Yoga At The Gallery

In this page Art to Heart’s followers write about their creative work and experiences.

I have been practising yoga, meditation and mindfulness for a number of years, and in 2017 having trained as a yoga teacher I began to think of ways to help others to experience the benefits of the practices. I really enjoy my work as a tour guide in the National Gallery of Ireland and had an idea to incorporate my interest in health and well-being. When the building reopened after extensive refurbishment, the Gallery was keen to welcome new visitors and to develop dynamic ways for regular visitors to engage with the spaces and the art works.

I teach yoga amongst the paintings in the Grand Gallery. It’s a beautiful space in the Dargan wing which dates from 1864, and the walls are covered with a selection of portraits and paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. I play uplifting music to create a calm environment and then we move slowly and mindfully through a range of yoga poses, gently releasing any tiredness and tension. I encourage the participants to notice how their bodies and minds are feeling, and to enjoy deep relaxation. I incorporate the paintings into the practice by telling their stories, and we take note of the colours, textures, light and details as we move.

I also give mindfulness tours once a month. After a short introduction with some inspirational quotes we sit on stools, close our eyes and move our attention inwards for a few moments. During the tour we look closely at an art work for 5-7 minutes in silence, and then we discuss what we noticed and how the work makes us feel. I choose a small number of art works for the tour, sometimes with a common theme, and at one of the works I like to engage the group in a looking meditation. This involves me asking a series of questions which the group answers in their own minds. We then share our responses to the questions and notice what came up for us. We engage in a lively discussion and it’s always fascinating to learn how different each person’s experience of the art works and the Gallery spaces can be.

The yoga sessions and the mindfulness tours are proving to be popular with a range of audiences, and the feedback has been very positive. My art practice with Jole has helped me to look closely at the world around me, to be creative and to think outside the box. And more than anything it encourages me to have fun and to try new things.

Mary Dowling

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