yoga & Wellness https://www.uwsyoga.com; NY Loves Yoga https://www.nylovesyoga.com/meditatewithus ; Community Meditation Center https://cmcnewyork.org/; and The Open Center https://www.opencenter.org/lunchtime-sound-healing-meditation/– beautiful places I had attended in person before the pandemic. Additionally, I am a big fan of the cds and downloads (itunes or mp3s) from Belleruth Naperstak’s website that has specific guided meditations on a plethora of topics, such as reducing depression and anxiety, managing specific diseases, increasing immunity, easing pain, reducing insomnia, increasing self-esteem, preparing for surgery, and so many more: https://www.healthjourneys.com  Enjoy your inner explorations!    

 
    In honor of the 4th of July holiday, I took the liberty (pun intended) to write my own version inspired by and derived from the United States Declaration of Independence: 
“I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal but unique, and endowed with certain unalienable Rights, such as Life, Liberty, Safety and Security, and the pursuit of Happiness, Love, Joy, Peace, Creativity, Wisdom, Self-knowledge, Spirituality, and Abundance.”

     What would your declaration be at this special time in his/herstory?
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May 2020 Zoom/Telephone Yoga & Qigong Classes; Balance & Ground

Dear Friends and Family,   

  I hope that this email finds you and your loved ones remaining safe and well. It has been lovely connecting with so many of you on my Zoom and telephone yoga classes!  

Chair Yoga/Qigong/Tai Chi Easy™ Fusion Class on Zoom – photo by Eric Katzman

  For those of us staying at home during this time of mass social distancing, amazing technological advances haves allowed us to stay connected to one another and the outside world. Museums, arts organizations, theaters, fitness and dance studios, retreat centers, community groups, parks and botanical gardens, spiritual centers, academic organizations, non-profits, and so many others have all transitioned to online. Even before the pandemic, it was easy to go down that rabbit hole of never-ending internet searches, You Tube, Ted Talks, 24/7 news, and social media platforms. Now, there is even more content online that is educational, interesting, meaningful, or simply distracting and entertaining. Days can easily pass in front of an electronic screen and before we realize it, our eyes are strained, we’ve sat all day, and we’re suffering from screen fatigue. I don’t know if you can relate, but I have to combat my FOMO tendencies – fear of missing out on the latest news analysis, educational seminars, spiritual talks, dance and theater offerings, and the desire to stay uber-informed.

  I have observed during this time, that it is even more important to accept that, as stressful as it may be to not know all that is currently transpiring, we need to unplug and absorb less from the external world. That if we are fortunate to be safe at home, this can be a blessing to take more time for reflection, inner work, quiet time, non-electronic endeavors by engaging in creative outlets such as writing, arts and crafts, gardening (even in one’s city windowsill).

  For type A doers, this global shutdown can offer us the valid excuse of doing nothing, letting go of striving and releasing goals and seeing what transpires within us. What flows when we shut down the computer, and take pen to paper to journal or draw, without judging the outcome. For myself, reducing exposure to the digital life makes me feel more grounded and more embodied. So finding the balance of Zooming, emails, online work, etc with shutting it all down is something I have been observing and reflecting on this past month. As always, it seems the old adage “moderation is key”  and finding balance in one’s life continues to hold true no matter the circumstances.

  I know it may be slightly ironic that I am writing this on my laptop, and letting you know about my Zoom classes! But again, it comes down to balance and mindfulness. Making choices of when we will disconnect from our busyness and electronics, and just be in the world as human beings, not human doings. And most importantly, to be ok with that choice that may fly in the face of social conditioning. For so many of us in Western cultures, we were taught to be rewarded for keeping busy, being productive, accumulating rewards and material items, and achieving our lofty goals. Now, we have a basically mandated break (unless we are a frontline worker), from the hamster wheel of our repeated habitual doings and tendencies. Can we, even in the midst of much global suffering, see this as an opportunity to all slow down, consume less, reflect more, send out positivity to the planet through visualizations and meditations, and see the true value in that way of living. Can we not simply shift our pre-pandemic busy, hectic lifestyles from in-person to online, but instead truly create a new way of being in the world? For me, that will be my exploration, knowing I have the luxury to do so, while being grateful for those frontline every-day s/heroes working so hard for all of us.               

Self portrait – photo by Melissa Elstein, May 2020

  See below and side bar for more details on my classes this month and descriptions. Please email me any questions you may have about my teaching schedule, and I would also love to hear from you with the sincere hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. 

Namaste,
Melissa Mati

April Online and Telephone Classes for Yoga, Qigong/Tai Chi Easy™; Isolating & Connecting During Surreal Times

Dear Friends and Family,  



 April 2020 Full Moon  – Melissa Elstein

It has been a month since my last email to you, and during these past four unimaginable weeks, it has been remarkable watching the world reorient to a completely different way of being; loved ones and strangers have battled the corona virus (some successfully, others unfortunately not), the economy has basically shut down with humanity sheltering in place (even the stubborn non-believers in science have come around to endorsing social isolation), mundane activities like food shopping have become the week’s most stressful endeavors, and delivery workers, store personnel, transportation employees (in addition to medical workers) have rightfully become our every-day super heroes. Daily, we learn of the numbers of those afflicted with the virus rising exponentially along with the unemployment levels, and conversely retirement savings and the stock market dropping to new lows. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has become the country’s “governor” with his daily fact-filled press conferences as well as his spiritual words of wisdom, even as his younger reporter brother hallucinates in his basement while recovering from the virus. We are in the midst of a once in a century pandemic – the enormity of which is hard to even truly comprehend. Yet, this is our new normal.

Amidst this planetary crisis, we have observed the amazing adaptability of humanity as social and business connections have moved online. Families are celebrating holidays over Zoom calls with little computer screen boxes substituting for the communal table. Newscasters are broadcasting from their homes, often with their young children interrupting their news report to climb on their laps, adding an adorable human element we have not seen before. With the invention of different types of videoconferencing, society has stayed connected in ways we never could have imagined a mere five weeks ago before the strict stay at home orders were implemented. Often during this time of social isolation, I have been thinking about the last global pandemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918, which occurred before our technology and information age. It is hard to even fathom how that generation managed their crisis without all our modern amenities that are truly keeping us connected and supported.   

Fortunately for many of us, such connectivity and support are still being provided by yoga, pilates, meditation, and dance studios as they have transitioned from in-person classes to Zoom or YouTube group sessions. It is truly impressive how quickly these independent, local businesses shifted their teaching model so that students and teachers are able to maintain their practices and hopefully keep the studios in business. In NYC, we have bemoaned the loss of small businesses even before the pandemic (due to internet shopping and high rents), but now more than ever we must support our mom and pop stores and studios. During this stay at home period, I have been both a student and a teacher participating in live Zoom classes and I have been pleasantly surprised at how lovely the group connection is, and how effective the teaching has been. To take class with my fellow NYC teachers and students, even in this new format, has brought a semblance of normalcy during these abnormal times, and for that I am very grateful. Participating in the healing practices of mindful movement modalities (such as gentle yoga, qigong, tai chi, pilates), as well as meditation and dance is even more beneficial, and necessary, during these stressful times.  
 

 

Although my in-person classes at Dorot for Seniors, Integral Yoga Institute, and the Children’s Dance Program at Steps on Broadway have been cancelled until further notice, my Dorot University of Walls telephone series starts mid-April. 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. My in-person Wednesday Chair Yoga and Tai Chi Easy™ fusion class for Integral Yoga is now a Zoom class held on Fridays noon-1pm.  See below for more details on these classes and descriptions. Please email me any questions you may have about my teaching schedule, and I would also love to hear from you with the sincere hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. 


Namaste,
Melissa Mati
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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

March 2020 Classes; Plastic Pollution Seminar

Dear Friends and Family,  

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Central Park 3/3/20 – Melissa Elstein

March 2020 has arrived with signs of Spring in NYC – 60 degree weather, daffodil leaves bursting through the tree bed Winter displays, birds chirping as they balance on yellow forsythia branches. I hope, even during these stressful times, that you enjoyed the end of February, which this year included the extra Leap Year day. My husband and I are back from a wonderful week in Florida, in part visiting my lovely mother-in-law who just turned 20! (Yes, she’s a Leap Year baby)! 

While in Florida, a sunny, calm day suddenly turned stormy and we watched from our window as all the hotel guests and staff raced off the beach and into the safety of the building. We were disappointed by this change in weather, as my husband and I had just been organizing for our sunset beach walk. But our disappointment was short lived, as just as quickly as the storm arrived, it quickly dissipated. Soon through the darkened skies a beautiful image slowly emerged before us – a double rainbow with the colors of the chakras. We oohed and ahhed as we watched the magical arches grow above the Atlantic Ocean and glow in the sky. The temporary storm and cancellation of our anticipated plans was worth having this awe-inspiring experience; a life lesson when we extrapolate from it. No doubt, we are living in stormy, stressful times facing both existential planetary issues as well as more local problems. But from our limited human perspective, we cannot know what wonders may be waiting for us individually and collectively beyond this present moment. There is so much beyond our control, and so many mysteries we will never solve. It reminds us to take the long view perspective, and hopefully have faith in the big picture of which we are a character but not the author. Eventually, that late afternoon, the rainbows slowly evaporated. They were gone, but the wonder remains.     

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Boca Beach 2/2020 photo by Melissa Elstein
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March Class Overview:
This month, my Integral Yoga fusion class of Chair Yoga Qigong,and Tai Chi Easy™ becomes a weekly Wednesday at noon class on their schedule, rather than a workshop. This will allow us more opportunities to experience the positive effects of qi-building, balance work, and body conditioning in the peaceful IYI yoga studios. Additionally, see my website for other fusion classes I’m teaching this month and save the dates for special April classes as well. Class descriptions are on my website.   
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Plastic Pollution Seminar:
In honor of the March 1st inauguration of New York’s historic plastic bag legislation, I am co-hosting an educational event at the Dorot Center on the global issue of plastic pollution and what we can each do locally to reduce our contribution to this environmental crisis. Although my movement classes at Dorot are for folks 60+, this event is for all ages from children to seniors. Just please rsvp in advance as space is limited. Guests will receive special goodies, and there will be a free raffle (among other items, a fellow Integral Yoga teacher friend, Sydney Santoshi, is generously donating her beautiful, reusable bags from her holistic company – “Mothering Mother”). Here’s the flyer with more details, and hope to see you Sunday, March 8!

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Thanks for your continued support of my classes!  With appreciation and gratitude….

Namaste,
Melissa Mati

Integral Yoga’s Namaste Newsletter Interview – Teacher of the Month (Feb. 2020)

photo by Melissa Elstein 2020

I hope you enjoyed a peaceful full “snow” moon weekend!

This month, I am honored that Integral Yoga Institute’s Namaste Newsletter featured my yoga-tai chi fusion class in their “teacher of the month” segment.  A special thank you to IYI’s Sarah McElwain for the interview, Krista Finck for the photo, and Ramdas for the tech assistance.  Here’s an excerpt of the article, and you may read the entire article at:  
https://iyiny.org/classes/featured-teacher-of-the-month/melissa-mati-elstein/

Integral Yoga Institute in New York City, Melissa demonstrates Tai Chi Walking. KiraGrace Yoga Leggings.
Photo by Krista Finck at Integral Yoga Institute – 2019


What inspired you to create your Tai Chi Easy ™ and Chair Yoga Fusion Class?
As a Yoga teacher who has more than a decade of experience working with students in their “golden years,” I find that the most common desire expressed by that population is to improve balance and prevent falls. I agree with the practicality and necessity of those goals, as preventing falls is lifesaving, especially as we age.  Studies consistently demonstrate that the weight-shifting aspects of Tai Chi improve balance. Here’s one recent article discussing this health benefit: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20181002/adding-tai-chi-helps-seniors-avoid-dangerous-falls

When I studied with Dr. Roger Jahnke, who created Tai Chi Easy™,  this style of Tai Chi versus the longer traditional forms resonated with me. Because this form is shorter and simplified, it is immediately accessible to students, compared with a longer Tai Chi choreography that can take years for students to memorize and whose complexity often leads to large student attrition rates. Although Tai Chi Easy™ is easier to learn, it is no less effective, thanks to its practice of multidirectional and mindful Tai Chi walking as well as other weight-shifting exercises.

In addition to Tai Chi walking, Tai Chi Easy™ includes the ancient practice of Qigong (energy cultivation) and standing meditations. Just as in Yoga, these practices help to focus and calm the mind and increase our life force energy (chi or prana).

A year after my Tai Chi Easy™ training, I completed the Chair Yoga training with Hamsa and Achala at Integral Yoga Institute. I felt that combining aspects of both modalities created a truly comprehensive movement class, given my goal of bringing practical skills to students as well as a sense of peace and tranquillity. Thus, my fusion class starts with seated Chair Yoga warm-ups, joint-freeing movements, leg and core strengthening exercises, and seated stretches that prepare the body for the standing and walking Tai Chi/Qigong second part of the class. We end the class with more Yoga, such as legs up the wall or over a chair, savasana, and a short seated meditation.

What do you hope students will get from this class?
I hope that my students will find that their balance and coordination have improved, that their confidence about walking and navigating the city streets is enhanced, and that they are physically stronger than before practicing with me. I hope that once students learn the class skills, they will be inspired to practice them at home as well. I also hope that the calming aspects of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga will bring a sense of peace and tranquility to class participants. After all, most if not all New Yorkers could use easy-to-learn stress reduction techniques in our fast-paced and stressful modern society. It never fails to amaze me that the ancient practices of Yoga and Qigong, developed thousands of years ago, are still relevant and beneficial in 2020! 

What experience did you bring to the development of the class?
In addition to the trainings mentioned above, my experience as a professional ballet dancer has also helped to inform my knowledge of teaching movement skills and balance. My teaching style tends to be more fluid than static, and that stems from my lifelong passion for dance, especially ballet. I’m certified in Pilates mat for core strengthening, and that factors into my movement choices for this and other classes. A strong and flexible core (abdominals and back muscles) is key to preventing injuries, increasing longevity, and improving balance. As a former practicing attorney, I tend to think very pragmatically; thus, everything I teach has a practical purpose, with the goal of assisting students not just in the class but also in their everyday lives physically, mentally, and spiritually.

What other projects are you currently working on?
For many years, I have been teaching a telephone version of this class to seniors, some of them home-bound, through the DOROT Center (and more recently with the Queens Library’s Mail-a-Book program). Because it is in a conference call format, the entire class is conducted seated, and we have more discussion and readings from Dr. Jahnke’s books and other resources. (All students receive the written materials and movement diagrams when they sign up for the course.) We also do self-massage techniques that are part of the Tai Chi Easy™ protocol, and loving-kindness metta meditations. I love hearing from my telephone students that they feel the benefits of the practice, even while done seated or lying down.
(Article continues on the website link above…)

Fall Musings

I hope you are doing well and enjoying the beginning of the Fall season. This time of year always reminds me of the excitement I felt as a child of starting a new semester at school. My mother always brought my sister and me shopping for new school clothes (she was a traditional Swede, so no jeans or sweats for us – instead, always beautifully tailored skirts and slacks, and collared shirts with sweaters). We had our new paperback books from Scholastic, empty notebooks to soon be filled with creative writing, and leather containers of pencils and pens. The fresh, crisp air on our morning walks to school invigorated us for the school day ahead. Each day was filled with new experiences and growth opportunities, and the expansion of young minds absorbing new lessons – both academic and social. Decades later, as a mid-life adult, I still get excited about the fresh start that Fall offers – new classes to teach and take, new opportunities to learn and grow. After all, life is a continuous lesson if we allow ourselves to experience all we observe with the wonder of a young child. I believe, in Buddhism, that is described as “beginner’s mind”. Not assuming we already have all the answers, and not going through our lives on remote control. Instead, truly observing and experiencing all that surrounds us, as well as our inner worlds. As we practice yoga, qigong, dance, or any forms of exercise, we can aim to approach the movements with a fresh perspective – even if we have done that pose or move hundreds of times before. After all, our bodies are different day to day, moment to moment, as are our thoughts. Just like the young child reading her new books or running on the school playground, life is more interesting and full when we are truly experiencing it in the moment.             

Oberlin College – 2019

Celebrating Broadway with a Free Community Outdoor Movement Class!

Sat., Sept. 21, I taught a free outdoor Tai Chi Easy™, Qigong and yoga class at UWS Streetopia’s first ever street fair. See their flyer below and their website to learn more about this new community group aiming to improve the upper west side of Manhattan and give a stronger voice to New Yorkers in local municipal decision making – https://www.streetopia.city. I also tabled there during the afternoon to spread awareness about my street tree care advocacy work with my Love Your Street Tree Day coalition – http://www.loveyourstreettreeday.com. It was a lovely community event and I was happy to participate wearing my two hats, so to speak.  

March Classes; New Gentle Ballet at Dorot for Seniors; Yoga and Qigong Workshops

I hope this email finds you well on this snowy and rainy Sunday evening. Please commute safely tomorrow! 

I am delighted to be returning to the Dorot Center on the Upper West Side to teach a special series – “Gentle Ballet for 60+”.  The full description of this new weekly class (Tuesdays 10-11 am) is below.

Ballet had been an integral part of my life since I was a child. I started taking classes and performing in recitals as a young child in New Jersey, and then auditioned for and was accepted into George Balanchine’s “School of American Ballet” at Lincoln Center.  Performing with the New York City Ballet as a young dancer in classics, such as The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Midsummer’s Night Dream, Harlequinade and others was a gift that I will always cherish.  I so appreciate that I was able to dance at The New York State Theater with ballet superstars Suzanne Farrell, Baryshnikov, Helgi Tomasson, Jacques D’Amboise, Patricia McBride, Merrill Ashley (to name a few) as they were coached by Balanchine. It truly was the heyday of ballet in NYC, if not the world, and I soaked it all in. After high school, I joined the Pennsylvania Ballet Company in Philadelphia, dancing professionally for several years.

Growing up, ballet was my deepest passion.  I never imagined my beloved career would be cut short. But various factors (injury, emotional burnout, immaturity) led me to leave the dance world for a decade to pursue academics and a law degree instead. I thought the ballet for me was just a memory. But while studying for the bar exams, I went back to the other “barre” as well and returned to ballet classes. It was like coming home.  Since then, I never stopped dancing; even while practicing law, I would hop on the express train and take class during lunch or after work. When I left the practice of law and became a teacher of yoga, pilates and Qigong, it was only natural that the appeal of ballet teacher trainings would follow, and I subsequently trained with ballet master Finis Jhung (my ballet mentor to this day) and American Ballet Theater’s school. 

While now teaching ballet to children, adults and seniors, I love to bring joy of movement combined with technical skills – modified to students depending on age and ability. One is never too old to start dance classes, as long as the class allows for the student to respect the body’s limitations and work within safe ranges of motion, as are my guiding principles. Ballet is a beautiful art form that also has practical benefits for students: increase of strength and flexibility; improvement of balance and coordination; focus, attention and memory can improve. Plus, it feels wonderful to move to classical movement.  It truly uplifts the spirit!           

Dorot Center – photo by Shannon O’Connor

CLASS DESCRIPTIONS

“GENTLE BALLET” AT DOROT FOR SENIORS (60+):

Stretch and strengthen like a ballet dancer, and learn ballet barre technique in a modified gentle ballet class that uses a chair for support.

We start with seated warmups for legs and arms, and gentle core strengthening.  Once the body is warmed up, we will stand holding the chair for the traditional ballet barre exercises.  Ballet class has been shown to improve coordination, balance, flexibility and muscular strength – all while moving to beautiful classical music!

Please rsvp to Shannon O’Connor before class and note the standing movements are best wearing ballet slippers, socks with traction, or flexible sneakers (i.e., allowing the feet to flex and point).  

Melissa Elstein at the barre.

 photo by Stephen Von Der Launitz

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“TAI CHI EASY & CHAIR YOGA”:

Tai Chi Easy™ and Chair Yoga continues at the beautiful Integral Yoga Institute.  This fusion class supports the immune system with gentle movement, energy work, and self-care techniques. Our practice combines all 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).  

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.