By Ryleigh Hayworth
At 12:15 p.m. every Tuesday, students, faculty, staff and community members gather at the Grinnell College Museum of Art (GCMoA) to practice yoga among the current facilities. As the mats are rolled out and people arrive, GCMoA yoga participants enjoy a break from their busy days.
“To me, yoga can start on a sticky mat, whether it’s here or anywhere else, but ultimately you want to get it off the mat,” said instructor Jackie Hutchison. “That’s really where the magic happens.”
Before Hutchison started teaching yoga at GCMoA, she participated in the classes, which have been running for over a decade. When the former instructor left, Hutchison took on the role, saying she “felt truly honored to be asked to do so.” She appreciates that this opportunity attracts more than just the art crowd and attracts students who otherwise might never have visited the art museum.
“I think there’s this notion that yoga is for flexible people, for athletes. And really yoga is for everybody, especially in this forum. It’s a very friendly place to try,” said said Hutchison.
Curator of University and Community Outreach, Tilly Woodward, who has worked at GCMoA for 15 years, loves the museum for the way it brings campus and community together. One of his goals in his work is to “make the museum a welcoming place where people can interact with art in different ways”. By hosting yoga in the museum, participants spend more time enjoying the art before, during and after practices.
“There’s a real benefit to punctuating your life with a work of art and letting yourself be called by the work of art you need to see today,” says Woodward. “There are definitely physical benefits in terms of strength and flexibility as well as practicing the breath and being present in your body in the moment.”
Yoga in the museum offers a different route for individuals to fit physical activity into their busy schedule. Hutchison points out that this eliminates the steps of getting changed, going to the bear, showering and then rushing to the next thing, but instead allows time for stretching and breathing.
“These stretches are a way to hook people, to bring them back,” Hutchison said. “I think so often it’s the avenue through the body that gets people here and then there’s the potential to connect to the spirit.”
Currently, most participants are staff and faculty, but there are students who participate. Hutchison mentions a student who stumbled upon yoga class while looking at the art. She invited him to join the class, and he’s attended every session since.
“The exhibit was really cool, it was like doing yoga on some kind of alien planet,” said staff member Jane Mertens. “It was nice to be able to do yoga in this space.”
The practice is directed to different pieces as focal points each week, carefully chosen by Woodward, who says certain pieces “lend themselves better to meditative engagement.” The safety of the artwork is also a crucial factor in choosing the practice area.
“Because I’m in and out of the museum, and often very busy leading groups or hosting an event, having a moment where I’m more still and more intentional by being connected to myself and the environment around me. surrounds is a real gift,” Woodward said.
Practices provide a valuable opportunity to come together in search of a peaceful pause and gentle movement.
“I hope they [attendees] get 35 minutes off from the mental chatter and before you rush to the next thing,” Hutchison said.
During the pandemic, Woodward and Hutchison have worked together to create GCMoA virtual yoga classes, which are available on YouTube. Yoga in the museum will continue every Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. until March 15.