Sandra Kawahito is on a journey to help the women (and men) of Westchester heal, strengthen and restore themselves through Pilates, physical therapy, acupuncture and yoga at her boutique wellness center, Mamai.
Kawahito found her calling after suffering an injury that caused horrible pain during her third pregnancy. Passionate about sports and fitness, especially soccer, she was given the ok by her doctor to continue her exercise regime, which ended up causing an injury that could have been prevented.
Pregnant with her fourth child, she was determined to not suffer the same types of problems and with the recommendation of a friend, she sought out a physical therapist that specialized in women’s health issues and pre- and post-natal care. With the help of the physical therapist and the studio’s wellness team, Kawahito was able to heal from her injuries and felt better than she had before, something she didn’t think was possible after having four pregnancies so close together. Inspired by what she had learned during physical therapy and determined to help others, she became certified in Pilates and began the search for a place to start her own studio where she could share what she had learned with other women.
When she saw the words “For Rent” on the corner of Emerson and 80th Street while walking her kids to school, she knew it was a sign and got to work creating Mamai. For three months, she worked tirelessly, and used plenty of inspiration from Pinterest, to turn a space that was in desperate need of renovations into a welcoming, calm spa-like environment to serve members of the community on their journeys to health and wellness.
At Mamai, it’s all about changing the experience of self care and curating the best plan for each person who walks in the door, explains Kawahito. While all of Mamai’s clients have the shared goal of feeling their best, every body is different. Some seek out Mamai’s services during and after pregnancy to get their bodies in optimal shape, some come for stress relief and some are looking to create a comprehensive wellness plan while they battle medical conditions or pain. Common conditions that Kawahito and her team, which includes Pilates instructor, Denise Parker, acupuncturist, Jennifer Haroun, a physical therapist and a yoga instructor, work to alleviate are diastasis recti, a separation of abdominal muscles that commonly occurs during pregnancy, lower back pain, incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction. Most sessions are private, while some of the exercise classes can be done as “duets,” and Kawahito says they accept PPO insurance. For those not using insurance, 10-session packs for services are also available.
“We have a collaborative approach; everyone comes together to make the best plan. Most people have an inclination as to what services they are interested in, and we meet them where they are and then steer them to what would be helpful,” said Kawahito.
While she founded Mamai to serve women, Kawahito is starting to rethink the way she describes her boutique studio, located across from “Little Von’s,” thanks to the increase in men who are finding value in Mamai’s services.
“Our goal was to take care of women and serve Westchester, but now we’re taking care of everyone,” laughs Kawahito.
And it’s the little things that make all the difference for her clients who have become a tight-knit community of women supporting women. From opening the studio early or late to accommodate her clients’ busy schedules or moms bringing their newborns to their sessions, to making house calls or offering a variety of healthy snacks for people to nibble on between treatments, the team is dedicated to doing their best to help whoever is in the space reach their goals.
“People appreciate all the small little things that add up to a great experience. I want really thoughtful gestures for the people who take the time out of their busy schedules to be here,” said Kawahito. “We go above and beyond for our clients. Every person who comes through the doors we’re excited to see.”
For fellow Westchester mom and acupuncturist, Haroun, Mamai has been a blessing. After suffering a personal health issue and being frustrated with Western medicine, she was able to heal with the help of acupuncture. Inspired by what she experienced, Haroun would go back to school to become an acupuncturist, graduate at the top of her class and ready to pay it forward, all while juggling family obligations and two small children at home.
“Westchester is very family-orientated so you come across many people that are trying to find a balance between work and family life, and Mamai helps them do that,” said Haroun. “I have experienced all the services here, so when I refer my clients, I can speak confidently and let them know that they’re going to feel great afterwards.”
This month, the studio will celebrate its one year anniversary, and the launch of its new small group class studio. Starting January 7, Mamai will offer ballet barre, mat Pilates, group yoga and “Mamai Taut,” a high-intensity interval training class for groups of up to 10 people.
“Come in and experience Mamai and what it has to offer. It is the first step to help you get to optimal wellness and health and get you back on track to feeling your best,” said Haroun.
For more information, please visit mamaiwellness.com.
Posted January 2019.