The smell of a street food vendor wafts through the air. I hear a car horn and a large truck break with a “swish.” The subway rumbles. Then I hear a collective chant of “Om.” I look around and take in the skyscrapers reaching towards the clouds, the flashing lights and TV screens. I am surrounded by people on yoga mats methodically breathing through vinyasas. I’m practicing yoga in Times Square.
Summer is my favorite season and my favorite way to welcome the season is by Celebrating the Summer Solstice with Athleta’s Mind Over Madness yoga class in Times Square. On Saturday, I laid down my yoga mat in the streets of one of the busiest places on earth to literally salute the sun.
As we rolled out of our mats among the flashing billboards and the yellow taxis, I took in the sights around me: tourists and media stopping to take pictures and behold the spectacle of hundreds of yogis preparing to do yoga in the middle of the street. I watched as Athleta’s billboard ad flashed across the screen featuring a woman on the beach doing yoga (when is that happening!?). I turned and saw a huge sign from my company. Everything was moving, flashing and changing yet there was a sense of calm excitement among the yogis.
Before class started, we were treated to an acro-yoga demonstration featuring skilled yogis who contorted themselves into awe-inspiring poses, all while balancing on the legs of another yogi. Their skill ignited the enthusiasm of the crowd as we anxiously awaited for our class to begin.
Our class was taught by Bethany Lyons of Lyons Den Yoga. She is a super fit, super hardcore yogi who led us through a power vinyasa class that was very challenging (especially for a preggers lady like me, I might add!). But she was also playful and lighthearted throughout the class, making everyone feel positive and welcome. She encouraged us to assist our neighbors by touching their backs in Warrior III and uplifting them or helping their knee reach the ground in a spinal twist. She also told us to turn to these people who were literally inches away and say “hi.” We dropped out New York attitudes and welcomed each other to this practice. In a city of over 8 million, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve said hi to a stranger.
As we moved through our vinyasas, I began to forget the sites and sounds around me and focused on my breathing and the synchronized movement of the crowd.
As we settled into our final savasana, I took in my view of the tops of skyscrapers and the 2014 New Year’s Eve ball. I thought to myself, “If I can find zen here, I can find zen anywhere.”
After class I made my way over to the yoga village where our sponsors had set up camp.
Besides the complimentary yoga mat from Athleta, we were treated to Keurig iced drinks (pomegranate for me!), waters, Luna bars, deodorants, toothpaste and much more. I love sponsors!
And of course I had to write down how I Salute the Sun!
Readers, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done in public? When is the last time you said “hi” to a stranger? Do you think sun salutations really salute the sun? I kind of think reverse warrior salutes the sun more!
I am so jealous! What an incredible site that must have been – and in the middle of the city!
I love that you introduced yourself to strangers and found zen in the middle of NYC. How amazing!
I definitely need to get involved in more public yoga classes like this – and I agree! Reverse warrior is absolutely more sun-saluting! 🙂
So freaking cool!!! I’ve always wanted to do something like this. Searching for something similar in “fake” times square in Toronto. Your posts make me seriously miss NYC and YOU. I think I may just have to book another trip!
I say hi to strangers all the time actually! I think of myself as more of a natural West coast girl, even though I was born & raised in the Northeast, because I’m usually friendly to everyone and have more of a laid-back vibe. That’s one thing I don’t like when I go back to NJ & NYC, because after living in Cali for a bunch of years, what I saw as normal social behavior most of my life now seems kind of rude haha sounds weird but it’s true!
Looks like a beautiful class, and I love Athleta! One thing I do love about Canada, and my city in particular, is that it’s commonplace to smile at and say hi to strangers. I always get a bit sad when I go to NYC or another big city, where if I smile at a stranger they either think I’m nuts or that I’m coming on to them.
Yay! I am so happy you went to this because I know you love yoga. Your description is everything I expected and more! Your pictures are gorgeous, what an experience! You already know the craziest thing I’ve done–wait outside 8 hours for a camera! 🙂