Yoga Day: An island of mindfulness in New York’s frenetic Times Square


The “Mind Over Madness” yoga celebrations at Times Square on Solstice Day has been going on for 22 years, starting a dozen years before the United Nations General Assembly created the International Day of Yoga.

A yoga session at New York’s Times Square during the “Mind over Madness” event at Nw York’s Times Square on Thursday, June 20, 2023. PHOTO: South Asia Monitor

Thousands of people created an island of mindfulness amid the frenetic whirl of Times Square in the heart of Manhattan business district in New York City in a massed yoga practice to celebrate International Day of Yoga.

Aptly named, “Mind Over Madness”, the day-long yoga event June 20, 2024, featured seven massed yoga practices that included lessons for newbies at Times Square, which is often called “crossroad of the world.”

“People seek stillness, they seek that peace in a frenetic world that we live in, and what better place than in Times Square to really practice that”, said Tracy Warfield, a a yoga teacher, as she prepared to lead a session.

Cealia Brannan, another yoga teacher who led a session, said the day’s celebration “I feel like it’s kind of an homage to yoga”.

In the microcosm of the world – people with origins across Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and beyond – stood Swati of Indian origin warming up for a session with her husband and two sons.

“I’m immensely proud that it has become a global phenomenon”, she said.

“I love it that people are coming to embrace the Indian culture and Indian values and they are adapting and embracing spirituality”, she said.

The Indian Consulate General was the sponsor of the first event of the day and Consul General Binaya Pradhan greeted the yogis and highlighted the benefits of the ancient art.

It was the longest day, and also the hottest so far this year at 33 degrees Celsius.

About 8,000 people had pre-registered for the event, according to the organisers, and thousands more dropped by.

As the yogis reached for Nirvana in the media strip of Times Square, overhead ads for movies, luxury watches, clothes and food and drinks floated by on electronic billboards, the NASDAQ building flashed the ups and downs of the stock market, characters dressed as the Statue of Liberty and Walt Disney characters sauntered, the area fixture “Naked Cowboy” strummed his guitar, and gawking tourists stopped to watch and sometimes imitate the asanas impromptu.

“I think it’s very easy to get caught up in the world, especially all the things that are going on now”, said Warfield. “And you get this opportunity to just be together. Enjoy the practice. Enjoy your body. Enjoy your breath, and enjoy life”.

Swati said of the differing approaches to the ancient art, “In India, it’s more intense here is more fun”.

Warfield brought that out asking the yogis at the start to “smile, turn your head, make contact, say, ‘I love you’”.

“It’s that kind of yoga”, she told the participants in the session she was leading.

The “Mind Over Madness” yoga celebrations at Times Square on Solstice Day has been going on for 22 years, starting a dozen years before the United Nations General Assembly created the International Day of Yoga.

Co-founder of the event, Douglas Stewart said that the millennia-old yoga from India is relevant to the people of New York as everywhere as it is “a template for living” relating mind, body and spirit creating a relationship with nature”.

“It slowly begins to unfold to other parts of the world and wil continue to express itself as a template for life”, he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in about six Americans now practice yoga – 17 per cent or about 55 million people.

About 30 per cent of them do yoga to treat and manage pain, the federal agency said in a brief published this month.

Many of the yoga enthusiasts at Times Square like Brannan and Warfield said they first came to yoga seeking a panacea for pain.

“I started because I had low back pain”, Brannan said. “But then I just started realising all the other awesome ways that I felt after” starting yoga.

Swati said that as a parent coordinator at her sons’ international school “I promote yoga there”.

“I promoted it to other friends who are not Indian, and they are here today”, she added.

At her gym also they practice yoga she said.

The Indian Consulate had earlier arranged yoga classes at the Bryant Park and in Central Park.

(Used under special arrangement with South Asia Monitor)



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