Yoga Community Supports World’s First Yoga Exhibit at the Smithsonian


Today, yoga is a rapidly evolving and varied discipline practiced by more than 20 million Americans and coming this fall, the yoga community will welcome a deeper examination of this ancient art during a groundbreaking exhibit.

The Smithsonian has recently announced that the world’s first exhibition devoted to the art of yoga will be set to go on display October 19th through Jan 26th 2014 at the museums’ Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.  “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” showcase’s a vast collection of temple sculptures, devotional icons, illustrated manuscripts, court paintings, photographs, books and films that aim to trace yoga’s journey from an ancient art and philosophy reaching back to 500 BCE to today’s modern physical practice and booming yoga community.


For dedicated practitioners and teachers like John Hayden, Board President of the Iyengar Yoga Association of Northern California, it’s a welcomed perspective. “The beauty of this exhibition is that it shows a broader audience there’s so much more to yoga than a yoga butt or stretchy pants,” Hayden said.  “It opens their eyes to the practiced art form Mr. Iyengar has long spoken of and that the Iyengar community understands and embraces.”

In a new twist, the exhibit also marks the Smithsonian’s foray into crowdfunding to support the extensive schedule that includes a family festival, free programs, videos, pamphlets and yoga classes during the exhibition. “Putting together an exhibit this large, showing more that 135 works from around the world, is a huge undertaking,” said Allison Peck, Head of Public Affairs & Marketing for the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries.  “We’d done some focus groups within the yoga community and it was their idea,” said Peck. “So far more than 100 ‘Yoga Messengers’ have committed to take the materials we’ve provided into their community to spread the word and raise funds. It’s a very supportive community and they turned out to be our best advocates.”


One of the campaigns enthusiastic yoga messengers is Heather Haxo Phillips, owner of Adeline Yoga, a yoga studio in Berkeley, CA. “It’s such a rich and deep cultural art form that it’s important to share its history and traditions,” Haxo Phillips said. “Our modern yoga practice is constantly evolving, but it’s critical for American yogi’s to understand the roots of their own practice.” John Hayden agrees, “We look at yoga as a ‘work out,’ but classically, yoga is a ‘work in’, it’s a process of involution, a journey inward.”

The show will travel to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2014. For more information and to learn how you can support the exhibit watch the video below.

All Images: Smithsonian

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.