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There may be few things on the planet that seem as dissimilar from one another as yoga and Times Square. Yet as yoga teacher and YJ contributor Neeti Narula explained earlier this morning from the Solstice in Times Square event, there’s perhaps no more perfect place to practice being present than smack in the midst of the noise of one of New York City’s most distracting destinations.
Can’t quite imagine it? Experience it for yourself. The Times Square Alliance will be sharing yoga classes amid the hustle and honking and concrete and billboards until 8:30 p.m. this evening in celebration of the summer solstice and International Day of Yoga, The yoga classes will be livestreamed throughout the day so that you can still be part of the experience if you’re not in New York City or couldn’t catch the subway to make it on time. You’ll also find recordings of each class on the schedule on this page as the day progresses.
What practicing yoga in Times Square can teach us
At the 7:30 am class that launched Solstice in Times Square, Narula explained to the 1260 students seated on mats amid concrete and billboards, “the noise, the chaos, the bustle, it’s so representative of life. There are times when things get tough. The biggest gift of yoga is it teaches us to drop into our presence, our full quality of being alive, in whatever strife, whatever distractions.”
The packed outdoor class was split into two sections by 46th Street, with Narula’s words echoing throughout Times Square. New Yorkers who were walking by actually paused to take in the unified flow—and snap some photos—while watching Narula lead the practice on a digital screen over Father Duffy Square.
In between leading rounds of Sun Salutation As to students of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds, Narula intermittently encouraged students to hold themselves in class as they would in life. “You are right where you breathe. Every time a noise or distraction takes you away, trace yourself back to yourself in this moment. How are you showing up for yourself, for your breath, for your yoga. Come back to being intentional.”
“To have this much going on around you is a symbol of life,” continued Narula.”It is just, we have to show up, we have to practice, we have to commit to ourselves, whatever is going on in our life. The consistency of showing up is everything.”
The practice of yoga truly begins again in each moment, a foundational tenet of yoga mirrored in practicing amid distractions. As Narula reminded us. “If you can find one conscious breath here, you can do it anywhere. And if that peace didn’t come for you today, there’s a reason why we call it a practice. We come back again and again, we breathe, we try. If this stillness is the hardest part of the class for you, you’re not alone.”
The insights and practice from the seemingly chaotic practice could be felt as much as heard.
“It was a dream come true,” explained student Scalla Jakso after class. “I have learned about and always followed Times Square Yoga online and now that I’m finally a New Yorker, I had to be here. And it was as amazing and magical as you can imagine. There are no words. I can’t imagine a better setting for it.”
“At one point, she had us look up at the sky at one point and she made a wonderful comment about how things are temporary, just like the clouds moving above our heads,” said Jakso. “That really touched me. It was just a good reminder to let things go.”
7:30 am yoga class with Neeti Narula
To see the schedule of classes and reserve your space, visit www.timessquarenyc.org/seasonal-events/solstice-in-times-square. Classes are free. Donations are accepted for Community First, a new initiative to “build relationships—and trust—with vulnerable people in Times Square with the goal of getting them help.”