Archive for Balance training

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…)

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

Happy February!

Berkshires Fireplace – Melissa Elstein

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

Taconic Trees by Melissa Elstein

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

Another class I find personally uplifting due to the positive group interaction is the telephone class I offer for the Dorot Center for Seniors “University Without Walls”:  Seated Qigong, Tai Chi Easy Arms, & Guided Meditation.   Each week we discuss and read tai chi articles and my teacher Roger Jahnke’s qigong books. The intellectual understanding of this ancient philosophy is enhanced by guided gentle movement, guided meditations, and relaxation exercises.  This is now our fifth semester of our teleclass, and I have found that distance is no obstacle to having a profound group and individual experience.  In fact, I have found that focusing on the phone actually enhances our powers of concentration as we also must visualize what we are hearing described.  The next semester starts this Friday, Feb. 9, so please call Dorot to sign up, or to receive a catalog: (877) 819-9147.  No prior experience is necessary, and since this class continues through May 2018 you can sign up at any time (though I do recommend starting sooner rather than later)!  In general, Dorot’s University Without Walls is a wonderful resource for telephone learning and community-building, and their courses cover a myriad of topics.  Please help spread the word about this wonderful resource!  http:// http://www.dorotusa.org/site/DocServer/UWW_Spring_Summer_2018_Catalog.pdf

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

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


Working out at Silver Stars Fitness

Speaking of variety of movement, our next Chair Chi and Prana class will be held on a Tuesday this month – Feb. 27.  This class too has a great group energy.  The beautiful and historic yoga ashram Integral Yoga Institute has been hosting this class for many years, and it is accessible to both newcomers as well as experienced students.  This unique class is designed to increase our vitality, and improve balance and coordination by combining Chair Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi Easy™ walking. Seated and standing Yoga poses strengthen and stretch the body, gentle and flowing Qigong movements enhance one’s life force energy, and Tai Chi walking increases balance.  These practices are a moving meditation that calm the nervous system, focus the mind, and are accessible to all bodies and ages.  We end class with a long savasana and yoga nidra (deep relaxation) to fully relax and absorb the benefits of our practices.  All levels are welcome!