Yesterday was the first day of Summer, and the hottest day of the year so far. To celebrate, there was a (free!) massive (and massively sponsored) yoga event in Times Square–what started with 3 people a few years ago grew into 14,000 participants this year. It was a unique yoga experience to be sure.
I took the 3:30pm class, and when I arrived at 42nd street and Broadway (aka Hell on Earth to any New Yorker) the line for registered ticket holders winded around the block while a yoga clothes fashion show took place on the stage and blasted from the dozens of speakers. After a short wait, I was given a free yoga mat (!) and a bag of goodies from the sponsors (hummus, water, magazines, yogurt, etc) and then ushered by the NYPD to a spot of pavement smack dab in the center of it all (and unfortunately right next to a heat blowing vent for one of those flashy electronic signs).
There were peppered amongst the thousands, some hardcore yogis (there was even a couple showing off some acroyoga when the class ended), but at least around me, it seemed a lot of first timers or at least people who don’t practice regularly. Which is pretty awesome, if I was new to yoga I don’t think I’m choose a 95 degree day in Times Square with thousands of other people to try it out. And while thousands preregistered, there was also a sizable line of people (some dressed for yoga, some in business or street clothes!) that just walked up and decided to do some yoga in the middle of the hottest and longest day of the year.
The event was called “Mind Over Madness” with the tag line: ” Anyone can find tranquility on top of a mountain.
Can you find it in the middle of Times Square?” And yes, it was more distracting than a quiet zen studio class, but I’m kind of used to classes with noise coming in from the hallway or weight rooms, or from the street below, or practicing in the park with lots of noises, or in my living room with the cats going crazy and the birds chirping. And there was nary a moment of silence in the room when I taught a bunch of 5 year olds yoga. Yoga is a practice of drawing your senses inward and noticing but not attaching to the distractions and thoughts vying for your attention.
More distracting than the noise of Times Square was the spectators–dozens of people lined the barriers and just watched and took pictures and a giant screen projected the class and the instructor. I was towards the center but off to the side, so my mug never made it up on the big screen, but I’m sure I’m sweating in a lot of strangers’ photos.
It was a unique and fun yoga experience, and even if you’re not into yoga at all it’s kind of a once in a life time experience to lie in the middle of the road in Times Square and stare up at the clouds in the blue sky past the buildings.