Protect Our Breasts hosted third annual Yogathon last Friday

By Emily Medrek

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)
(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

As dozens of people spread over fitness mats, stretching and contorting their bodies in a variety of ways, the voice of a Yogathon volunteers speaks into a microphone and says, “let’s take a moment to remember why we are here.”

The voice explained how breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women aged 15-54 and is responsible for over six million deaths across the world annually. The Protect Our Breasts Earth Day Yogathon at the University of Massachusetts raised awareness for breast cancer, donating money toward the cause and informing students about healthy ways of disease prevention.

The Yogathon was put on by the Protect Our Breasts student organization at UMass, and was held outside of the Fine Arts Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 22. Here, people of all ages gathered to take yoga classes taught by local instructors. According to Michelle McCarthy, a junior marketing and economics major who’s on the Protect Our Breasts National Executive Board, there is a $10 online/$15 day-of registration fee for students and a $20-$25 fee for non-students that is donated directly to the foundation. McCarthy said UMass students in the Protect Our Breasts organization raise all of the money needed for the event through fundraising, with all the workers being volunteers.

Protect Our Breasts is an on-campus student organization that has chapters which are run independently by students from schools like Syracuse University, Trinity College, Bates College and Bay Path University. According to McCarthy, there are tables of free products “to give back to participants for registering,” which are donated by organic, chemical-free brands like Lesser Evil, Dr. Bronner’s Magic, All-In-One, Late July, Stony Field Organic and Runner Focused Energy. These companies have partnered with Protect Our Breasts “to empower people to choose natural, organic options,” McCarthy said.

Cynthia Barstow, marketing professor at UMass and founder and executive director of Protect Our Breasts, was excited to be part of the third annual Yogathon, saying “Earth Day is about a cleaner Earth and a cleaner you. We are only as healthy as our Earth.”

Barstow said the Protect Our Breasts organization got the idea for a Yogathon because although there are plenty of walks and runs to support breast cancer, they wanted to do something unique. The free products from the partner companies are also a way to show participants that eating healthy and avoiding toxic foods is one of the main ways to avoid breast cancer.

This was Brittany Stoll’s second year teaching at the Yogathon. Stoll has been practicing yoga for 10 years, and teaching for four years at Yoga Center Amherst and the Yoga Sanctuary in Northampton. The Protect Our Breasts organization at UMass reached out to the yoga centers looking for instructors, and Stoll “thought it sounded like so much fun.” Stoll said as soon as she became an instructor, “it felt like it was meant to be,” and teaching yoga classes “helps me to deepen my own practice.”

Jackie Montminy, a freshman biology and sustainable food & farming major, went to the Yogathon at 9 a.m. She goes to morning yoga classes at the Recreation Center three to four times a week and says that yoga is how she “starts the day on the right foot.”

Isabelle Levy, a freshmen engineering major and Mary Sheehan, a junior mechanical engineering major, are both on the UMass ultimate frisbee team, and came to the Yogathon with their teammates to move their bodies and stretch before practice. Levy doesn’t typically practice yoga, but Sheehan attends about two to three classes a week and enjoyed the Yogathon saying “I love how it is outside.”

Barstow said the Protect our Breasts foundation tries to inform college-aged people specifically because “they are at a high risk of exposure,” and they are making decisions that can either help or hurt their health in the long run. Protect Our Breasts hopes to show people how to take care of themselves, by choosing chemical-free alternatives and keeping up with physical activity like yoga.

Emily Medrek can be reached at [email protected]