Thursday, February 16, 2012

Teacher of the Month: Melissa Feldman

By Rebecca Merritt

Melissa Feldman is one totally awesome mama, who cares deeply about other totally awesome mamas, and has a knack for making their pregnancies and beyond a little more yogic. She teaches a vinyasa style flow that is strengthening, active and fun. Melissa is a presence. She will make you smile, she will make you laugh, she will make you work – prenatal or postnatal, and she will not hesitate to offer words of wisdom that will turn out to be exactly what you need to hear. Melissa is one yoga teacher you will return to again and again; she is able to create community among her students and will quickly become a friend for life.

You can find Melissa teaching Prenatal: Thursdays at 6:15pm and Saturdays at 9:00am and 10:45am. You also can take Mommy & Baby with her on Saturdays at 12:45pm. Look for one of her incredible workshops coming soon: Childbirth Education, Yoga for Labor and Delivery or Postnatal yoga to name a few. She is also a member of New York Yoga’s Teacher Training Faculty.

"The ability one day to throw your leg behind your head is kind of meaningless if you're not being nice to people outside the studio, in my humble opinion."

When did you first discover yoga?
A woman in PR took me to a Bikram class, and I was hooked. But after nine months and losing 20 pounds, I realized I needed to go another route yoga-wise. I moved to Integral Yoga and wound up meeting my husband in his Hatha 3 class. 

How long have you been teaching?

I've been teaching about 10 years now. I seriously can't get enough of it. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed a successful career as a magazine journalist, I never got the satisfaction that I do from sitting down in front of a class and taking them somewhere, you know what I mean? I could be having the worst day EVER and five minutes into teaching my class, it's all good.

What makes your class unique?

Heh. I do. I guess you could say I have a personality, and boy does it come through in class. I have a lot of not-so-hardcore yoga people in my class because their doctors said they should do prenatal yoga, so I teach in such a way that it feels like we're friends who just happen to be doing yoga in your living room. It's very low key and fun.  

Plus, I get to say things most teachers don't. For example, I have like 36 names for the Girl Package because I have to talk about that a lot in teachings. Also, because I'm a birth doula and a childbirth educator, I pepper my class with lots of practical information women can use during their pregnancy and later on while giving birth. 

What is your favorite pose to teach?

Ankle-to-knee. I know that pose inside out and upside down because it's my b*tch pose. That pose kicks my tuchus every time I do it, so I know every little nuance of it. I love when a student tells me she can't feel anything in that pose because I really know how to dial it up a click. Plus, it's a great pose for pregnant women because their hips tend to be really tight. 

What is your favorite pose to practice?

While taking a class, I always get excited when the teacher pulls out an obscure pose. I really like the sexy poses; you know, arm balances with legs all directions or poses that are about as far away from, say, Warrior 1 as possible. I love me some headstand.

The pose I probably do most often is a squat. I wait for the train like that all the time. People must look at me funny.

Best advice for beginners?

Take your yoga off your mat. Practice kindness, practice ahimsa, satya, etc. The ability one day to throw your leg behind your head is kind of meaningless if you're not being nice to people outside the studio, in my humble opinion. 

Best advice for more advanced yogis?

Marvel at the new thing. No matter how long you've been practicing yoga, there's always something new to discover. So stay open and acknowledge that new thing when you hear it in class. 

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?
It's s toss-up between these two things: transitioning from warrior 1 to warrior 2 (I won't do it) and when people do that really loud mat FWAP! rather than rolling out their mats nicely on the floor.

inspired you to start teaching mamas?
You're not going to believe this (so hilarious), but I decided to take that first prenatal teacher training because pregnant women freaked me out! Something about that big ol' belly sticking out just got me. Considering I'm studying to be a midwife now, I'd say I've gotten over that. I don't think there's anything more awesome than a pregnant woman.

How has being a mom changed your practice?

Well, I'm so very excited when I actually have time to go take a class, so there's that. But being a mom has taught me a humbling level of patience I never knew before, so I don't beat myself up if I can't nail a crazy pose like I used to or if I have to opt out of that third wheel. I really know how to appreciate where my practice happens to be in that moment, rather than where I think it should be because I'm a professional or because I used to be able to do something incredible.

Why is yoga so important for mamas-to-be, postnatal and beyond?
There's no short answer for this one! My class gives pregnant women strength, knowledge, community, support, fun and so many other things. Prenatal and postnatal yoga both signify time that moms are carving out for themselves, which is hugely important when the babies are on the outside. But I think the most important thing about postnatal yoga is rebuilding: repairing the split most pregnant women get in their abdominal wall and restrengthening their feminine areas so they don't have to worry every time they sneeze, if you know what I mean. 

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