WASHINGTON - JUNE 16: Tourists and visitors walk past the Smithsonian Institution Arts and Industries Building in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Hide Caption

Smithsonian takes yoga from the mat to the museum gallery with first-ever exhibit

a a a a
Share this story
Show Related Headlines
Related Articles
New U Square studio offering free yoga
Students ditch desks for yoga balls
Tri-State kids de-stress with yoga

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Yoga is moving from the studio mat to the museum gallery.

The Smithsonian Institution has organized what curators believe is the first exhibition about the visual history and art of yoga, its origins and evolution over time.

The Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery will showcase the exhibit, "Yoga: The Art of Transformation," through January. Later, it will travel to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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.

Museum Director Julian Raby said years of research behind the exhibit shed new light on yoga's meanings and histories.

"It examines for the first time a spectacular, but until now largely ignored, archive," he said. "That archive is India's visual culture of extraordinary yoga-related artworks created, as you will see, over some two millennia."

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.

Curator Debra Diamond said the Smithsonian borrowed some of the greatest masterpieces in Indian art as well as pieces that have never been shown before.

First the exhibit examines the concepts and practices of yoga traditions, including meditation and postures found in Indian art dating back hundreds of years. The first piece is an 11th century sculpture representing a yoga teacher, seated in the lotus posture with legs crossed to signify enlightenment.

Such sculptures were displayed in Hindu temples so people could see the teacher and "understand yoga's transformative potential," Diamond said.

Three life-size sculptures of yogini goddesses from Hindu temples illustrate the belief that female powers could be used to allow practitioners to achieve divine powers and enlightenment.

Later galleries examine how the idea of yoga was circulated worldwide, Diamond said. Early American posters depict yogis as magicians or "fakirs" performing acts, along with a 1902 film by Thomas Edison.

Perceptions of yoga helped determine how the tradition developed, and knowing that background is important for how Americans think about yoga today, Diamond said.

"There are so many debates and contestations about what yoga is in America," she said. "Is it a profound individual embodied system of transformation? Or is it the thing that spawned a $5 billion industry in which yoga is used to sell cars?"

The exhibit is funded in part by the Smithsonian's first major crowd-funding campaign, which raised $174,000 in six weeks. The Alec Baldwin Foundation also is a notable sponsor. Last year, Baldwin married a yoga instructor.

John Schumacher, a 40-year yoga practitioner and teacher in Washington who advised on the exhibit, said visitors will see there is much more to yoga than postures and breathing.

"It teaches where yoga comes from," he said. "You see there is a deep, philosophical underpinning to all of these practices and a variety of different philosophies."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More National News
Study: Girls view sexual violence as normal
Study: Girls view sexual violence as normal

New research from the journal Gender & Society shows girls view sexual violence as a normal part of life.

Mother of 3 shot, killed while on phone with 911
Mother of 3 shot, killed while on phone with 911

A 44-year-old mother of three was shot to death by her "hallucinating" husband while she was on the phone with 911, waiting for…

Little government response a year later
Little government response a year later

A year after homemade bombs ripped through the Boston Marathon, state and federal officials have enacted virtually no policy changes in…

Boston Marathon staff confident of safe race
Boston Marathon staff confident of safe race

The arrest of a man with a rice cooker in his backpack near the Boston Marathon finish line led police to step up patrols Wednesday, while…

Missing Neb. boy, 3, found safe in toy claw game
Missing Neb. boy, 3, found safe in toy claw game

A 3-year-old Nebraska boy is now safe after somehow crawling his way into a stuffed animal claw machine at a bowling alley across the street…

Male cop dresses as Amish woman to stop flasher
Male cop dresses as Amish woman to stop flasher

A western Pennsylvania police officer says he spent much of December and January dressed as an Amish woman in hopes of scaring off a man…

Man charged with marathon hoax held on bail
Man charged with marathon hoax held on bail

A man who authorities say was taken into custody near the Boston Marathon finish line carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker on the…

Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies
Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies

Negative campaigning and mudslinging may be a fact of life in American politics, but can false accusations made in the heat of an election be…

Dress codes: Where should schools set limits?
Dress codes: Where should schools set limits?

They're called leggings - popular fashion items that are tight-fitting pants to some, and glorified tights to others.

Boston PD safely blow up suspicious backpacks
Boston PD safely blow up suspicious backpacks

Survivors, first responders and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that…