Yoga at The Smithsonian

First U.S. art exhibit on Yoga

Opens at The Smithsonian Institution

The possibly first ever art exhibit on Yoga in the Western world has opened in Washington D.C. through January 2014.  The exhibit’s name is

“Yoga: the Art of Transformation”

“Curators brought together Indian sculptures, manuscripts and paintings, as well as posters, illustrations, photographs and films to showcase yoga’s history over 2,000 years.” says the Huffington Post article,

Huffington Post as well as other big news agencies covered this story, which also speaks to the popularity of the topic across America.

Smithsonian Sackler Gallery:

Practicing Yoga in the Galleries

Yoga fascination

Yoga has been steadily growing in use and popularity over the past 50 years in the United States.  Frist it was just part of the ‘back to the Earth’ movement in the 1970’s.  I recall being a pre-teen practicing yoga in the mid 1970s with my mother on a weekly TV show – in Houston, Texas of all places!

Then in the 1980’s, I was lucky enough to take Yoga classes taught by one of my instructor’s husbands while attending Bard College.  This is where I learned Yogic eye exercises, some basic forms of yoga and some meditation practices.

 The yogic eye exercises began my open eyed experience of cultivating equanimity.  These exercises teach that no one object is more important than another, and assists with maintaining eye ‘accommodation’ at the same time.  Accommodation is our ability to see clearly and switch between close objects and far objects easily. 

From the ‘back to Earth’ and health movement of the 1970’s, to the spread of health clubs teaching yoga in the 1990s for fit and tight bodies, to Bikram Yoga’s Hot Yoga craze still in full swing today, America has embraced Yoga.

We have embraced Yoga for many different reasons, for the relaxation, the physically fit side effects for some, the connection with community for others, and the beginning of a Spiritual path for many.  I will not get into the modern age discussion of whether Yoga in a fitness club is still yoga, but suffice it to say, that the ancient sciences, the Truths of the Universe will always be applicable in people’s lives.

Yoga is one such path which can lead people to realize the true nature of their mind.  Even if the path begins with a corporate Yoga class or a fit body experience of Yoga, this is a beginning to understand that we are not our bodies.

We are not body

I will say that again.  We are not our bodies. 

The ultimate practice of Yoga has nothing to do with asanas – that is the various positions we put our bodies into.

The practice of Yoga is to realize the nature of our mind – to realize the nature ‘of Mind’.  The entire world is experienced through our perception of the Mind.  What we see, choose to look at, how we label and experience the world is all based on the Mind.

Yogic Eye exercises

For instance, Yogic eye exercises were one of the things I learned back in the 80’s at Bard College from that mysterious Yogi.

The Yogic eye exercises definitely helped my eye sight over the years, but they are really about training what and how we look at our world.  In a world where we are constantly being asked to “Look HERE” and advertisers are trying to “Capture our attention”, these practices cultivate a very different take on the world.

In the Yogic eye exercises, no one thing is prettier or more important than another.  Think about that.  What happens to our mind when we do not seek the ‘pretty’ things, or ooh and aah about how great something is.  What if it just IS?

Of course, discrimination – the ability to discern the difference between things – is also taught through Yogic practices.   So Yoga is not just about taking our emotions and wants down a notch, but increasing our ability to distinguish between fact, Truth and gibberish.

This is done through observation.  Observing the mind.  This is mindfulness.

Yoga is a lifetime study, a study of Self.  I only mention the idea here to get the ball rolling for some.  But this to me, is one of the real roots of Yoga practice, to understand the true nature of Mind.

The art exhibit at The Smithsonian will have some stellar examples of sculpture and documents on Yoga, I am sure. 

Doing Yoga at The Smithsonian

There will be yoga classes taught at The Smithsonian during the exhibit as well.  So, if you live in the area, I highly recommend looking at taking classes in the midst of this great art. 

“Guest teachers will lead yoga classes in the museum’s galleries on Wednesdays and Sundays. The museum also will host a symposium for scholars and enthusiasts on yoga’s visual culture.” – The Huffington Post mentions.

The Art of Living

The practice of the physical forms of yoga are a means by which we can begin to experience and open to our true nature, which is to be a gentle, loving, calm human being.

An aside about Asanas

The asanas, or the positions of yoga are actually full body mudras. More on this when I write about what mudras are.  Mudras are actually transmitters of information.   This little gem was transmitted to me by Dr. Bill Mitchell (a co-founder of Bastyr University), who taught yoga classes every Wednesday at a near by massage school.   I began my acupuncture practice in 1993, and was blessed to be one of the few and only health care practitioners to practice with Bill Mitchell, N.D.

The Yoga Exhibit will be in San Francisco in 2014.

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