At the opening party of YOGA : The Art of Transformation tonight.
Amidst fellow yogis and yoginis, some who just came out of the free yoga class with yoga mats slung on their shoulders, I asked what the draw of yoga is. It is not the latest cult sensation, although its longevity is stellar. The benefits of yoga go beyond the physical, that, I think is what makes it transcend age and time. The benefits are enjoyed not by virtue of youth or strength but by a commitment to be at peace off your mat.
Yoga’s popularity in North America is due to an Indian monk, Swami Vivekenanda who came to the US and lived in Chicago. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Yoga and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India and contributed to the concept of nationalism in colonial India.
Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission and his book Raja Yoga is one of the first yoga texts that speak of liberation of the human mind from the bondage of the body.
The miniature paintings of India has always fascinated me and the exhibit abounds with these intricate and color laden visuals. I would have engrossed in taking photographs but this was not allowed. The images and sculptures in stone, clay and bronze speaks through centuries and regardless of individual beliefs are worth some study.
On a personal level, the practice has brought me and Richard together, it keeps us together and like many yogis and yoginis in America, it has transformed our beings. We look at things differently, we breathe and are thankful that each breath opens up new mysteries. Though many continue to be unanswered, it brings us peace.
Our docent this evening, in explaining what environment is conducive to traditional yoga practice in India, said that it entailed four elements. The environment needed trees, the skies, preferably close to the water, and must not be too hot. That said, California and yoga are made for each other. Grabbed some exhibit materials to share with Richard’s students which I bagged into a large Lululemon shopping bag.
The exhibit was recently at the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum and is on at the Asian Art Museum here in San Francisco until May 25.