World's Largest Bikram Yoga Class Hits Times Square

By Mathew Katz on June 20, 2012 3:31pm 

Over 14,000 people turned out for the Bikram Yoga class celebrating the summer solstice on Wed. June 20, 2012.
Over 14,000 people turned out for the Bikram Yoga class celebrating the summer solstice on Wed. June 20, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

TIMES SQUARE — The smoldering heat was nothing to thousands of yogis who turned out in Times Square Wednesday for the world's largest Bikram Yoga class.

The 92-degree weather was substantially less than the 105 degrees — and 40 percent humidity — of a typical indoor Bikram class.

"It's breezy," said Michael Samuels, 43, who was getting ready for the free class. "It's cool out here."

More than 14,000 yogis spread out across several of Times Square's pedestrian plazas spent an hour and a half balancing, bending, and stretching, one of three classes being at the Crossroads of the World in the annual celebration of the summer solstice.

The class, a set of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, was run by Rajashree Choudhury, a five-time winner of the All-India Yoga Championship and wife of Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga.

"If you can make it in Times Square perfectly, then you are a perfect yogi," she told her captivated audience before the class. "The solstice is the celebration of the sun. As yogis, we worship the sun."

The event, put on by the Times Square Alliance and activewear maker Athleta, has become an opportunity for many to experience a more peaceful version of one of the busiest parts of the city.

"It purifies your body, it makes you feel great. It heals and revives you," said Jillian Sage, an instructor at Bikram Yoga NYC.

"Everyone who you know is here. There's a sense of peace and togetherness despite how busy it is."

For Alexandra Ruiz of the Upper East Side, it was also a milestone: her final class capping off 130 consecutive days of Bikram Yoga.

"It's changed my life," she said.

As the class went on, overheated yogis stripped off their outer layers — much to the amusement of passers-by.

"The way they bend — we don't do that in Oklahoma," said tourist Ted Patrickson, 34, after a few minutes of watching.

The Times Square Alliance will host one more class on Wednesday, starting at 7 p.m. The first 1500 attendees will receive free yoga mats from Athleta.

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