One day eight years ago, Cassie Stockamp saw a photo that shocked her.
It was of a mass yoga class going on smack-dab in the middle of New York’s Times Square, probably one of the least Zen-like places in the world. Stockam—president of the Athenaeum Foundation, and a yoga teacher—went to Indianapolis city officials with the idea of holding a similar event on Monument Circle. After a brief pause for eyebrow-raising, they decided they were down with it.
Some 4,000 people showed up last year.
Now in its sixth year, Monumental Yoga will bring throngs to the Circle for a 7 p.m. class on the summer solstice of June 21.
Indy did it first.
In 2014, the United Nations declared the summer solstice the International Day of Yoga—a year after Monumental Yoga launched on that date. You’re welcome, world.
You can do this. Yes, you.
Busting out your feeble sun salutations in front of thousands may sound like the opposite of nirvana. But don’t be intimidated. “This is a beginner class,” Stockamp says. “If you’re an advanced practitioner, you can do more advanced poses. But we want this to be available to everyone.” So yogis wander around helping newbies.
Just get there early.
You’ll be aspiring to a state of mindfulness and relaxation while also navigating a crowded downtown. Yogis start laying down their mats at 4 p.m.
Make a whole afternoon of it.
You can while away the hours before the evening class at the pop-up Yoga Village, where 80 vendors hawk merch like yoga gear, raw vegan food, and henna tattoos. The Monument steps host classes for drumming, hooping, and “acro-yoga.” CITYOGA owner (and Monumental Yoga teacher) Dave Sims explains that last one: “It’s dynamic postures using two people. One of them is usually in the air.”
This is a rare chance to try meditating while sitting in the middle of traffic.
OK, the cars won’t be right on top of you. But you’ll notice the honking and brake-squealing nonetheless, and can challenge yourself to transcend it all. “It’s not about tuning out the environment,” says Sims. “You hear the traffic and the airplanes and the sounds of the city. But what’s cool is how in the middle of a major city, there’s all these people focusing on this physical stillness. It creates this calming energy.”
All are welcome—even those of us who own nary a single purple crystal.
If the cheesy yoga clichés involve chakras, auras, and myriad flavors of tea, Stockamp is pretty much the mathematical opposite. “I’d taken some yoga in my 20s and hated it,” she says. “I was an aggressive Type A.” So much so, she says, that her therapist recommended she try, yes, yoga.
Even a type a can learn to chill.
Stockamp signed up for a 5:45 a.m. session to find her center. It took all of one try. “When I got up from that class, I found that place,” she says. “Yoga made me the person I am today.”
Got kids? For once, don’t sweat being late.
The not-quite-as-intense family class begins at 7:15 p.m. and ends when the main event does: around 8 p.m. The whole thing doubles as a fundraiser for Indy Yoga Movement, a nonprofit that brings yoga into local schools to teach mental discipline, concentration, and other things the average kid could probably use.
Cold hard fact: For all its focus on unity, mindfulness, and peace, yoga is also a business.
And Indy is home to lots of competing studios who provide teachers for the event. But the business stuff gets put aside. “For the day, we come together under this umbrella,” says Stockamp. “When you come together in a community in that way, with an intention and open heart, it’s real. It sounds hokey. But it’s real.”