Yoga at the Museum

A painter herself (and UCSD alumna), Hyde was the perfect fit for the special weekly class, though the instructor told the Guardian in a phone interview that the sessions are different from any she’s done before — for one, the artist had never taught outside a studio.

“It has different students every week,” Hyde said. “But when you go to a class at a yoga studio you get into a community and you sort of know who typically attends those classes at the time. This is all new people every week…It’s a different mix of people because it’s just open to this general public that would come to the museum, but it’s also people doing yoga.”

Hyde also can’t utilize one of the most fundamental tools of any yoga class: the walls, which are obviously covered in untouchable artwork.

“We are only able to do certain poses,” she said. “Typically in a yoga studio I’ll teach upside down poses like hand stands and shoulder stands, and I’m not able to do that. It has a little bit of a different vibe because people aren’t getting their heads upside down. So their brains are different — their attitudes are different.”

While Hyde said there isn’t enough time to discuss how they feel about the art in the short session, the participants may still have a more unique meditation experience.

“The feelings are extremely high,” Hyde said. “You get the strong ‘ah’ sort of feeling because the way the room is lit and the size and the grandness of the room.”

If anything, Hyde said, the air of exclusivity is enough to make it a worthwhile experience.

“I think they get sort of a tenderness,” she said. “They feel special. They feel like they’re kind of in a museum in a secret way because it’s after hours and there’s no one there but us and some security guards downstairs. So they get a little bit of this like secret adventure.”

Hyde teaches Iyengar yoga, which focuses on the physical alignment of the body — a type of yoga she’s practiced for over 25 years. She took her first class when she was 18 and attending Columbia University. (She left a year later and took several years off before attending UCSD as an archeology major.) The instructor happened to teach Iyengar — a rare style based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar — so Hyde has studied and taught the same style ever since.

But the participants at “Art In Context” may not know the instructor is an artist herself. Though the program doesn’t necessarily merge art and yoga quite so seamlessly — with participants often sweating more than they’re connecting with the artwork — Hyde’s own experience as a yoga instructor, painter, muralist and decorative painter proves the two practices have their commonalities.

“When I’m painting I’ve had experiences where I feel very much connected — connected to the sort of force of joy,” Hyde said. “And then when you do a yoga class you get a feeling of well-being and being connected to your body and the world around you. So I would say there are similarities to painting and reaching that sort of focus-space in yoga. You can almost say painting is a meditation and yoga is a meditation.”

“Art In Context: Yoga at the Museum” takes place every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the museum galleries until April 18. Admission costs $15.