‘A calm, peaceful, introspective evening’ lead by Beryl Bender Birch continued MHA of Westchester’s work in spreading awareness and removing the stigma
By Amanda Kraus
Nearly one in five Americans experience mental illness first hand. Considering this staggering fact, it is likely that everyone is affected by psychological diseases in one way or another. We all know someone–a sister or brother, parent, friend, or coworker–who struggles with one or more of the myriad of mental illnesses. But if mental illness is so prevalent in our society, then why are we so reluctant to talk about it?
In order to get Westchester County thinking, The Mental Health Association of Westchester (MHA) hosted an “On Your Mat For Mental Health” yoga event, in which Beryl Bender Birch, a renowned yoga instructor, lead a yoga class for all ages and abilities, in White Plains’ J Harvey Turnure Memorial Park.
It was meant to be; the rain held out, giving way to a beautiful, temperate evening, that also happened to be the summer solstice and the International Day of Yoga. The park was graced by the soothing, unique sounds of the Brooklyn-based group, House of Waters, preceding the yoga class, as well as a Yoga Marketplace, which featured local vendors, businesses, and organizations.
Before handing over the stage to Beryl, Charlotte Ostman, the CEO of MHA shared a few words. The purpose of hosting this event was to raise awareness of the issues surrounding mental illness as well as funds for their organization, and most importantly, to start a conversation within the community. “Shame, stigma, and discrimination have no place in our organization,” said Ostman. What better way to bring the community together than through yoga, a practice that not only benefits us physically, but also mentally and spiritually.
“Yoga isn’t just what you do on the mat, it’s what you do in your community to keep mentally and physically healthy,” remarked Birch upon gracing the stage. She spoke about the mental and spiritual benefits of yoga, and how it can help us keep in touch with ourselves and the present moment. Accompanying the conversation of mental health is the spread of practicing yoga. When we can acknowledge that yoga and health are undeniably connected, we can make more progress in our communities and our lives.
Even Beryl couldn’t deny the incredibly interconnected energy that was flowing throughout the park. I even forgot that we were in the middle of a bustling city. It was a calm, peaceful, introspective evening, that unfortunately had to draw to a close. But it doesn’t have to end there; the conversation is just starting. It takes one to influence many, to influence many more. A community is only great if it supports everyone in it. Since everyone is affected by mental illness, it is important that we get everyone talking about it. Once we normalize mental illness, we can begin to rid of its stigma.
Inside Press summer intern Amanda Kraus is a rising junior at Tulane University studying English, Philosophy, and Psychology.