Saturday, June 21, 2008

NY Event Number Twelve: Practicing yoga in Times Square.

About five years ago, the Times Square Alliance decided they would celebrate the more neglected of the two Solstices. The Winter Solstice arrives on December 21st, but is often grouped in with the celebration of various holidays, and of course Times Square's biggest yearly event, New Year's Eve. However, the Summer Solstice, particularly in Western culture, usually goes by unnoticed--presumably because its celebrants were predominately pagan and that just didn't mesh with main-stream Puritanical rule. So any rituals that went along with the day were squelched over time and/or forgotten. The idea was to commemorate the longest day of the year, and give the sun its due for helping sustain our lives. So the TSA founded an event where yoga (the physical practice of which of course includes a linked sequence of asanas called surya namaskar, or "sun salutation") would be practiced throughout the day in order to do just that. At the first year of this event literally one person showed up. This year, at the first class of the day, 8:00AM on a Saturday morning, I practiced on the island in Times Square between 44th and 43rd street, bordered by Broadway and 7th Ave. I was one of 300 people there just for that class.

I heard about the function last year from Douglass Stewart, an instructor at the studio I work at and one of the teachers I practice under whenever I get the chance. Douglass actually co-founded the event, and after I missed last year I was determined to make it--especially as I don't know when I'll be back here for the Solstice again.

It was a lot of fun. The TSA had a number of sponsors for the day, who all contributed to large yellow goody bags that were stocked with items that included a Solstice t-shirt, Snapple antioxidant water, Fiji water, Body Shop samples, and several SoyJoy bars--and none of which were the dreaded Mango bar, which I find personally disgusting. The first 500 people at the event (of which I was one) also got a free mat from Danskin, which was too slippery to practice on there, but will no doubt break-in after a light vinegar wash.

I did the first class of the day and the final class of the day, greeting the sun coming up (I actually woke up at five that morning, so yes: I literally did this thing) and saying goodbye to it in the evening. The evening class was particularly cool because we started at sunset, and by the time we were done with our meditation and svasana, the sky was lit only by the lights in the Square. (I was actually in my meditation, sensing these flashing lights beyond my closed eyes, and thought I was on the brink of discovering something--but of course it was just an ad for Inspired by The Bible Experience.)

Tranquility is hard to find, no doubt, especially in this city of over eight million people. Yoga is about balance, part of which comes with balancing the mind. Like the second sutra of Patanjali tells us, "The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga," leading us to the third sutra, "Then the Seer [Self] abides in His own nature." It's a challenge to do this at anytime in the city, but like the ad above asks, "Can you find it in Times Square?" And I did. Somehow having everything else going on around me allowed me go into a deeper space of self. Aside from the occasional loss of focus (looking up in trikonasana and seeing what I can look forward to on upcoming episodes of Grey's Anatomy), it was definately one the more enjoyable practices I've had in a while.

I saw a lot of people I knew at the event--teachers, clients, and friends, (and this super model--I am NOT kidding {Boys: do more yoga. You will meet women.}) and I feel blessed to have been able to be a part of this NY yoga community for my time. These individuals have taught me a lot about life and myself, and I hope I can honor those lessons in the time to come, no matter what side of the pond I'm on. Namaste, my friends.

(NOTE: All photos, except for the Solstice ad itself, were taken by Cathy Lilly.)


Raz said...

doing yoga in time square takes balls. much bigger than i have. i tip my hat to you.

cokaly said...

this sounds simply divine. and fun. wish i could have been there to join you!

on a completely separate note: how do you find is the best way to clean your yoga mat(s)? it seems to be something i can never quite get a straight answer on....

Lea Maria said...


This thing I can do:

Buy yourself a spray bottle, and fill it with water and 1 of the following substances:

1) Tea Tree Oil
2) Vinegar

You MUST heavily dilute either of those. Probably 1 tsp per 24oz. of water.

Depending on the quality of the rubber/foam the mat is made out of will determine what is best. And if you use the vinegar solution, whipe your mat down afterwards with a wet towel, to take away any extra smell.