When I first started practicing yoga, I stuck religiously to my studio, but soon I realized that the spaces in which we do yoga play an important role in the narrative of our practice. Spaces affect how we feel and the level to which we’re able to connect with ourselves, our practice, our teachers, and to other people in the room. When I started paying attention to spaces, I realized I wanted to experience yoga in any unique space I could. I wanted to know what it was like to practice yoga with the sun shining in through stained-glass windows. I wanted to know how it felt under the heat of a mid-August sky, outside in the parks where I usually ride my bike. I wanted to do yoga while surrounded by beauty.
So imagine my delight when I discovered the Art Gallery of Ontario offers yoga classes. This was something I just had to see for myself, so on Monday, two friends and I headed to the AGO after work to check it out. It was, to say the least, an incredible experience.
The gallery isn’t open on Mondays, so after gathering downstairs, a group of around 15 of us were escorted up to the Galleria Italia, a gorgeous space with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the street below. Usually during gallery hours this is where you can stop to sip an espresso or enjoy a gelato, but tonight it was just for us. It was surreal walking through the gallery when it was closed. The lights were dimmed just enough to see the faintest hint of what my friend referred to as “the sleeping paintings.” It felt like we weren’t supposed to be there.
The sun was setting as we arrived at the Galleria Italia and I took a moment to truly take the space in. I have no idea how tall this galleria is, but the wooden architecture paired with the seemingly-infinite windows made it feel like it stretched up to the sky. Looking around, I could not wait to begin practice. It was a breathtaking setting for class.
Our teacher this evening was Grace Dubery. She led us through a series of poses inspired by the shape of the number 4. It was a welcome departure from my usual classes. One of the nice things about doing yoga some place new is that you usually get to try something new as well. We moved through a series of sun salutations and warrior poses maintaining the 4 shape with our legs, and while it was different (and difficult) at times, afterwards my hips felt like velvet. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and her teaching style. She was compassionate and understanding, while still challenging and encouraging. It was a perfect balance, a beautiful class in a beautiful space.
My only complaint, if you can even believe I have one, is that the lights were too bright. I enjoy a slightly darker setting for my classes (hence my recent post on candlelit classes) and I think if the lights were a little more dim, or if they at least dimmed during savasana, then it would have elevated the experience an extra level. Regardless, this was an amazing experience, a chance to do a class among a beautiful collection of art in an inspiring and truly remarkable space. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is offered an incredible three times a week! I will most certainly be back, and if you love yoga–and unique spaces–you really do need to experience this for yourself.
Thank you to the AGO for the amazing experience!
Yoga at the AGO is offered Mondays at 6 pm, Thursdays at 8 am, and Sundays at 10:15 am. Classes are $10 for members and only $12 for non-members (!!!), with discounted multi-class packages available for both.
Photos by Dean Tomlinson, courtesy of AGO.