Just Om Your Way Through It
Times Square + yoga = oxymoron. Or so I thought. This time two years ago my life felt a bit lethargic. So I decided to shake things up a bit and signed up to do yoga in the least likely of places—Times Square, NYC. And I wasn’t alone—a few hundred (dare I say thousand?) folks were saluting the sun right along with me on the summer solstice, in the place typically loathed by most New Yorkers.
But why do yoga in TIMES SQUARE of all places? Our teacher, Dana Flynn of the Laughing Lotus yoga studio, explained it well. She told us a story (over many huge speakers spread around the area so we could hear over the traffic) about a trip she took a few years ago to the desert for a week to practice yoga. The teacher that was traveling with her group said, “If you really want to practice yoga, practice in a place like Times Square.” Meaning, it’s easy to do yoga in a nice studio or in the mountains or in the desert where it’s quiet and calm. But the real test is—can you find peaceful bliss amongst chaos?
I was going to find out.
After checking in I followed my other yogis to the area blocked off for us—right in front of the TKTS steps. I unrolled my mat right on the ground near Broadway and W. 48th Street, sat for a moment, and just drank it all in. We’re always so quick to push our way through the streets. This was really the first time I just sat and observed (the maddening and uncontrollable) Times Square.
Our class began with three “oms.”
(I “om’d”…with hundreds of people…sitting on yoga mats…in the middle…of Times—freakin’—Square!)
And then…I was peaceful. Those oms were all it took. With each downward dog, cobra, warrior I, II & III, with every breath, every pause…I felt “it.” “It” being: energy, peace, excitement, calm, noise, quiet, pain, joy…all rolled into one.
The stimulation surrounding me didn’t hinder my practice; it enhanced my practice. The bright lights flashing off of the multiple screens around me didn’t throw off my gaze; they woke me up. The vibrations from the subway under the street didn’t knock me off balance; they reminded me to keep grounded.
In addition to the poses, our teacher had us partake in some out-of-the-ordinary movements to remind us that we weren’t just here for yoga; we were here to experience something surreal and unique. We high-fived the other yogis around us, we danced to Michael Jackson songs, and we thanked ourselves for giving us this amazing gift…the gift of sharing peace and hope and happiness with each other.
Lying in Savasana at the end of the class, I looked up and saw the tops of the buildings against a bright blue sky. Absorbing it all and finding my quiet place, my eyes welled up with tears. I felt “it” again. So…this is bliss.
Walking to the train afterwards, I realized I’d never walked through Times Square so slowly and so calmly. Yes, what I just participated in was pretty freakin’ cool. And, yes, I’m glad I picked a really cute outfit to wear with all of the onlookers watching.
But the most important thing I learned? Life, as well as Times Square, doesn’t have to be so chaotic. You just have to “om” your way through it.
(You can read more about Solstice in Times Square here: http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/solstice-in-times-square/index.aspx )