It was the summer solstice – June 21, 2012. It was hot, it was light and it was a celebration.
More than 500 people streamed onto Court Street in White Plains on Wednesday night, June 20 for Get On Your Mat For Mental Health, The Mental Health Association of Westchester’s very first mega yoga event ever to take place in the county. As participants rolled their mats out, the music of the band, House of Waters drifted through the air.
Soon, MHA CEO, Dr. Amy Kohn welcomed the crowd and introduced White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach who expressed his amazement at the transformation of the busy city street into an island of calm.
Yoga Haven founder, Betsy Kase, led the opening meditation, inviting everyone to connect to their breath and then leading all gathered in a giant “OM”, ushering in summer together. Then celebrity yoga teacher, Gwen Lawrence, enthusiastically took the stage, promising she’d “go easy” on everyone, given the record-breaking heat. Moments later, the only thing visible was a forest of arms moving through the air to Gwen’s instructions. Later Gwen would say, “I wish you could see the view from up here! Just amazing.”
MHA’s Dr. Kohn, who had a front row mat and participated in the class, said: “I am deeply delighted by the outpouring of support for this event. There seems to be a smile on every face.” Lauri Nemetz Yoga Teachers Association co-President commented: “It was amazing to see the diverse crowd, packed in tightly mat to mat, happy to practice and be together. Even in the middle of White Plains, all of us gathered in both sweat and stillness, in a blissful evening for mental health!" After the class, there was one last treat in store. 14-year-old Mike Sabath, of Katonah, NY, asked everyone to stand and clap as he sang the song he wrote especially for MHA, entitled, Talk About It. Sabath wrote the song to raise awareness of the stigma associated with mental illness. Available on iTunes, Mike is donating all the funds raised to MHA.
MHA event manager, Constance Moustakas, was elated, “When we began to plan this event, we had no idea what the response would be, only that there is definite synergy between yoga and other holistic approaches to health and mental wellness.” With more than 40 Westchester yoga studios participating and the success of the event, this summer solstice celebration is no doubt the first of many to come.
MHA is a community-based mental health agency that has been helping Westchester County residents for 66 years through direct services, professional and community education and advocacy. MHA supports 20,000 individuals annually through a comprehensive array of mental health services for all ages at licensed mental health clinics, and to best meet each individual’s need, at home or at a community location. MHA strives to help each individual to achieve their personal goals and to lead an independent, healthy and successful life in the community.