Gopi Kallayil, the Chief Evangelist at Google, inspired a room filled with close to 300 guests in formal attire to stand up and practice yoga with him at the Bent on Learning Inspire Gala. We were there to celebrate the incredible work of an organization that brings weekly yoga classes to thousands of students in the New York City Public Schools. Before we started our impromptu yoga practice, Gopi reminded us all to turn off and put down our "79th organ" -- our smartphones -- as we journeyed to the place of being centered and unplugged together. It was quite an image to have everyone quiet, breathing deeply in the palatial ballroom, stretching in unison in such an unlikely setting.
But how could we not join in ourselves when a diverse and impressive group of New York City Public School students already inspired us with their own demonstration yoga class led by one of the Bent on Learning teachers and Hilaria Baldwin? How could we not try and experience the yoga magic when the students ranging from elementary school to high school moved us to tears with their powerful words about how yoga has affected not only their physical sense of themselves, but also their lives? Here's what some these incredible young yogis told us:
Yoga allows me to breathe and be in the present moment and not such a perfectionist.
I have been practicing Bent On Learning yoga in high school for 4 years and it's become a major part of my life.
My take-away from yoga is peace. I carry peace-out with me.
Other people call final relaxation pose 'nap time' but I call it 'serene time.'
I learn through yoga that I can be a real perfectionist, but when I do yoga I just try to live in the moment.
Yoga helps me really focus.
The great thing about yoga is -- it's better to be real and authentic than to be perfect.
After yoga practice, I'm less reactive in the face of conflict.
Yoga helps me get in touch with the simple joy of being alive.
At one point in the evening I ended up sitting next to the revolutionary doctor and wellness expert, Dr. Frank Lipman. We immediately engaged in a passionate discussion as I followed up on a comment he made in his speech at the Gala about the over-medication of our society. Our conversation was so important that I felt the impulse to record it as a video interview. When I pressed Dr. Lipman to tell me what his wish list for our children would include, he said, "Having yoga in every single school, changing what we are feeding our children and the use of mindful technology."
That is music to my ears since it is exactly what we support in our work in mental health prevention and holistic approaches to working with our children at the Flawless Foundation.
As Anne and Jennifer, the co founders of Bent On Learning stood at the podium next to their staunch supporter Alec Baldwin, they reminded us that "sitting is the new smoking" when it comes to improving public health in our modern society. Practicing what they preach at Bent on Learning, the #Inspire Gala ended with a lively dance party with people of all ages, shapes and forms dancing and, of course, also striking some fabulous yoga poses.
As we left the beautiful, majestic converted bank building in downtown Manhattan where we reenergized our minds, our bodies and our spirits, the air on this spring night was lofting out onto the streets of New York with a fresh scent of hope, peace and wellness.