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One of the eight limbs of yoga is Niyama, or inward practices. More specifically, a component of the Niyama limb is Svadhyaya, or self-study. I have found this to be the most profound, yet sometimes more difficult aspect to work on. To be honest, I try to avoid these types of meditations in a public class, because more often than not, it makes me cry without me realizing the exact cause. However, I appreciate the wonderful effects it has had on my life by leading me to learn more about myself.

Recently, I’ve been utilizing guided meditation techniques by Sally Kempton, which have been a great supplement to my yoga practice. A new addition to my meditation repertoire and possibly in my classes is the “Who am I?” meditation.
To provide some basic background information: Sally references a story including Ramana Maharshi, a yoga guru, trying to figure out what happens when a person faces death. After lying flat on the ground and meditating on letting all of the energy leave his body, he posed the question, “Who am I?” Which helped him to more clearly define for himself what happens to the soul after life is over. When there is no body, no breath, no prana or energy, what is a person left with? What is inherent in a person’s existence?

The simplified premise of this meditation is to get to the root of who you are, and what causes you to act and think the way that you do. To do this, it is necessary to bring your awareness to your spiritual heart, located just to the right of the physical heart, below the breastbone towards the back of the body. It helps to start your practice by finding a comfortable place to sit and be still without distraction. Once you have settled into your seat and your breath, place the right hand over your spiritual heart, towards the center of the body over the rib cage.

When ready, begin to ask yourself the simple question, “Who am I?” This is not a mantra. Its function is to gently bring your awareness to whatever answer comes up in your practice. It may be verbal, a sensation or feeling of energy. If it is a verbal response, ask the question further: “What is behind this idea?” “What is the cause of this thought?” Avoid making it a critical response, just allow the body and mind to remain quiet. With a more energetic response, continue to question “Who am I?” and see what comes up. Observe where the one question of “Who am I?” will take you. With the placement of the hand over your heart, energy is securely flowing through the heart center, giving you the opportunity to explore this energy center and source of being to your fullest potential.

This technique could be useful in times where you feel you are not acting as your truest self: when you’re in a difficult situation, such as an argument with another person, or when you are in a boring meeting and your mind drifts off, or any other time when you don’t feel comfortable or content. See what happens when you take the time to see what powerful energy resides within you.

Laura Binder is a 200-hour vinyasa flow instructor at Esteem Fitness and Wellness in Greenlawn, NY. Come practice with her on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings!

Yoga Through the Storm

This past week has been less than easy following the effects of hurricane Sandy.  As I am writing this, my mom and I are on day seven without power, and we have been depending on the kindness of friends for warm places to sleep during the cold nights.  Our family room and bathrooms have tree-sized holes in them, and we have yet to completely get rid of the shards of glass all over the house from the sliding door that was destroyed.

During the first few days of recovery, I decided to write my yoga classes based on tuning into the breath as a respite from suffering, seeing as it was as an appropriate time as any for my students to reflect on their coping mechanisms during times like these, and I just happened to stumble upon an inspiring article in Yoga Journal as I was trying to pass the time during the day.

The Sanskrit word, duhkham translates to suffering in English, but it literally means a tightness or constricted feeling in the heart area.  In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali outlines the causes of suffering as parinama (change), tapas (longing), samskara (habits), and gunas (balance of energy in the body).  As I was reflecting on these contributors, I was able to identify with all of them.  The change was evident in our new standard of living, the longing for restoration of power and heat (particularly me being able to feel my hands and feet again), my personal hygiene and sleeping habits certainly changed with each house we stayed at, and the balance of energies changed now that we were passing the time by taking walks around the neighborhood and having to go out to eat for every meal instead of working during the day.

The point of the article/my theme for the week’s classes was to tune into the breath and realign your true Self, the unwavering core of your being, in order to ease suffering and deal with it gracefully.  The process is broken down into parts, all of which take practice.

First of all, identify what you are feeling. Are you sad, angry, frustrated, anxious?  Second, ask yourself if these are feelings you have control over (most of the time the answer is yes, and with practice, it is always yes).  Then ask yourself how the situation would change if you were able to simply let go of those emotions.

It is important to not focus on the things that happened in the past (trees falling on the house), but how you want to move forward (patiently wait for power to be restored, do not take out anger on those around you out of frustration for not feeling your fingers in the cold…)

It is always important to know that this process, as with everything in life, is a practice, and takes time to develop.  Self-awareness is imperative, yet elusive to some, and then it is even more difficult to make changes once you know what needs to be done.

We still have a bit of work to do on the house, but I have shifted my thinking to write another set of classes about gratitude.  Sure, many of us are focusing on getting back to a standard of living that we had about a week ago, but no matter where we are in our practice, it helps to just be thankful for what we have in the present moment, know that it is exactly where we need to be, and to just make the most of what we have and learn from it to the best of our ability.

By Laura Binder, MS, RD, RYT-200,                                                                                                                                                                               Anjali Yoga                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Esteem Wellness & Fitness

Creating Space for an Even Better You

What do you do about clutter? Where do you have it, why do you have it and how can Feng Shui, and other modalities can help you free yourself from it?

We will have a group discussion about why we have clutter, the issues around it and types we have. Don’t worry we’ll have fun with the topic as learning and laughing together about physical or emotional clutter is key.

We’ll discuss tips, goals and ways to get started.

Feng Shui Away Your Clutter Workshop will help you begin your journey to simplify your life, free yourself from clutter and bring more wealth, harmony, love, peace and creativity into your life.

About Heather:

Heather Smith of Inspiring Spaces is a certified Feng Shui Institute of America consultant since 2002.

She originally was drawn to Feng Shui as she saw the base level of it helping people simplify their lives and free their lives from clutter and realized it was really about not just making a nice space but helping peoples’ lives.

She is faculty member of FSIA and previously served on board of Feng Shui Institute International.

She focuses on bringing the practical knowledge and wisdom of Feng Shui into these times and our culture to help people lives and business thrive. She resided in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for 12 years and has been on Long Island for a year and half.  Her family is fourth generation Long Islanders.

Feng Shui-the words may sound funny but practical feng shui can really enhance your life.

Heather Smith will be hosting “What the Fend to do With Clutter”, a new workshop at Esteem Wellness & Fitness on Sunday, October 21, 2012 from 3:00-5:00PM, $20.  Kindly RSVP with Janine Friedman to reserve your spot to begin creating space in your life!

FS Heather Smith/Fusion Shui Consultant, FSIA 

Helping create and design new environments for individuals and organizations that inspire and reflect their goals.


Enhance Your Endocrine Health with Acupuncture


The endocrine system is responsible for hormonal functions in the body and produces thirty distinct hormones each of which has a very specific job to do. This system controls your physical growth, mood, hormone output, reproduction, mental functionality, and immune system. When not working properly you become more susceptible to disease and your ability to fight off infection is weakened. Endocrine glands and their functioning impacts every area of your health.

The keystone of acupuncture and Oriental medicine has always been awakening the body’s natural intelligence to heal itself and restore balance to the system of energy pathways (called “meridians”) that crisscross the body. If the meridians within your body have become depleted you can suffer from tiredness, infertility, weight gain, depression, digestive problems, hair loss, arthritis, and feeling chilled no matter the temperature.

What are the endocrine glands and what do they do?

The major endocrine glands include the adrenals, pancreas, pineal, pituitary, reproductive and thyroid glands.

Adrenals – Adrenal glands regulate the body’s response to stress and are made of two parts, each of which secretes a separate set of hormones. The outer part produces corticosteroid hormones that regulate the balance of salt and water, stress response, metabolism, immune function, and sexual development and function. The inner part secretes adrenaline hormones that increase blood pressure and heart rate in response to stress. Over time chronic elevated stress levels can lead to weight gain, decreased resistance to infections, fatigue, muscle aches and low blood sugar.

Pancreas – The pancreas produces insulin and glucagon-two hormones that work together to supply the body`s cells with a constant supply of energy in the form of glucose.

Pineal – The pineal gland is also known as the epiphysis cerebri, epiphysis or the “third eye”. It produces the serotonin derivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions.

Hypothalamus /Pituitary – A collection of specialized cells that provide the primary link between the endocrine and central nervous systems. Nerve cells and hormones signal the pituitary gland to secrete or suppress the release of various hormone messages to the other glands. The pituitary gland is also responsible for secreting growth hormones.

Reproductive – These glands secrete hormones that control the development of male and female characteristics. In males these glands secrete androgen hormones, most importantly testosterone. In females they produce estrogen, progesterone, eggs and are involved in reproductive functions.

Thyroid – Thyroid hormones control the growth, temperature and function of every cell in the body. The gland acts as the metabolic engine of the body – if it secretes too little hormone the body slows and dies; if it secretes too much the body burns out and dies.

When treating a suspected endocrine condition with acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the acupuncturist seeks the root cause of the patient’s imbalance. The endocrine system is closely tied to the internal balance of the Yin energy and the Yang energy.

Imagine that the Yang energy is like gasoline that fuels a car, and the Yin energy is the coolant for the car’s engine. Without the coolant, the engine overheats and begins to burn out.

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine work to make sure the Yin and Yang are equal within the body restoring your essential internal balance. The root of the body’s energy in Oriental medicine is the Kidney meridian. Treatment used to strengthen the Kidney Meridian also restores nourishment to your endocrine glands.

Acupuncture can be used to restore hormonal balance, regulate energy levels, smooth emotions and help manage sleep and menstrual problems. Treatments take all symptoms into account and are aimed at balancing the energy in your body, optimizing your health, restoring immune function and balancing the production and release of hormones through a variety of approaches ranging from acupuncture and herbal remedies to lifestyle changes and special exercises.

Many patients benefit from an integrated Eastern and Western medical approach to endocrine health. The strong point of Western medicine is intervention in life-threatening illness, whereas the strong point of Eastern medicine is increased quality of life. Therefore it is optimal to have both Eastern and Western medicine options available for the most comprehensive care.

A healthy endocrine system that continues to secrete adequate amounts of hormones will slow the aging process and keep you vibrant and healthy as you age.

Please call (631) 896-2405 to schedule a free consultation to find out more about how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help!

Feel Better Today with Acupuncture!

Denise Rusnak, M.S., L.Ac.
Primary Care Acupuncture Center
   45A Broadway
   Greenlawn , NY 11740    
   (631) 896-2405

By Janine Friedman, Holistic Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer

There is a great topic of discussion constantly abuzz amongst women everywhere. Womenin mid-life certainly have their plates full with concerns like: weight loss, health concerns and diseases, energy levels, confidence and esteem issues, stress management, and the ubiquitous topic of menopause. How about family, career and finding time for self-care?

It seems so many of us are looking for ways to improve, change, and heal our bodies and lives. To women everywhere, my answer is simple- there is no one panacea or magic pill that will answer all your questions, find the fountain of youth, or even help you find the body you once had. The answer lies within finding balance as an individual. We were not created as cookie-cutter human beings, so why should we all treat ourselves with the same diets, exercise plans, or forms of healing? A good approach is to look at non-food areas of our lives including topics such as: relationships, career, finances, spirituality, creativity, environment, and more to approach the whole Self. It is once we begin to understand how each of these areas helps to create our hunger, moods, and behaviors that change can occur.

Surely at this point in our lives, we have lots of experience under the proverbial muffin top to know what makes us feel good and  comfortable. We are now in a position to transition to a lifestyle of longevity and vitality. It is with this desire of an improved quality of life that I suggest a strategy of individuality through the guidance of a trustworthy professional who can provide ongoing coaching and sound advice. Midlife requires us to take action as an active participant in our health and wellness. Are you ready for the challenge?

Janine Friedman is a Holisitic Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer and owner of Esteem Wellness & Fitness~Movement for Mind, Body, and Soul in Greenlawn, NY. An active participant in health, wellness and personal growth with a reputation to educate and motivate, Janine is sought after by women all over Long Island as well as other teachers and instructors. Through her practice of listening from the heart and forward-thinking she believes that finding your best Self is attainable and empowers you to make the best decisions for yourself. Call for a schedule of lectures, workshops and private appointments. 631-651-2707 or

How much I loved my trial Acupuncture….. My poor dance beaten body from modern and ballet classes daily plus some old injuries was really in bad shape. The relief was only after a few minutes where an area in my thoracic spine was swollen felt relief as well as my ankles which have had a myriad of problems, sprains, chipped bones etc. The atmosphere was beautiful and relaxing, and Denise Rusnak the acupuncturist was wonderful and made you feel relaxed and comfortable!



One of my favorite symbols of yoga and the culture that goes with it is the lotus flower.  Many of the Hindu deities are depicted either sitting on a lotus flower, or that the flower is a part of their bodies in some way, either being at the navel center or in the eyes.  It personally resonates with me because of how the lotus grows.  In India, the lotus is found in swamps, with the roots traveling through the muddy water to take hold in the soil at the bottom, eventually growing up through the swamp water to the surface, and then blossoming either just on the water or a few inches above it, presenting to the world its beauty.  The flower is resilient, and can actually change the temperature of its petals to attract certain insects to pollinate it.  It is strong and adaptable, yet has the delicate appearance of any other flower.

I thought it was fascinating when it was presented as a theme in an Anusara© class I attended to help us focus on the principle of “root to rise.”  We were taught to channel the earth’s energy through the foundation in our hands and/or feet in order to find stability and strength in every pose.  The lotus flower has to do the same, digging deep with its roots in order to survive in the murky waters and come out on top looking flawless.

I try to apply “lotus living” to every situation I find myself in, whether on my mat trying to find stability in a difficult pose, or when I’m off my mat and I run into an obstacle in my life.  It helps to gain perspective on the bigger picture, and our dharma, or life path.  The lotus uses the dirty water and environment around it to gain the nutrients and support for developing its beautiful petals and presenting itself to the rest of the world for it to be admired.  The greatest things in life are not just handed to us.  If we don’t have conflict or trying times, how will we be able to blossom to our greatest potential?  As for the human condition, I believe that we are each meant to endure certain trials in our lives in order to become stronger, wiser, and essentially more beautiful because of it.  It’s easier in concept than in reality.  In some cases all you want to do is retreat and dive into the swamp and let it consume you, but the things you can learn from working your way through the filth and emerging at the surface with your “petals” unscathed and peaceful, are more than worth it.  It’s a vital part of life and how we perceive it, no matter what we may experience along our journeys.  I have always thought that everything happens for a reason, and the lotus flower metaphor only strengthens that belief.

How will you apply “lotus living” to your practice, your life?  On your mat, focus your intention on the foundation in every pose, as if you are harnessing the earth’s energy to channel through you and make you stronger.  You might find that you are able to go to a new point in your practice, and be able to “root to rise,” in some poses you thought were originally out of your reach.  Will you find a way to gain support and vitality through the difficult times in your life and reach the surface of the swamp with strength and beauty?  Examine each situation and see what you can gain out of each experience, whether it seems almost insignificant or life-changing.  Life is meant to be one huge lesson, and it’s up to you what you want to learn from it and whether you want to be struggling to find your strength in the swamp, or rising up to the surface to show off your perfection.

Come join me for a vinyasa flow class every Tuesday night at 7:00PM at Esteem Wellness and Fitness in Greenlawn!

Real Cows Eat Grass!

Eat grass-fed beef and milk and butter from grass-fed cows.  Grass-fed meat and dairy will contain 3-4 times as much Omega-3 fatty acids than meat and milk from grain-fed animals.  Omega 3’s are critical for brain health and preventing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Depression, ADD, seizures and schizophrenia.  People with diets rich in Omega 3s are also less likely to suffer a heart
attack.  The typical American diet is sadly deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Contrary to what you might believe from media brainwashing, milk and butter and beef do not make you fat or contribute to heart disease.  Your great-grandparents weren’t obese, were they???


Fay Eikenes, Nutritionist, certified Pilates and Group Fitness Instructor at Esteem Wellness & Fitness in Greenlawn is a firm believer in eating the way our great-grandparents did.  With 20+ years of experience and her retro approach to eating, Fay provides her clients with trusted information to last a lifetime as she enlightens the path towards a journey of health.  Contact Fay at:

Denise Rusnak, M.S., L.Ac., New York State licensed practitioner of Acupuncture, and has been treating with acupuncture since 2007.  Searching for a more meaningful mind, body, and spirit connection led Denise to begin the study of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2002. Graduating from New York College of Health Profession’s Graduate School of Oriental Medicine in 2008, her studies included TCM Gynecology, Women’s Health, Mental Health and Stress Management through Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology, and Japanese acupuncture techniques.

Denise Rusnak of Primary Care Acupuncture Center has recently begun a symbiotic relationship with Esteem Wellness & Fitness in Greenlawn to further the whole-body wellness that clients, class members and the surrounding communities have been seeking. 

“Acupuncture is another facet of what Esteem is all about”, says owner/director Janine Friedman.  “Movement for Mind, Body, and Soul is a mantra we follow daily at Esteem, and Denise Rusnak at Primary Care Acupuncture Center is a perfect addition and counterpart in joining together Fitness with Wellness,  helping others to realize they can be pain-free and comforatable, making life more enjoyable and stress-free.”

Denise’s main focus is in: Women’s Health, Immune Support, Fatigue, Headaches, Neck & Back aches, Knee & Hip pain, Weight Loss, and Sport Injuries.  To schedule your Complimentary Consultation, visit Denise at 45A Broadway Greenlawn, NY 11740 or contact directly at: 631-896-2405

No Fault and most Major Medical Insurance accepted.

When I was learning the subtleties of teaching, my teacher put a great emphasis on avoiding demonstrating the poses during class, and that we should be able to teach a class just by verbal cues.  I completely agreed with her, because I always found that it was easier to learn by listening while focusing on myself, instead of directing my attention to the front of the class and focusing more on what my teacher looked like in the pose.  However, in practice, I found teaching to be somewhat easier done than said, per se.  Demo-ing somehow developed into my biggest teaching “crutch,” or “training wheel,” as my teacher would call it.

I would always introduce my class to new students as a class that I would not demo the poses myself.  Unfortunately, I would sometimes doubt my ability to describe the poses with words, and I would rely on actually doing the more difficult poses for my students who were having trouble with them.  That gradually evolved into me doing almost the whole class with my students, which was very difficult to do well, because it would become harder to talk at the same time, and soon the class would be more about whatever I was able to do with them, rather than what my students were able to do on their own.  I tried to break this new bad habit, but that was easier said than done.

Then, while chopping wood with my brother, my hand got hit with a sledgehammer (accidentally), and one of my fingers was jammed and badly cut and bruised.  Nothing too major, it only required some bandaids and a whole lot of Neosporin, but it stopped me from using my left hand all together when it came to my practice.  Little did I know, this was a blessing in disguise for my developing teaching style.

The next night, I was asked to sub a class, and I showed up, introduced myself to the few new students, and explained that I would not be demonstrating any poses.  And due to my new injury, I followed through on that promise.  I was able to see my students, and know what verbal cues they needed to get into the pose I was asking for, and they didn’t need to see me do it.  Both my students and I were not distracted by my demonstrating anything, and I became more confident in my verbal cues.  It was an eye-opening experience to teach the way I was trained to, and I left the class feeling better about the way I teach.  My demo “training wheels” were forcefully taken off due to a sledgehammer mishap, and I was surprisingly thankful.  I now teach my classes with as little demonstration as possible, and I feel that it has improved my classes significantly.

I am still teaching every Tuesday night at 7:00PM at Esteem in Greenlawn!  Come check out my vinyasa flow class!

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