This past Saturday the Weisman Art Museum held our first public “Yoga @ WAM” in partnership with CorePower Yoga. It was a wildly successful event, filling the Dolly Fiterman Riverview Gallery mat to mat, and it felt wonderful to begin a Saturday morning stretching out towards the river, surrounded by Edith Carlson paintings and large, bright windows. The class was a new step in a series of initiatives taken by the WAM staff and collective to integrate mindfulness and wellness into the Weisman experience.
At first the idea of yoga in an art museum may seem odd. We often think of museums as places where we must practice rigid self control, walking around quietly and contemplatively, being sure not to make too much noise or too big of movements for fear of damaging an art work. However, upon further thought, the ideas and goals behind the age old traditions of viewing art and practicing yoga are not too far apart. Both art and yoga seek to inspire unity, linking our bodies and our minds in multi-sensory experiences, and inspiring connection and understanding across cultures, time periods and geographic locations.
For our employees here at the Weisman, this idea is not a new one. Education Director and resident yoga instructor Jamee Yung has been leading Monday morning classes in the closed galleries, casually referred to by staff as “WAM Wellness”, since 2013. For Yung, and other members of the staff, the practice inspires a greater sense of community, providing the staff a shared weekly experience outside the daily work grind. It has enabled staff members to be more reflective and intentional throughout the rest of their workday, and has made us all a bit more flexible, both mentally AND physically.
I sat down with Jamee to hear more about her own yoga practice and her advice to those who want to give Yoga @ WAM a try.
When did you start practicing yoga and why?
I started practicing yoga about 16 years ago. I was struggling with Migraines and medications weren’t working. I got a yoga dvd from my mom and it changed my life. I went from having 2-3 migraines a week to having them 3-4 times a year. And I now know what my triggers are, so if I’m being present and paying attention to my body, I can easily avoid them.
How has yoga become a regular part of your life?
Yoga is more than just something I do for an hour. It has become engrained in everything I do. It’s a philosophy I use in my life everyday, that even my family takes part in. Yoga played a huge role in the birth of both of my children and now, as they are growing, it’s a part of their daily routine as well. We use it to help us focus, relax, and to help deal with how we are feeling.
How does your yoga practice influence your day to day decisions and interactions?
I think yoga has helped me to be more reflective and to calmly look at situations from multiple perspectives before reacting.
When did you start WAM Staff yoga and why?
People in the office knew I practiced and taught yoga and about 3 years ago, when the Director of the Weisman, Lyndel King, mentioned starting a health and wellness program it was suggested that we begin yoga classes. When asked if I’d be willing to teach them, I of course said yes! I now get to start my Monday by doing yoga in a beautiful space, the WAM galleries, and then walk upstairs to my desk. It’s a great way to start my week.
What is your favorite yoga pose or sequence?
There are a lot of poses I love on different days and for different reasons, but I always love downward facing dog. It stretches every part of your body and just feels so good!
What is your advice to for new yogis?
Don’t worry about doing it wrong! Yoga has become more popular recently and that’s great in many ways, but it has also made it less accessible – it is often seen as trendy, and only for skinny, fit people. But yoga is for everyone! People who are curvy, tall, short, moms, kids, dads, even babies (I used to teach a BYOB, Bring your own Baby, yoga class!).
Also wear your fun yoga pants! We try to coordinate our fun patterned pants at WAM.
How do you stay culturally competent and honor yoga’s Indian roots in your practice?
I try to read and stay current on research and relevant topics to my practice and also learn from others. Having multiple teachers to learn from keeps me aware and open to learning more. There is always more to learn. And staying true to myself and my practice is important.
If you missed Yoga @ WAM last Saturday and wish you would’ve gone, you’re in luck! The next addition is happening Saturday July 9th from 10:30 – 11:30 am at the Weisman Art Museum. Register now at z.umn.edu/wamyogajuly. And don’t forget your fun yoga pants!