Tag Archives: Art of Yoga

The Freer-Sackler Gallery’s exhibit “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” Fall 2013, Washington, DC

Closure for Yoga: The Art of Transformation in Cleveland

Yoga: The Art of Transformation will end its stay at the Cleveland Museum of Art on September 7. It opened on June 22. It also had a term at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, February 21-May 25.  Thus will end the ground-breaking exhibit of Indian art and yoga that the Smithsonian’s Freer-​​Sackler Gallery put together.  Debra Dia­mond, the exhibit cura­tor, and a long list of collaborators and supporters should be pleased with its reception around the country. The videos from the “Yoga and Visual Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium” in November last year are available online.

Sonya Quintanilla, the Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, narrated the exhibit, accompanied by some pictures of the displays.

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Curator of “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” gives a “preview” of the exhibit

How did I miss this! Debra Diamond, curator of the “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibit at the Freer-Sackler Gallery, spoke before the Yoga Alliance Conference on “The Business of Yoga” in mid-2013. It took place before the exhibit opened. Debra  presented the broad brush strokes of the exhibit ,and the rush of joy and comprehension that came from pulling together the diverse parts of the exhibit and laying out stories that told of the emergence and transformation of yoga.  It’s 40 minutes long and has a few slides from the exhibit to illustrate her points. She did a great job of underscoring the messages that they want to transmit. YA has an article on her presentation.

I remind all visitors to this blog that there is only one week left to see the exhibit before it decamps for extended visits to San Francisco and Cleveland, and then never more to be seen. I hope that any self-respecting DC yogi has made time to see the exhibit.

Continue reading Curator of “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” gives a “preview” of the exhibit

NY Times critic makes trip to see DC yoga art exhibit

Holland Cotter, the New York Times staff art critic, published an article about the “Yoga – The Art of Transformation” exhibit at the Sackler Gallery on the DC Mall (only until January 26). He liked it:

NYTimes.com Eons Before the Yoga Mat Became Trendy
The fact is, yoga was always rational, and more so in its old, extremist forms than in its present domesticated version. How else would you characterize a spiritual discipline that directly and boldly addressed life’s most intractable problem, the persistence of suffering, and took practical, but radical steps to do something about it? To alter the rules of the existential game, it redefined the possible. What’s great about the Sackler show, apart from the pleasures of its images, is that it not only lets us see the history of that practice in action, but understand how radical it was — and is — and take that seriously.

Cotter has a good eye for revealing details and incarnate contradictions, which he sprinkles throughout his article. This was not a fly-by snapshot that he fit in between New York galleries and major artists: he saw the art and let it affect him.

Yoga and its application in health and wellness

Photo: ornamental shrine in bronze, India
Siddha Pratima Yantra, Western India, dated 1333 (Samvat 1390) Bronze, 21.9 x 13.1 x 8.9 cm Freer Gallery of Art, F1997.33

The next major event of the Yoga: The Art of Transformation exhibit is the Medical Yoga Symposium to take place on the weekend of January 11-12, 2014. The first day with the theme of “Discovery and Didactics: Professional Perspectives and Personal Stories” will be in the Meyer Auditorium at the Freer-Sackler Gallery while the second day (Master Classes, Experiential Workshops,  3-hour intensives and Discussions ) will take place at the Marvin Center of the George Washington University. Participants should be prepared to get down on the mat.

The event will be led by a lot of heavy hitters in the American yoga scene, especially those devoted to yoga therapy and related applications, as well as medical researchers, doctors and psychiatrists—more than 20—too many to list here so you can consult the flyer or the website for more details. It is shaping up to be as thought-provoking and body-shifting as the yoga symposium in November.

The event is being organized by the Gallery, the Center for Integrative Medicine at George Washington University Medical Center and Therapeutic Yoga of Washington, DC. Because the two-day event is not only an exposition, but a teaching event (attendees are eligible for continuing education credits), it comes with a cost: $180 the first day, $100 the second day. Student and group pricing is available.

Topics include:

  • Evidence-based Integrative Health Practices
  • Yoga Practice in Modern Society
  • Yoga as a Therapeutic Intervention
  • Transformations in Modern Medicine
  • Scientific Research on Yoga and Yoga Therapy

“Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibit will remain at the Freer-Sackler Gallery until January 26, when it will go on a road show to San Francisco and Cleveland. Several special events are planned for the final week.

Straps have been yoga props for centuries

There was so much information saturating us during the yoga symposium that I’ve barely had an opportunity to review my notes and impressions. One of the things that came up was that several people noticed that many of the Indian temples showed figures of yoginis (female demi-gods, not the current use as female yogis) using yoga straps (yogapatta) to bind their legs in cross-legged position, leaving their knees raised off the ground.  I did a quick search through the PDFs of the Yoga: The Art of Transformation catalog (page 146 for one reference) and found at least three illustrations that demonstrated using a strap to hold a seated posture:

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Symposium’s message: yoga is more than vogue, Part Two

Photo: yogi seated in purification circle
Ascetic yogi in India – photo by James Mallinson

Following up on my previous commentary on the yoga art exhibit, I want to express my frustration about trying to make meaningful remarks about the exhibit, symposium and catalog. Here we have a major trans-global intellectual enterprise about yoga, past, present and future. Major authorities participate in the conceptualization of the the enterprise, its visual nature fills the eyes with light, the juxtaposition of artifacts sets off ripples of imagination, the road map points in multiple direction of investigation and meditation.

I see a picture of an Indian ascetic seated in Lotus pose and I myself am seated in easy pose (Western hips don’t lie), and I feel a connection across the centuries, across the oceans, across the cultural and language barriers.  I can feel it in my bones, tissues,  blood and breath because yoga affects the physical bodies of all human beings the same way—it’s in our DNA, our genetic code. But the meaning is not. That’s why the physical practice, hatha yoga, is the most easily and directly assimilated by Westerners. Continue reading Symposium’s message: yoga is more than vogue, Part Two

Art of Yoga Exhibit catalog now available online

yogacover003 The Freer-Sackler Gallery has put up a special page for the extraordinary catalog that they produced for the “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibit currently showing in Washington, DC, through January 25, 2014. As I mentioned before, this book is a must-have for anyone seriously interested in the history and evolution of yoga into a worldwide phenomenon. I had been unable to find a dedicated page on the site before today so it must have gone up yesterday or early today.

In an exceptional gesture, the Gallery is making a substantial part of the catalog available in PDF format.  The Gallery is in effect foregoing catalog sales in order to promote wider availability and access. My judgment would be to buy the book as well as getting the PDFs: Continue reading Art of Yoga Exhibit catalog now available online

Symposium drives home message: yoga is more than vogue

Photo: entrance of museum with large banners
Freer-Sackler Gallery organized the first major exhibit of yoga-inspired art.

The second day of the “Yoga and Visual Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium” culminates a long process that began in the summer of 2009 when the Gallery brought together scholars for two interdisciplinary colloquia, which is a break from precedent for most Smithsonian initiatives. So in a sense, the exhibit/symposium had several exploratory discussions and then an extended period of research, planning, writing, editing, peer review and then execution of the physical display and the catalog.

Meanwhile, outside the scholarly confines of the Smithsonian Institutes, yoga as expressed in mainstream culture (North America, Europe and even newer frontiers in  Asia) has been growing. In the United States, its spread has taken on the trappings of snake-oil salesmen (“Yoga can cure diabetes and bad posture!”). Among Hindus, both in India and here in the United States, there has been deepening despair that yoga has been cut loose from its historical moorings. In addition, many American yogis have had their eyes opened to the flaws in their one-dimensional vision of yoga as a 2000-year-old, immutable practice that taps into transcendental truths. Continue reading Symposium drives home message: yoga is more than vogue