Summer solstice was always welcomed with rituals and celebrations around the world since the ancient times. These days however, health buffs may have something new to look forward to.

The solstice festivals observed by ancient tribes that honor the sun and pagan gods may have changed over time but the revelries and events that mark the solstice carry on to these modern times. In a twist to religion and fertility-focused ancient solstice rituals, thousands of New Yorkers welcomed the first day of summer this year by gathering in Times Square for yoga sessions.

New York City may be a noisy metropolitan and the hustles and bustles of the city, particularly in Times Square, may not be perfect for a yoga meditation but those who participated in the yoga event on Saturday apparently found relaxation and inner peace in the "Solstice in Times Square: Altheta Mind Over Madness Yoga" event as instructors guided and led the participants in hour long sessions starting at 5:30 in the morning.

Thousands of yoga mats were laid out as participants, old and young alike, participated in sessions live streamed in the giant Times Square advertising screens. The organizers said that streaming the event and making the videos available online will allow people from around the world to virtually participate with the yogis and yoginis in New York who came to the event.

The 2014 Solstice in Times Square, which is already in its 12th year, is organized by the Times Square Alliance, a non-profit organization focused on improving Times Square so it can retain its qualities as a New York city icon.

"Back in 2003, we thought that there might be something to the idea of drawing on the energy of the sun to re-energize ourselves through stillness," Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins said in a statement. "Now, thousands of people are making a different kind of pilgrimage to Times Square, and under the bright light of the longest day of the year, they are bringing just a little bit of stillness, and a little bit of santosa, to this intense and crazy city that we love."

The physical and spiritual discipline of yoga originated from India but became widely popular worldwide because of its psychological and health benefits among others. Yoga practitioners claim that yoga improved their mood as well as boost their physical and mental health. 

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