By Aly Teich
I have to admit, like most New Yorkers, I try to avoid Times Square if I can. Other than seeing a show, or if I happen to have a meeting in the area, I rarely find myself there. While I appreciate why it would be an attractive tourist destination, and even find myself wide-eyed at the bright lights and billboards when passing through in a taxi at night, it is just far too crowded, touristy, over the top, and just rather un-New York feeling to me. Additionally, I always seem to get spotted by the man in the Elmo costume who wants to hug me and take a photo — only to later ask for $20 for this seemingly innocent act of kindness.
So you can imagine, that this is just about the last place I would choose to bring my yoga practice. Yoga, for me, is my escape into myself and onto my mat, which allows me to slip away from the stresses of life, move and push my body, breathe, and quiet my mind. So why on earth would I jeopardize that by doing my sun salutations next to a larger-than-life video billboard for American Eagle?! However, when Athleta asked me to come partake in their Summer Solstice event just a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist. Not only had I heard only the best reports on the event from the year before, but this is actually exactly what yoga is about. If you are truly present in your practice and on your mat, you can do yoga anywhere. Furthermore, if you are able to stay present while practicing in a place with such blatant distractions, it can actually bring your practice to a whole new level. And this is exactly what happened and more, at Summer Solstice this year.
Not only did this morning practice, still slightly damp from a rainstorm that came through just a few hours earlier and seemed to clear just in time for us to do our first downward dogs, make me appreciate the power of yoga to teach us to be so fully present in any setting, but it was a great reminder of the power of yoga as a deeply universal language and connecter to so many people from every walk of life.
Since I was there as an influencer, Athleta was kind enough to offer me a spot in the front row, which not only allowed me to be closer to the ever-inspiring Lauren Imparato of I.AM.YOU. Studio (who was leading our practice), but also allowed me a front row seat to the thousands of yogis of every shape, size, age, gender, and color who all came out to celebrate the Summer Solstice, Athleta, and their shared love of yoga. And despite my usual inclination to avoid it, Times Square offered a rather magical backdrop for this incredible event.
Before we even began our practice, Lauren asked everyone to hold up the sunflowers which Athleta had placed on our mats before the session began. And while I held mine up high to the sky, I also couldn’t help but look back and then grab a photo of what formed behind me — a field of beautiful sunflowers, which had suddenly sprouted up right there in the middle of Times Square.
I walked away that morning feeling more connected to myself, the yoga community, and couldn’t shake my smile for the rest of the day. While I have always appreciated the power of yoga, that morning made me truly realize that if yoga could help me find such peace, such happiness, and such connection in a place that usually elicits deep stress, well then what other powers does it have?!
Whether you are a practicing yogi, or swear it’s just not for you, I encourage you to find that deeper connection to your practice and the community you practice in. You will not regret it.
Aly Teich is Founder and Host of The Sweat Life.
Aly is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She left Manhattan for Madison, Wisconsin to become a proud Badger for four years, and since then has lived on both coasts, traveled around the world…twice, and found herself right back here in The Big Apple.
Aly has always been an active kid, and now grownup (although she still acts like a kid.) She danced her way through the School of American Ballet until her teens, competed on horseback at a pre-Olympic level, lettered in three varsity high school sports, and completed three marathons and numerous triathlons. She’s also an avid skier, golfer, aspiring surfer, and can do a mean belly flop.
Following a ten-year career in television and media — including the Late Show with David Letterman, CBS Television, Tribeca Film, and Conde Nast — Aly switched her focus to health and wellness five years ago when her mother was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. Trading in her Late Show with Letterman badge for Nikes, Aly made it her goal to help people live healthier lives. In the fall of 2013, she decided to bring all of her experience and passion to one place, The Sweat Life.