• Metaphysics & Mysticism

    • “Yoga: the Art of Transformation” is the first exhibition that is devoted to this practice. It gathers the most representative examples of this discipline while it questions the hype that has surrounded it over the past few years.

    The visual history of Yoga, an unprecedented exhibition / 

    Many people know of the Hindu origins of yoga. The discipline is widely known around the world as a source of health and spiritual balance, but the aspirations that led countless individuals to pursue the paths of yoga throughout the history of its practice are generally unknown outside the circles of serious study. And even less is known of its different meanings and its diversity. Thus, Yoga: the Art of Transformation presented in the Smithsonian, delved into this versatile subject from an accessible perspective: visual culture.

    This was the first time that a single exhibition gathered over 130 objects that date back to the third century; encompassing all pieces related to the Hindu culture until the twentieth century. “These works of art allow us to trace, often for the first time, yoga’s meanings across the diverse social landscapes of India," Debra Diamond, the museum’s curator of South Asian art, said in a statement. "United for the first time, they not only invite aesthetic wonder, but also unlock the past--opening a portal onto yoga’s surprisingly down-to-earth aspects over 2,000 years."

    This visual history questions some of the stereotypes of westernised yoga and clarifies the general confusion surrounding the infinite universe of the practice and its different styles: Hatha, Ashtanga, Tantra and Bhakti… Yoga, as this exhibition proves, is not about meditation mats and an obsession with organic foods. “It’s a shattering personal revolution” says Holland Cotter to the New York Times. “It’s about leaving home, going naked, fasting for years, freezing in winter, roasting in summer, being shunned by the living and lying down with the dead. It’s about perfecting your body in order to lose it, loosening your mind till the cosmos floods in.”

    Some of the most outstanding pieces in this exhibition include an installation that gathers three monumental yogini stone goddesses from a tenth century temple in Chola; ten pages from the first illustrated Asana series (yoga postures), created for a Mughal emperor in 1602; and the first film ever produced about India, called Hindoo Fakir(1906) by Thomas Edison.

    The Smithsonian’s exhibition ended on the 26th of January, but it will travel to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and it will also visit the Cleveland Art Museum on the 22nd of June. 

    Tagged: yoga, mind, body, Metaphysics & Mysticism