Yoga in Art Museums: Growing Trend?

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The Munson-Williams Proctor Art Institute in Utica, NY is jointly housed in a 1960 Phillip Johnson building and a 1850 Italianate mansion and features more than 25,000 American, Asian & European art objects (including works by Copley, Dali, Frankenthaler, Gorky, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Picasso, Pollock, Rothenberg, Rothko, Stella, Warhol, & Whistler).

On Saturday mornings, the museum hosts yoga in the galleries, it’s called Art and Yoga: For Mind, Body and Spirit.

According to their website:

Art and Yoga takes place in a variety of the museum’s galleries. Each session begins with a 15-minute introduction to a work of art by Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Mary E. Murray, followed by one hour of yoga and meditation led by certified yoga instructor, Barbara Hays Klein.

I can’t imagine a better way to start off the weekend and I sure hope some of those classes are in the same room as their awesome “No.18” (1951) by Mark Rothko.

What do you think the chances are of convincing MoMA to let a yoga instructor lead a class in a room full of Pollocks? Or how about by the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum?

Turns out there are yoga classes in many museums, including in the Asian galleries of the Ackland Museum at the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, by the statue of 600 year old Chinese Buddhist Goddess of Mercy at the Baltimore Museum of Art, in the Asian galleries of the Walters Art Gallery (pictured below via Flickr) and in the atmospheric galleries of UPenn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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Earlier this month, artist Leslie Dill, who is showing at the Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, TN, took it one step further and according to the Hunter website, she asked her audience to respond to her work through yoga:

…[she] is very interested in Eastern thought, meditation and the power of words…Join us for a unique yoga experience in the gallery as her works speak to us and as we respond through yoga.

11 responses to “Yoga in Art Museums: Growing Trend?”

  1. I love the combination. MoMA did let a yoga happening occur on the last day of Pippilota Rist’s Pour Your Body Out, but I can’t imagine yoga classes at any of the major NYC museums. If only..

  2. In the 1980s the staff at the Corcoran did yoga in the galleries for our own betterment and camaraderie. ‘Great way to share an experience with your fellow employees outside of installing an exhibition or thinking about the next grant.

  3. A friend of mine who is from the East, found this idea revolting. I, however, think we Westerners need a reminder that Yoga is not just exercise but carries other important aspects that can also be embraced. We could use some Eastern thought to temper some of our more Western mundane attitudes. If one lives in the West, it could take a lifetime to reflect some of these ideas, but trying is worth the effort. I would love to do yoga in the environs of Buddhist Art. Even just walking into one of those galleries has made me feel quiet during very unquiet times in my life.

  4. I started the Yoga program at The Baltimore Museum of Art over three years ago. For me, it was a long standing dream to combine two of my passions and provide students with a yoga program that supported the mission of the BMA by educating participants about the artwork. Originally the class was approved for a one-time series, but because of member and general public demand it has continued to flourish. Beginner and Advanced Yoga students have now learned about objects while practicing asanas in galleries for Contemporary, African, American Modernism, and European art, as well as in the BMA’s Sculpture Garden. A Meditate with a 600-year-old Goddess class always focuses on the BMA’s beautiful Guan Yin.

    What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating and teaching these classes has been the response elicited by the students for the art they are learning about. In fact many of my students do further readings after we have discussed a particular artwork and/or artist. They are interested in microclimates, why certain works are under glass, whether frames are original or not, where the artist was trained, and how an art historical argument is created. Although I have participated in many tours over the years, I feel that the powerful meditative aspects of Yoga helps the students to slow down, find their center, be in the present, and to not just look but actually see.

  5. Thanks for letting us know Brianna. Btw, how do your routines change according to the type of art on view? Meaning, are certain postures preferred in the contemporary galleries versus the African ones?

  6. Hi Hrag,

    The space that the class is being held in typically limits the type of postures that may be used. In the large Contemporary gallery we are able to do a lot of standing postures. For example, one week I focused on a large beaded curtain by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Water). Since Gonzalez-Torres was interested by interaction, interconnectedness, and the idea of viral art, I had the students line up in two rows facing each other on either side of the curtain and reach their hands through to practice partner yoga while I told them about Gonzalez-Torres life and his work.

    In the African collection gallery, which is a much narrower space, we practiced Chakra Yoga (the seven energy centers according to the yogic philosophies). In the class focusing on the Solar Plexus Chakra, we discussed a ceremonial Tobacco Pipe from Cameroon, Grasslands. This object lent itself to the discussion of the chakra perfectly not because smoking involves the lungs, but because smoking can be both mundane or be elevated to the level of ritual, just like the breath can be both a conscious or an unconscious act.

    If you are in the area, I would love to have you stop by and join a class in the future!

  7. I find it very helping if the art is of Yoga nature. I forgot the name of that indian artist who had exhibition on yoga, it was a wonderful experience, so it matters what kind of art it is.

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