It was only fitting, kismet even, that the morning of June 21st would start off a little crazy. We were after all on course to the 16th Annual Mind Over Madness in Times Square, Earth’s roaring, neon colored intersection where naked cowboys roam, DIY Avengers and Disney princesses pop at you from every angle for photo ops, and shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrian traffic could carry you from 45th St to 50th if one would only lift their feet from the sidewalk’s surface. Some would think it odd, that this would be the location of one of the greatest Summer Solstice Celebrations and yoga events of the year but really I couldn’t imagine a place more appropriate or awe inspiring to honor our favorite star’s biggest day. After all where else would we be able to share the practice we love, alongside the community we love, with fellow yogis and on-lookers from around the world, in a city that could always use just a little more love? Stumped ya, didn’t I? But more on that incredible part in a bit.
Like many of you, I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that it is journey that is far more important than the destination. Weeeellllllll....on this day that theory was put on pause. Uber-challenging uber rides, sweltering train stations, sizzling city streets were all in play as my sister, Lindsay, and I bobbed, weaved, tucked, and rolled our way through the cellphone locked crowds and seemingly endless list of random obstacles to our midtown destination, ourselves a whirlwind of snack gathering, bag-toting excitement wrapped in brightly colored leggings and of course our new Our Siddhi tank and tee. It was a scene to be seen for sure! As we approached 6th Ave though we both recognized an immediate change in the energy surrounding us. The was an uncommon calm in the air and the volume of the city seems to have been dialed down ever so pleasantly slightly. Then a few yards later it all became clear as to why, we had arrived at this year’s Mind Over Madness event. It was like an oasis, a trick you think your mind is playing on you. Thousands upon thousands of brightly shining, brightly smiling yogis gathered together, all bursting to share their light with strangers in “the big, bad city”. Instantly a warm wave of comfort moved over us and the anxiety of the trip over was washed away.
As we approached, event coordinators happily greeted us and gave us what would be the first of so many amazing gifts of the day, a complimentary yoga mat courtesy of Aerie and a bag full of assorted goodies! Wow! From their we were pointed in the direction of our class which was to begin at 11am. This year’s celebration offered such an outstanding roster of talented and experienced instructors from Judy Rufty of Yoga Works, to the playful pair of Donna Rubin and Jen Lobo of bodē, to youth instructor Colin Lieu, and Swami Paramananda. Due to the massive crowds every year (15,000 yogis were expected) we were only permitted to participate in one session but with space being as limited as it was, we were grateful to have been included at all. In the end it was the power vinyasa flow taught by Catherine Gignac, Aerie Sr. Manager of Digital Creative and Amazing Yoga Instructor, that called to us most clearly, and we were definitely glad we listened.
Lindsay and I joined our session’s group on the cozy piece of Manhattan that was reserved for us that day and found a perfect little mat space fit for two. As I melted in to my pre-class ritual (with a little help with the melt from a Sun so clearly proud and strong almost directly above) I began to connect with the phenomenal mix of vibrations around me. Where at first I thought my mind would be fighting against the noise of the traffic, movement around me, and the countless flashing billboards, I suddenly found my self tuning into, and feeding off of, this amazing energy. Combined with the inner calm that I was tapping into, it made for a sense of stimulation and balance I had never felt before. I reveled in it for as long I could as the moments ticked down before class. As I opened my eyes I looked around I noticed a similar look in the face and posture of my classmates, clearly I was not the only one riding this wave. We all were and we were now ready.
Catherine made her way to the front and her class and began by sharing her personal journey along with some inspiring words that continue to echo with me today. From there she had us deepen our breathing, silence our thoughts, and bting our bodies and minds into alignment. As we began to flow her graceful cues moved us fluently as one. Invigorating and at times even challenging the sequence that she had crafted, backed by an Odesza-heavy playlist (yay!), was absolutely beautiful and peaked during an enormous, synchronized Dekasana (airplane pose).
Being linked with a few hundred other people, each depending on one another for support really allows the love to flow easily and reminds us that we’re never alone on this sacred day...or any other. Once our toes touched the ground again the show of unity and pride in one another inspired a huge roar from the crowd that was so touching. Cheering, screaming, laughing...we all felt so empowered. You could tell that the few yogis that were may have felt outside the comfort zone of their local studio at the beginning of class were now entirely at home in our unique environment. I too felt so proud to be a part of this, I was glad strangers saw me in my element as we so rarely get to glance at vulnerable moments such as these.
As the hour ended, Catherine guided us into a wonderful and much needed Savasana and with a clear mind I was able to reflect on what I have done in my life to be in this place right now, forever grateful of this, and every step that got me here. Enveloped by the heat from the sky above and the blacktop below, I sank deep with my breaths one final time before rejoining the world around me. With a beautiful prayer and Namaste class was over and we all rose from our mats with a glow deserving of a place alongside the stars. After, the staff gently ushered us towards the surrounding tents where we thought we’d find the exit. Little did we know though that there was one more sensational surprise to come.
No sooner than we felt the sweet relief of shade were we blessed with a refreshing bottle of ionized water from Essentia, then a yummy granola treat from RXBAR, and then sweet smelling facial soaps made with turmeric and elation oils (which were immediately put to use upon arriving at home, very necessary after a day in the city heat). All gifts from the day’s sponsors. At every turn was a complimentary eco-conscious product, deliciously healthy goodie, or innovative and creative accessory. We were kids in a yoga candy store! Most generous was Aerie, hosts of the event, as they not only presented us with brand new yoga mats earlier but were now giving away coupons for a free pair of their Chill Leggings! Their tent was set up with much needed orange and lemon water next to a photo booth primed and ready to record some silliness that they were posting on all of their social media platforms. Lindsay and I made it just in time to snatch a few quick pics (my fave gift of the day) and made it out of there just as the next session’s attendees came in. Ah, if only they knew what amazing-ness awaited them. Fortunately we were able to fight the urge to give any hints away as we floated past them on our clouds of euphoria which somehow seemed to carry us above the chaos we encountered on the same path just a few hours before and all the way home.
What a magical day!
Thank you again to all who made this unforgettable day possible! Your efforts and talents are infinitely appreciated and we are grateful to be part of the community you continue to foster. Thank you also for allowing us to be part of a movement to bring Mind Over Madness to not only ourselves but one of the craziest, busiest, fastest, most sleepless, cities in the world. Here’s to 16 more years of Solstice in Times Square! Now I’m headed to Aerie to find more leggings to match my Our Siddhi tees and tanks!
Happy Summer, Everyone!