Happy July! I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend! I am teaching Monday July 3 and Tuesday July 4th, so if you are in NYC, please come to class!
On the Summer Solstice this June 21, I participated in a free outdoor yoga class in Times Square sponsored by the Times Square Alliance – “Solstice in Times Square”. Yoga in Times Square is now an annual event and has grown from three people in 2003 doing yoga in this hectic “center of the world” to now more than 12,000 people taking classes throughout the day. Pretty remarkable! It is always a fun and interesting experience to practice yoga In Times Square. Because there are so many external distractions from passersby, traffic, photographers, videographers, smokers, feathers and other wind-born items flying about, it actually creates a unique setting in which to practice going inward rather than if practicing in the perfectly serene yoga studio setting. Even though most yoga classes tend to focus on the yoga poses (“asanas“), the central concept of yoga is stilling the mind from the inner chatter, judgments, and external diversions; withdrawing from the senses; and connecting to that eternal inner center. See the ancient yoga text: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (I.2; 1.3; 1.15; 1.16; 1.17; 1.18; 1.43; etc.) http://www.yogaincentro.it/uploads/file/PatanjaliYogaSutraSwamiVivekanandaSanEng.pdf
So it is slightly ironic that in the noisy, busy, crowded and hectic metropolis, one can truly find and cultivate a deep, inner calm and one-pointed focus. We often think we need the ideal conditions in which to find peace and serenity, yet this Yoga in Times Square experience reminds us that the most important conditions are our internal reactions and inner steadiness no matter the external circumstances. It is important to be reminded of that, especially for those of us who live in urban settings that are often the epitome of the “rat race” – fast, loud, dirty, competitive, and stressful. To maintain that inner steadiness found during one’s yoga and other meditative practices is the ongoing, daily practice. There is a reason the organizers entitled this year’s event Mind Over Madness Yoga! It our mastery of our minds that will bring us the greatest peace during these these often maddening times. Given that the ancient yogis who crafted the Yoga Sutras thousands of years ago were writing about these concepts they practiced, we know that humankind has always struggled with finding internal peace when the external world is filled with so many different and difficult challenges.
Another special aspect of the event is the feeling of solidarity and community with fellow yoga practitioners one feels, even though in the midst of thousands of New Yorkers. During this longest day of the year, a central NYC street transforms into a yoga studio floor, the NYC skyline becomes the ceiling, the surrounding buildings our studio walls, and strangers on the mats our classmates. We don’t know what emotions or insights will surface during the class, or what connections will be made. It is all about being open to the process and experience – as we are in every yoga class, as well as off the mat, in our daily lives. After the 3:30 p.m yoga class, I met a fellow yoga teacher, Bill, who is the founder of Llamaste. He creates beautiful and practical yoga bags, as well as yoga t-shirts. I was very taken by his generosity of spirit when he gave me this lovely yoga bag in the photo below. Bill’s yoga company is based in Brooklyn – check out his great website and his mission: http://www.llamasteinc.com
To read more about this annual solstice yoga event, and to see a beautiful video montage of the day with music of one of my favorite yoga chanters, Donna De Lory, click on this link: http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/solstice-in-times-square