Archive for Yogis

July 2017; Summer Solstice Yoga in Times Square Impressions

Happy July!  I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend!  I am teaching Monday July 3 and Tuesday July 4th, so if you are in NYC, please come to class!

On the Summer Solstice this June 21, I participated in a free outdoor yoga class in Times Square sponsored by the Times Square Alliance – “Solstice in Times Square”.  Yoga in Times Square is now an annual event and has grown from three people in 2003 doing yoga in this hectic “center of the world” to now more than 12,000 people taking classes throughout the day.  Pretty remarkable!  It is always a fun and interesting experience to practice yoga In Times Square.  Because there are so many external distractions from passersby, traffic, photographers, videographers, smokers, feathers and other wind-born items flying about, it actually creates a unique setting in which to practice going inward rather than if practicing in the perfectly serene yoga studio setting. Even though most yoga classes tend to focus on the yoga poses (“asanas“), the central concept of yoga is stilling the mind from the inner chatter, judgments, and external diversions; withdrawing from the senses; and connecting to that eternal inner center.  See the ancient yoga text: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (I.2; 1.3; 1.15; 1.16; 1.17; 1.18; 1.43; etc.)

So it is slightly ironic that in the noisy, busy, crowded and hectic metropolis, one can truly find and cultivate a deep, inner calm and one-pointed focus.  We often think we need the ideal conditions in which to find peace and serenity, yet this Yoga in Times Square experience reminds us that the most important conditions are our internal reactions and inner steadiness no matter the external circumstances.  It is important to be reminded of that, especially for those of us who live in urban settings that are often the epitome of the “rat race” – fast, loud, dirty, competitive, and stressful. To maintain that inner steadiness found during one’s yoga and other meditative practices is the ongoing, daily practice. There is a reason the organizers entitled this year’s event Mind Over Madness Yoga!  It our mastery of our minds that will bring us the greatest peace during these these often maddening times.  Given that the ancient yogis who crafted the Yoga Sutras thousands of years ago were writing about these concepts they practiced, we know that humankind has always struggled with finding internal peace when the external world is filled with so many different and difficult challenges.

Another special aspect of the event is the feeling of solidarity and community with fellow yoga practitioners one feels, even though in the midst of thousands of New Yorkers. During this longest day of the year, a central NYC street transforms into a yoga studio floor, the NYC skyline becomes the ceiling, the surrounding buildings our studio walls, and strangers on the mats our classmates. We don’t know what emotions or insights will surface during the class, or what connections will be made.  It is all about being open to the process and experience – as we are in every yoga class, as well as off the mat, in our daily lives.  After the 3:30 p.m yoga class, I met a fellow yoga teacher, Bill, who is the founder of Llamaste.  He creates beautiful and practical yoga bags, as well as yoga t-shirts. I was very taken by his generosity of spirit when he gave me this lovely yoga bag in the photo below.  Bill’s yoga company is based in Brooklyn – check out his great website and his mission:

To read more about this annual solstice yoga event, and to see a beautiful video montage of the day with music of one of my favorite yoga chanters, Donna De Lory, click on this link:   

January 2017 Yoga Schedule and Post Election Satsang Sharing Circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why this yogi is marching in the People’s Climate March

Hi everyone,

I have created a Yoga and Spirituality Hub on the People’s Climate March website for
Yogis and spiritual seekers – let’s join together to create the high vibration “Yoga & Spirituality Contingent” at the planet’s first ever People’s Climate March this September 21 in NYC!

One of the main tenets of yoga is ahimsa – the practice of non-violence and non-harming.  For thousands of years, yogis and spiritual seekers have studied and followed this ethical principle.   As present-day yoga and spiritual practitioners, we continue to study and shape our lives based on ahimsa. Because we understand that the material and spiritual worlds, mind and matter, are connected, we seek non-violence not only in our actions, but also in our words and thoughts. We seek to live in harmonious alignment with one another and Nature.

As such, we cannot ignore the great harms being inflicted upon the Earth and our fellow sentient beings (whether they are personally known to us or not) as a result of man-made climate change. Such harms include the loss of human, animal, and marine lives, as well as damage to property, due to extreme weather patterns, super storms, drought, floods, fires, receding glaciers, and the rising levels and acidification of the oceans.

Climate change is linked to the Industrial Age – present day increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which is linked to industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels. Many extreme methods are currently being used to extract such fossil fuels from the Earth. Such extreme energy extraction practices include explosive mountain-top removal for coal; “fracking” for methane gas by exploding chemicals, sand and our precious fresh-water into shale rock; and tar sands oil mining.  Drilling by-products, such as toxic frack waste water, are injected deep into the earth through injection drilling wells – linked to toxic water contamination and earthquakes.  These methods are acts of violence against the Earth, and clearly not in harmony with the natural world.

Yoga means “union” and “to join” in Sanskrit. Yogis recognize the underlying unity of life on Earth.  When leaking gas and oil wells pollute groundwater, contaminate farms, and poison animals, we are all harmed.  When an oil rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, an oil tanker sinks in Alaska, or a gas well leaks methane and chemicals into a Pennsylvania farmer’s water well, we are all negatively affected – no matter how far we may be living from those communities’ devastation. This is because we see one’s Self in all beings, and we feel compassion for the suffering of others.

And so, at this pivotal time in history, we are called to protect Mother Earth through our karma yoga or seva– compassionate, selfless service to others and the common good.  By volunteering and joining the People’s Climate March, we are joining a movement and a cause greater than ourselves.  With consciousness and compassion for all, we seek to spread the principles of non-violence to the planet.  We seek a sustainable and safe energy policy from our governments, the United Nations, and countries all over the world.  And we seek a life-sustaining society for ourselves and for future generations.

Our current way of life and corporate-influenced government energy policies are no longer life-sustaining. The rapid clear cutting of our forests, and the slashing and burning of our planet’s rainforests are resulting in the rapid loss of our Earth’s “lungs” and the mass extinction of species.  Our planet’s pollinators – bees, Monarch butterflies, birds and bats are currently being threatened and dying off.  Water sources are polluted by man-made toxins and chemicals – many a by-product of the fossil-fuel industry’s extraction practices. There is rapid depletion of our natural resources, leading to population displacement, starvation, and wars. Agricultural areas are reduced. Plastic debris (made from oil and gas) pollutes our oceans. Island nations are at risk due to rising sea levels. Carcinogens, such as benzene, and other volatile organic compounds pollute the air near fracking sites, causing major health issues and emotional trauma.

Because we understand the interconnectedness of life, we cannot accept this devastation to our planet as the status quo. We know this is the time of a global shift in consciousness: the understanding that all is one, and everything is connected. We see that science is beginning to support spirituality in that regard, and vice versa.

So on this historic day, we come from spiritual centers, sanghas, and yoga studios all over the world in defense of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants.  We yogis and spiritual seekers will gather mindfully and peacefully in New York City, focusing our energies together in seeking an enlightened future!

This is the spiritual revolution of our generation. The evolutionary shift has begun. Let’s join together September 21, 2014, and take our spiritual practice off the yoga mats and meditation cushions and bring it to the People’s Climate March!

May the light of all truth overcome all darkness; may the Universe be filled with peace, joy, love, and light – Jai!

Melissa “Mati” Elstein
Good Energy Movement and Wellness
Aug. 19, 2014