Zoë speaks with Douglass & Tim about yoga in Times Square
Recently our Founder had the chance to speak with Douglass Stewart & Tim Tompkins, co-founders of Times Square: Mind Over Madness Yoga about their personal yoga practice & the evolution of the event. 2017 was the third year Exhale to Inhale had the privilege of partnering with Solistice in Times Square – we are so grateful for their continued support. And an extra shoutout to event sponsor Aerie, who donated over 250 brand new yoga mats to Exhale to Inhale!
Zoë: Why do you practice yoga? What does your yoga practice give you?
Tim: Sometimes it can be hard to find moments of tranquility and focus when so much is going on in the world. It often feels like our attention is being pulled in a thousand directions at once. For me, yoga is a good way to re-center myself and feel present in my surroundings.
Douglas: These days I practice yoga to connect with Spirit. When I first started practicing it was more about maintaining a healthy body. A healthy body still motivates me but I would say connecting to Spirit everyday has the greatest draw for me now.
Zoë: Tell us the story of how you both started the Solstice event? What inspired it?
Douglas: Tim and I started Summer Solstice Yoga in Time Square/Mind Over Madness out of a curiosity about who and where can one practice these ancient tools. It seemed that Times Square was the best testing ground in that its a major crossroads that includes many different activities, and fabulous distractions.
Tim: Obviously, Times Square’s most famous event is the New Year’s Eve celebration – another celebration that marks a turning point in the year, but one that takes place at midnight in the middle of winter. Douglass and I thought that a Summer Solstice event could be a calm counterpoint, one that draws on the energy of the sun on the longest day of the year to encourage us to find stillness in the midst of the chaos of Times Square.
Zoë: How has the event evolved over the years?
Tim: The first Solstice in Times Square: Mind Over Madness Yoga was just three people – myself, Douglass, and one of Douglass’s students. Since then, we’ve expanded to cover the Broadway Pedestrian Plazas, with thousands of registrants and walk-ups, including people who have traveled to Times Square specifically for the Solstice. It’s really amazing to see new faces, who might have heard about the event through word of mouth, sitting next to people who have been coming for ten years.
Douglas: Certainly, the event has grown in size over the years, from 3 people to over 8 thousand this year. We attract great sponsors and we are grateful for the U.N. and the delegation from India for graciously inviting us to speak, and appear along side them to celebrate International Day of Yoga. Further we've been fortunate to give voice to many wonderful local and national yoga teachers. We like to think that we are providing a space and time for everyone to explore an expand the boundaries of their yoga practice.
Zoë: What are the biggest challenges you face with the Summer Solstice?
Tim: There are always challenges when it comes to putting on a large-scale event that spans multiple blocks and involves thousands of people – but the ultimate challenge lies with the participants finding peace and tranquility in Times Square.
Douglas: Even though the event was born out of a rain storm 14 years ago. I still get a little nervous if it threatens to rain.
Zoë: Why is it important to you to have charity partners as part of the event? What in particular is it about Exhale to Inhale that resonates with you?
Tim: For years, Solstice in Times Square has partnered with New York yoga-related charities. Since all Solstice in Times Square yoga classes are free, participants often donate what they would normally pay for a yoga class, supporting organizations that are making yoga more accessible and using it to help improve people’s lives.
Douglas: My thinking is, by sharing the benefits of our personal growth derived from the practice of yoga, we naturally want to share the goodness with others. It is the nature of love. By offering our Summer Solstice participants a place to give back keeps the love flowing. We are thrilled to offer a platform for charities like Exhale to Inhale, that include yoga as their foundation to partner with us.
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