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Transformers, yoga in disguise.

May 6, 2014

20140506-200944.jpgSo, I went to the Asian Art Museum today to check out its very well publicized  yoga exhibit. I don’t know that I left myself enough time to explore it because here I am now, trying to recall it and all I can manage is a nagging reminder that the exhibit is about art (granted yoga is the subject of the art) and not specifically about yoga (I mean, that was my perspective anyway).

My thoughts right now, without researching the curation behind the exhibit, are as follows: there are now many new yoga books I want to buy/read; depictions of Shiva’s bull Nandi are rad and Nandi is a great name for a future pet; magnifying glasses are provided in the exhibit and are frequently necessary.

I have, however, now researched the curation behind the exhibit which is divided between three galleries and three themes; Yoga and the Body, Yoga and Power, Yoga and Science.

The first gallery I entered was, thankfully, I’m finding out now, the beginning of the exhibit (I could have easily entered any gallery and not have had a clue). This gallery was stocked with the old, foundational pieces that demonstrated yoga’s origins as a way to transcend the condition of human suffering. Here you can see a lot of really old sculptures, complete with missing limbs. Huzzah! My highlights here were the “yogini” sculptures which were used in demonstrating some key principles of the Tantra tradition. Ne’er was I aware of the flying, blood drinking yoginis. I consider myself educated now, and will probably, henceforth, avoid referring to myself or anyone else as a yogini lest I should conjure busty, bloody soaked, flying tantra ladies. Also in this gallery are some very intricate paintings that I spent time staring at in very close proximity.

In the subsequent gallery I finally figured out why everyone had been carrying around magnifying glasses and joined the crowd of people actually seeing  the intricacies of the paintings. Apparently, this gallery’s main deal is showing “real and imagined” sites where yoga was practiced. That was obviously lost on me. I internalized a sense of amazement at the tiny tiny tiny details of the paintings, but also took notice of a few more things. It was in this gallery that I saw a concerted effort to show depictions of female yogis (notice, not calling them yoginis, GAH!), which I found interesting, and greatly appreciated. Also, I got to gawk and more 19th century depictions of yogins/fakirs which are always super interesting. (Envision men covered in ash, head topped with natty dreads, doing all sorts of craziness.)

After squandering almost all of my allotted time in the first two galleries, I got into the third and found most of the exhibits to be very familiar. Projected on the main wall were video clips of Krishnamacharya and Iyengar doing yogasana craziness. I had seen some of these already, but tried to watch anyway. The format of the video is very distracting and my brain refused to take in the information being presented. Can someone please tell me why it could possibly be a good idea to show 6 videos simultaneously, divided on a close grid? Ehhhh… Aside from all that, I skimmed through some of the modern, health related text and illustrations about yoga. There was also something about Vivekanada, but it seemed disjointed to me.

On my way out I hit the gift shop and restrained myself. There were about 4 books I wanted to buy, and about 7 different flavors of incense. I purchased nothing. Hooray for me.

I enjoyed the exhibit, but feel like I could benefit from another trip. I also feel like I don’t want to pay for that, so if anyone wants to take me, I’m game. I mean, I guess it isn’t that expensive. To put it in perspective, a trip to the museum to understand more deeply the true nature of Yoga is about the exact cost of one 1hr yoga class at any given studio. Perhaps, the “yogis” of San Francisco can swap out their next power yoga class to really understand what it is they’re up to while gettin’ down on the mat.

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