Students gather on Horsebarn Hill for yoga, meditation

Students participate in sunset yoga and gong meditation on Horsebarn Hill on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. The event was part of National Suicide Prevention Week, and was sponsored by UConn’s Counseling and Mental Health Services. (Erika Elechicon/The Daily Campus)

About 400 people gathered for sunset yoga and gong meditation on Horsebarn Hill Friday, as part of National Suicide Prevention Week. The University of Connecticut’s Counseling and Mental Health Services sponsored the event.

Tosca Braun, a fourth year clinical psychology graduate student, led the yoga segment. 

“For me yoga is all about the inner body and our relationship to our experience,” Braun said, “It’s being more present in ourselves, being more accepting of ourselves and being more preset in a relationship.”

Participants tried a number of poses and exercises while the sun set over campus. Gongs provided a calming sound interspersed with beats from a nearby drum circle, Storrs Congregational Church’s bells and a few low moos from UConn’s cows.

“I liked all the sound effects,” first semester nutritional sciences major, Erika Fleming, said, “I don’t usually have those in my yoga class. The cows definitely added to the experience.”

The yoga aspect of the session moved smoothly into meditation. Participants lay on their yoga mats and towels facing the clouds as the sky slowly darkened. Owen James, who runs the Conduit Center in East Hartford, led the latter segment.

“We play the sounds and the music in a way that’s calming,” said James, “to give people that audio space that’s protective enough and inviting enough to provide that quiet space for them.”
He further discussed the ability of meditation to affirm life and relieve stress.

“Meditation is a something healthy for everybody,” said James, “but in a sense a very challenging practice for a lot of people that are very busy and time focused. That’s where the sounds come in. An audio experience is one that’s very inclusive to a space. If it helps to block out distractions, really captures the space, gives people that one thing that they can focus on.”

The event concluded at approximately 8:30 p.m. Participants generally had positive reactions about the experience.  

“I thought it was really good. I’ve never actually done yoga before,” said Amanda McCarthy, third semester English and Spanish major, “I have done meditation but not with the sound healing, which was really cool.” 

“It achieved the goal, but I’m really cold,” first semester actuarial sciences major, Zach Mamakos, said.

“I feel very relieved but I also feel a lot more connected to my body, the earth and the UConn community,” third semester psychology major, Emma Bee Schwarz, said.

Braun said that the event went well, and that she was happy with the large turnout of UConn students and community members.

“It was so beautiful,” she said. “This was a perfect night for it.”


Christopher McDermott is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.