Archive for Dorot Center

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…)

My July Classes; Qigong & Tai Chi Easy™ Trainings with Dr. Roger Jahnke

RECOMMENDING MY QIGONG TEACHER’S WORKSHOPS:

This July, my qigong teacher and Tai Chi Easy™ founder returns to NYC to teach special workshops at The Open Center. Dr. Roger Jahnke created this more simplified version of Tai Chi so that the profound benefits (balance, stress-reduction, self-healing) could be available to everyone no matter the age or condition of the students. Traditional Tai Chi requires years of study, but Dr. Jahnke’s shortened and flowing version will bring you those benefits almost immediately. I know it may sound too good to be true, but it really does work!  I teach Dr. Jahnke’s Tai Chi Easy™ in my Integral  Yoga classes and during my Dorot telephone series (a seated version). 

Here are the links to his NYC Workshops on Saturday, July 13: https://www.opencenter.org/the-healer-within/ and Sunday, July 14 https://www.opencenter.org/qigong-as-gateway-to-inner-peace – choose one day, or both! If you are interested in doing 5-day courses with Dr. Jahnke this Summer, he will be at Kripalu Yoga Center mid-August: https://kripalu.org/search/jahnke  I highly recommend studying with Dr. Jahnke – he is a true spiritual teacher who walks the tai chi walk!

Dr. Roger Jahnke and a few graduates of his programs at our awesome Reunion this year outside of Austin, TX.  

MY SUMMER CLASS SCHEDULE:

This Summer, I am happily teaching many movement classes including yoga, qigong and ballet. In addition to teaching Monday morning Gentle/ Level 1 yoga classes at UWS Yoga & Wellness, there will be two Thursday evening Gentle Yoga & Qigong classes at the beautiful Integral Yoga Institute. I will be back at Dorot on August 19 for a Chair Yoga class, and my telephone Qigong, Tai Chi Easy™ and Guided Meditation series starts again Friday, July 5 (by the way, you can start this 10-week series at any time).

Additionally, I am subbing Sunday adult ballet classes for my ballet teacher, Finis Jhung, at the Alvin Ailey Dance Extension Program. These “Adult Basic Ballet” and “Adult Beginner Ballet” classes are taught in the style of Finis Jhung, as I have completed a teacher training with him, and continue to study with him. We will be using compilations of his beautiful classical music cds, composed specifically for his classes. You can wear yoga clothes if you don’t have dance leotards and tights, but I do suggest you purchase a pair of canvas ballet slippers (at Capezios, Bloch, or elsewhere) for under $ 20. The Alvin Ailey boutique also sells our ballet barre instructional DVDs, so you can practice at home too. If you have any questions about ballet supplies, please email me!

Alvin Ailey Dance Extension 

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).  

April Yoga Schedule; Spiritual Aspects of Easter and Passover; Earth Day and Climate Marches in April; Dorot Chair Yoga Article

Happy April! This month brings us the Spring holidays of Easter and Passover, and for those of you who celebrate these holidays for religious and/or traditional reasons, I hope you enjoy wonderful celebrations. I grew up in a non-religious family, but with parents from different religious backgrounds so my memories of both Easter and Passover basically revolve around chocolate Easter egg hunts and searching for the matzah! Holidays were about gathering for that once a year traditional food at large family dinners with my two sides of the family. Passover and Easter tend to coincide each Spring, and according to Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, “in both festivals, nature and history converge with a resounding message of hope …. [and} the renewal of nature that comes with spring…”.  www.myjewishlearning.com. In the Christian holiday of Easter, the “resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate affirmation of life ….” and in Passover, the Jews celebrate their freedom from slavery. So freedom is a mutual theme.  Other mutual themes are the celebration of life transitions and the aspiration to see ourselves into the shoes of another; wishing that all those on Earth also achieve freedom.  See http://www.brebeuf.org  (Max Palkowitz).  

To many of us, we may not be in physical bondage (although unfortunately modern slavery exists and is far too prevalent).  Yet, we may be struggling with the mental bondage of our anxious thoughts, our worries, regrets of the past, and fears for the future. We may wish to have hope, but find that the negative thoughts outweigh the positive ones. In these modern stressful times, that is understandable. Yet, each generation has had their own stressors. The ancient yogis created a practice that is still relevant today as a way to counter that mental bondage, and that is pratipaksha bhavana – “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite positive ones should be thought of.”  Yoga Sutra 2.33 (Translation and version by Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga Publications).  An example of that is when hateful thoughts surface, to switch one’s thinking to loving thoughts.  Because this can be easier said than done, one recommendation to assist with focusing on the positive is to meditate on an inspiring object, such as a flower, artwork, or a photo of a loved one. Energy goes where our attention goes. It takes practice and will to use this practical tool for freedom from negative thinking, but practice is part of the process, so we must be patient with ourselves and have faith. Yoga Sutra 1.14. Spring, with its emergence of colorful flowers bringing life up to the surface after the dormant Winter, is a wonderful time to connect with the energies and thoughts of hope and faith.        
 
Due to the holidays, the Dorot Center where I teach Chair Yoga most Monday mornings, will have a more limited class schedule as they use the large movement room for organizing holiday food deliveries to the home-bound elderly (one of many wonderful services this upper west side non-profit offers to seniors). So please see my schedule for the April changes. Recently, in Dorot’s “Generations” Magazine, my class and some of my students were featured. I think you will enjoy the article, and hopefully will be inspired by my students as much as I am!  Click here to read the article:   http://www.dorotusa.org/site/DocServer/F_Generations_WINTER_2017.pdf  

April also brings us Earth Day on April 22!  This year there are going to be large-scale events here in NYC as well as in DC (and just like the recent Women’s March, simultaneously across the planet). One week later on April 29, the historic 2014 Peoples Climate March will be resurrected in DC as the “March for Climate, Jobs, & Justice”.  It promises to be a very exciting time as people join in solidarity demanding protections for nature, for our planet’s natural resources, and for those most negatively affected by climate-change.  The technology now supports our people’s movement that seeks clean energy jobs, “green” infrastructure, and a just transition away from the polluting and toxic fossil fuel and chemical economy. Now more than ever, we need to join en masse to advocate for protecting our environment for our generation as well as all future generations.  The Peoples Climate Movement march will also have sister marches in other cities, but the main march will be in Washington, DC to counter the Trump agenda of rolling back climate protections, removing anti-pollution regulations, while catering to fossil fuel corporations, the chemical industry, and climate-change deniers.  For more information on the march, check out http://newyork.peoplesclimate.org  and sign up for email updates!  
To sign up for bus transportation to DC from NYC see http://bit.ly/MarchBuses 

    

In 2014, we gathered as yogis and spiritual seekers at the NYC climate march, and the yogic principles of ahimsa (non-harming) to the Earth are even more important now under this new government administration. In keeping with our Spring theme of hope, faith, and freedom, I urge you to march being guided by those emotions and themes, and you will be uplifted by the positivity of your message. It is much more inspiring to march for something, than to be marching against someone.  So we emphasize that this is a march for protecting the climate, creating jobs in the clean energy sector, and bringing justice to those marginalized and disenfranchised in our current societal structure.  Joining with others seeking a just and positive future for all and not just the privileged few, reminds us that we are all interconnected. Spiritual practitioners know that we are all one, connected to one another as well as to the earth and environment.  If you would like to join our “Yoga & Spirituality Group” of the Peoples Climate Movement, please “like” https://www.facebook.com/YogaAndSpiritualityHub/ .

For information on the Earth Day rally in NYC, Saturday, April 22 noon at 111 Worth Street & Centre Street, 
see https://www.facebook.com/events/1365742080184720/   
The Rally will be followed by the March for Science:
https://www.facebook.com/events/607464402792513/


Protect Mother Earth!