Welcoming the Summer Solstice in Times Square

Finding tranquility at the Solstice in Times Square: Mind Over Madness Yoga event on June 21, 2011. Over 8,000 people participated in three classes throughout the day.

By Elizabeth Myer

Last Tuesday, June 21, fellow blogger Sophia Kelley and I ventured to Midtown Manhattan to welcome the summer solstice in an alternative way; that is, by practicing yoga with 3,000 others smack in the middle of Times Square. As NYC lovers and exercise enthusiasts, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to fuse the two. After all, how often is it that you are given a chance to search for serenity while lying on your back in the center of one of the busiest intersections in the world?

As we claimed our complementary yoga mats at the check-in gates and proceeded to roll them out along  46th Street and Broadway, we were serenaded with music, photographed by spectators, and filled with a surreal reminder of the adventure we were about to embark upon. I lay back on to my mat to soak it all in, giant flashing signs in my peripheries, and couldn’t help but to wonder “why”? Why did somebody think to close down Times Square to masses of yogis on this day over all others?

Our instructor, Douglass Stewart, eased us into the class with basic movements, and I recalled the introductory speech moments earlier in which a woman challenged us to carve out green space in each of our lives. As I began to succeed in my attempts to find peace in my poses amid the looming skyscrapers and honking horns, I started to grasp just how well yoga and the summer solstice pair together.

The summer solstice marks the start of summer and the “longest” day of the year. It is an important day for our planet and its relationship with the sun, but also, I realized, for its relationship with people. Yoga is also about creating relationships, though one might suggest that its main relationship is that between one’s own mind, body and spirit. As I squatted into “Utkatasana” (or “chair pose”) searching for a balance in my own life as I literally struggled to connect with the earth, it became clear to me that much like the practice of yoga, each person has an individualized and evolving relationship with the earth and sun. In the chaotic backdrop of Times Square, I found an unconventional kind of peace as I gazed upon thousands of people from diverse backgrounds unifying under the same pose to carve out green space in a new interpretation of the summer solstice.

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