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Local yoga communities coming together to celebrate peace

left to right) Yoga instructors Amy Gainer, Kate Forest, Stacey Duquette and Sheila Magalhaes will be leading the first Western Massachusetts celebration of both the International Day of Peace and the Global Mala Project on Sept. 21 at the Scantic Valley YMCA. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM With so much unrest in the world today, it can be hard to find a moment of peace. That's why three local yoga communities are bonding together to host a "Yoga for Peace" event on Sept. 21, the United Nations' International Day of Peace, at the Scantic Valley YMCA.

The event, which coincides with the Global Mala Project, came about in this region after Sheila Magalhaes of Heartsong Yoga in East Longmeadow, Kate Forest of Life Wellness Connection in Wilbraham and Stacey Duquette of Kali Yoga in Wilbraham met to connect and share in their worlds of yoga, according to Magalhaes.

"I'd heard about these days last year but it was too big of a project to do alone," she said. "When I asked if they'd be interested, Kate and Stacey said yes. The date was already on the calendar, so we just had to do the work."

The International Day of Peace (Peace Day) provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date, according to the Peace Day Web site, internationalday The day was established in 1981, with the first Peace Day being celebrated in September 1982.

"Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day," the site stated. "It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon or just sitting in silent meditation."

Magalhaes, Forest and Duquette, along with Kali Yoga co-owner Amy Gainer, decided to commemorate the day by leading 108 Sun Salutations in the tradition of the Global Mala Project. Magalhaes described the Sun Salutation as a sequence of stretching and strengthening movements, strung together with deep breathing, with many modifications and options available for yoga practitioners of all levels.

A mala is a string of 108 beads used as a tool to keep your mind on the meditation practice. By having groups around the globe participate in the project, a "global mala" could be created.

"This will be a day of community support, fun, friendship and movement," Forest said. "After the 108 rounds of Sun Salutations, which should take about an hour and a half, Stacey will be leading us in a few moments of free flowing movement and then we will have tea and refreshments together." Refreshments will be provided by Great Grapes Catering, Panera Bread and Big Y.

In addition to the aforementioned goals, Magalhaes said the day is also about de-mystifying yoga for those who are not familiar with the discipline.

"We want to make it accessible to every body and for them to have fun," she stated. "It's becoming so mainstream, it's part of video games now. You hear about it all the time."

Forest added that the event is also a celebration of Heartsong Yoga's 15th anniversary.

"Yoga for Peace" is also serving as a day of charity. All participants are being asked to donate generously to the Open Pantry in Springfield, either through non-perishable food items or through monetary donations. Each of the teachers will also be collecting funds for their chosen charities. Magalhaes will be supporting the Siddhartha School Project; Gainer and Duquette will be supporting Maryanne's Kids; and Forest is supporting the Gray House.

"For me, taking part in this Global Mala with so many powerful, dynamic women is truly an honor," Forest said. "My participation on a local level is in promoting the power of yoga as peace in action. On a global level, I believe that every child on our planet has a right to be fed, to be educated, to be sheltered, to be safe and to be loved."

The event will be taking place Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to noon at the YMCA inside Post Office Park in Wilbraham, off of Boston Road. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., but pre-registration is highly recommended.

There is a suggested donation of $27, but if you are not financially able to donate the full amount, the teachers ask you still attend and donate what you feel you can.

To pre-register or to learn more about the local yoga community, call Heartsong Yoga at 525-0720, Forest at 596-5962, Kali Yoga at 636-2042 or visit, or