Archive for Melissa Elstein

September 2020 Yoga & Qigong Classes; Honoring First Responders on Labor Day; Yoga – Ballet Bear

Dear Friends and Family,

On this Labor Day, I would like to especially honor all those who continued to work on the front lines during the pandemic: our nurses, doctors, medical staff, grocery workers, sanitation workers, firefighters, police officers, transportation employees, elected officials, delivery workers, farmers, building staff, news reporters, teachers, government officials, mail carriers, merchants, and so many more! When most of us were and still are to a certain extent, staying home and social distancing, these workers were the lifeline for all of us. The 7 pm clapping for our essential workers was so uplifting and I don’t believe ever done before – even after other crises. In our modern culture that generally worships celebrities and sports figures, it is wonderful to see the general population appreciating every day folks – these are the people who we truly need and rely on, but generally don’t get the credit or respect they deserve. I hope we can continue this level of appreciation for every day folks, and realize we are all equal no matter the amount of social media followers we have or money in the bank. After all, it is not the job or role we have that counts, it is how we conduct that job, the way we show up in the world, and the integrity with which we perform our jobs and roles in society.   

For some related inspiration from the ancient yoga text The Bhagavad Gita, these quotes are still relevant in modern times:

“SHOW GOOD WILL TO ALL Be fearless and pure; 
never waiver in your determination or 
your dedication to the spiritual life. 
Give freely. Be self-controlled,
sincere, truthful, loving, 
and full of the desire to serve.“ 

“Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness. The one who is motivated only by the desire for the fruits of their action, and anxious about the results, is miserable indeed.” 

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On another note, I thought you would appreciate my forest visitor who has no problem balancing in yoga tree pose/ ballet retirer position while eating all our bird food!






My tree pose was not standing on the deck poles, so I have deep respect for this feat! Although we loved our fascinating visit, and I am not boring of the videos I took, the bird feeder will now go into hibernation – long before this teddy bear does! 🙂

 

See you in class soon I hope!

August Yoga, Qigong Schedule; Yoga for Runners and Hikers Workshop; Rebuilding and Adapting Thoughts After the Storm

Dear Friends and Family,   

    I hope that this email finds you and your loved ones remaining safe and well, and that you weren’t negatively affected by the recent storm. Like many along the Northeast, I lost electrical power, wifi, and phone service. Fortunately, we have a decent generator and the power was restored in a day (though still no landline. Update! As I am writing this the Verizon technician popped by and it ended up being a mouse that ate our wires completely coincidental to the storm. Yuck!). During the storm, I was teaching a yoga private on Zoom, and the lights flickered for a moment but quickly went back on. I didn’t think much about the temporary power loss as my laptop was still working so we continued our private yoga class. It was only later that I realized we were in a blackout and that my generator had immediately kicked on. Nor did I realize the extent of the wind damage until the next day, when I walked outside and observed our road being blocked by two downed trees that were pulling the electrical wires down along with them. From speaking with friends and family, and watching the news, I know many people are still without electricity almost a week later, and huge trees are still blocking roads and creating dangerous conditions. 2020 is really throwing us a lot of curveballs, to say the least. So now once again, the rebuilding begins. One big lesson in this topsy-turvy year is the importance of adaptability, flexibility and creativity. 

As you know from my classes, I never teach from the perspective of achieving that perfect yoga pose. As one of my yoga mentors, Leslie Kaminoff, taught the purpose of yoga is to explore the body’s reaction to novel stimuli (such as movement and shape creation) so that it can adapt to varied circumstances, and not be stuck in rigid patterning. This applies to our breath and thoughts as well. If we can challenge ourselves in our classes with learning new choreography, movements, breath patterning, and sequencing (being mindful of creating the balance of the effort and ease) we can apply that openness to adaptation and exploration in our everyday lives. That’s where the yoga practice really counts – off the mat or chair. We all know life isn’t perfect; some years we have more challenges than others (both collectively and individually). How we adapt to these challenges, again both individually and collectively, is the key. Some scientists believe that climate change is not reversible at this point, and that the climate crisis should be approached as a climate adaptability model. We have adapted to the pandemic with new unforeseen behaviors becoming commonplace – mask wearing, foot tap greetings, spacial separating, etc. – and at some point (hopefully soon), those safety behaviors will no longer be necessary and we will adapt again to a new normal. When we don’t resist the unpleasant reality and are able to creatively adapt, socially and professionally, we can not just survive but hopefully thrive. I see that in all of you who zoom in or call in to my classes – many of you are in Covid-19 at-risk categories. Yet, you are individually persevering and positively contributing to the collective. I see that in the teachers I study with, especially my 83-year old NYC ballet teacher – Finis Jhung – who has adapted to a full-time online teaching schedule and gets his fresh air and sunshine safely by his window fire escape (all with a positive mindset and inspiring others around the world with his movement classes and life outlook). A week after the storm, the rebuilding continues, concurrent with the pandemic, political turmoil, economic uncertainty, social unrest, and more –  it can feel overwhelming but let’s remember we are experiencing and adapting to this imperfect world together.       

Photo by Melissa Elstein
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YOGA FOR RUNNERS & HIKERS – A YOGA WORKSHOP:

Whether you are a serious runner or a weekend jogger, hiking big peaks or local parks, it is important to balance the repetitive forward and contractile movements of running and hiking with proper stretching. Learn Yoga poses and stretches geared for runners and hikers to help you with overall conditioning and to prevent injury. Discover the power of savasana and Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) to enhance your performance. You will come away prepared to use all these techniques in your next run or hike. Includes an emailed outline. Have a pen for taking notes, yoga mat, yoga strap or stretching band, blocks, pillows or yoga blanket, optional eye pillow for relaxation. 

Come with your questions as there will be plenty of discussion time between our yoga practice. Looking forward to seeing you on Zoom!    
Register in advance here: http://www.iyiny.org under Workshops.

Happy 2020!

Dear Friends and Family,

Wishing you all a wonderful New Year filled with peace, harmony, health, abundance and happiness. Instead of sharing New Year’s resolutions, which so many of us break within a month anyway, I would like to share with you this lovely poem as I find it very expansive and freeing (generally the opposite energy of resolutions!).

PERMISSION GRANTED by Kelly Rae Roberts (an artist and medical social worker)

Permission granted to…
Say no. To cancel plans. 
To take as long as you need.
To change your mind.
To stand your SACRED GROUND.

Permission granted to…
Take a nap. To RESTORE and REST.
To tune-out so you can tune-IN. To drive
Slow. To live slow. 

Permission granted…
Surround yourself with only those who
DELIGHT your SPIRIT. To wear whatever
Brings you JOY. To SHINE. To PLAY big.

Permission granted to…
Tell YOUR STORY. To ask for FORGIVENESS.
To wander. To take up S P A C E.
To not know the lyrics. To SING anyway

And finally, permission granted to…
Choose YOURSELF over the might to-do lists.
Because you are GOLD.
And you are worth choosing. 

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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.

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

Core Strength Hatha Yoga/Pilates Classes

Hello Friends and Family!


Summer Meadow – Melissa Elstein 2018

I hope you are having a wonderful Summer, and enjoying all the fresh local produce that July brings forth – I was so happy to receive our first local corn of the season last week from my wonderful CSA farm membership. I highly recommend the Roxbury Farm CSA; if you’re on the UWS, their farm distribution is on Thursdays from 4-7 pm at 86th Street & WEA.  Memberships are seasonal, but they may be still accepting members as it goes through the Fall. For more information, please see http://www.roxburyfarm.com  I have been a member for years, and it is still a treat to pick up my weekly farm bounty (I split my membership with a friend). CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and our memberships support the work and future of these local, small, organic farms.

CORE STRENGTH HATHA I YOGA CLASSES:

I am delighted to be teaching at UWS Yoga & Wellness again the next two weeks!  Join us at Noon on Thursdays, July 26 and August 2 for Level 1 Core Strength Yoga which is a fusion class of pilates and yoga poses. We utilize small, soft exercise balls to assist with low back support but also to increase the abdominal strengthening.  Back strengthening is included, as well as standing balancing poses. We will focus on alignment and breath-centered movement so that strengthening is practiced in a safe, functional and effective manner. Learn how to effectively strengthen your core without doing abdominal crunches!  Class ends with yoga nidra/savasana to fully relax the body and spirit after our total body workout.  Hope to see you there!  Check out  http://www.uwsyoga.com for more information.