At 7:30 this morning, about 1,000 yogis stretched into downward dog beneath the flashing lights and larger-than-life billboards of Times Square. Traffic zoomed down 46th Street between their mats, and Alicia Key’s voice boomed from speakers set up around the plaza: “Welcome to New York!”
This outsize, outdoor yoga class, taught by Jivamukti’s Nichole Nichols, kicked off the annual Solstice in Times Square, founded by yoga instructor Douglass Stewart, and his student Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, in 2003.
Towards the end of the morning class, technical difficulties cut off Nichols’ microphone and the music, forcing participants to follow her movements by watching the Jumbotron in silence. The result? A yogic stillness we’re sure the plaza has never seen before.
With a noon and evening class still to come, and festivities throughout the day, the event expected to draw around 7,500 people.
We caught up with some of the other early birds to find out why they roused themselves out of bed for a Savasana amongst honking horns and fumes.
Natalie and Josh, Australia
“This is our first trip to New York, and we happened to see that this event was on and we thought ‘What an incredible place to practice yoga—in the busiest city in the world in the heart of Times Square!'”
Jessica, Flatbush/Prospect Park South (left)
“I got up at 5:00 a.m. to come, because I wanted to see all of the people out here banding together, bringing this great energy, which isn’t normally a part of this space. I kind of enjoy the distraction of it, because I think once we actually start, we’ll settle down and get quiet within ourselves, and maybe passersby will be moved to do the same.”
Tracy, Harlem (right)
“I thought it was interesting, and also free, which is great. I used to do a lot more yoga before I moved to New York, and I was really thrown by how expensive and crowded everything is here. I’d like to say I was moved by the solstice, but yeah, it was totally the bottom line.”
For more incredible photos, click here.
—Text by Lisa Elaine Held, Photos by Larkin Clark