Art Meets Yoga All Around Tampa Bay

Find focus and inspiration at a yoga and art event at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in downtown this weekend.

"Yoga is an art and science of living." — Indra Devi

We are all artists in some way.

When a yoga student transforms into an animal through a posture like , or into , there is a moment of abstraction and distilling. You take on the essence of a posture and in the becoming re-create it. In the art of asana yoga, in every posture we become a witness to ourselves. In the finding of new pathways, your creations are realized.

Today’s yoga class contains all of the right ingredients to open the imagination. Thoughtful dialogue, strength of movement, enchanting music and kirtan singing can feed your creative genius, lead you to your true self and allow your inner artist to surface.

Connecting to the artist inside can help you expand, open and create new ideas for climbing out of those rusty ways of looking at your struggles. Because yoga involves us in a type of urban ritual, any personal belief system can be incorporated into the strength and the silence of the practice. The art of finding the postures within ourselves then turns into a deeper understanding of how the postures help us find the inner flexibility of the mind and reinforce our beliefs.

Yoga is a tool to incorporate into living. Just as a chef needs knives and a painter needs brushes, the yoga student need the tools of breath and focus, and sometimes guidance and props. It’s not uncommon for live music, poetry, dance and lighting to be integrated into a yoga asana class or to find local art hanging at your local yoga studio. During the grand opening of White Orchid Tampa, several local artists temporarily decorated the walls of the studio with vibrant, imaginative paintings.

Through any posture, like  or low lunge, you’ll see how yoga can activate the inner artist, just as a painting from Degas of a ballerina can inspire a yoga teacher to create a whole sequence of postures. Like the intersection of a Degas, this rich environment attracts many artists to teaching.

Caroline Babis, an artist, and Eric Wheeler, a yoga teacher (and my husband), joined together recently at Yoga Downtown Tampa to bring art and yoga together. The free event was open to the community to preview a series of paintings titled the Chakra Series. Babis was inspired to paint seven flowers in this series based on her dedicated yoga practice and study. And my husband taught the class from the artist's perspective, viewing the painting and using the paintings for narrative inspiration.

Downtown Tampa will host another event that fuses art and yoga this weekend: Yoga Tampa Bay's second Yoga United Holiday Social + Art Show Fundraiser. Donations benefit the the Mahila Partnership, "a grassroots non-profit organization serving the unmet needs of communities by investing in education, public health and sustainable development initiatives while promoting disaster risk reduction and gender equality,” according to its website. The event is from 7 p.m.-midnight Saturday, and a $20-$25 donation is suggested.

Yoga Tampa Bay founder Nathan Bangs hosted the event last year at The Heights. This year, it’s at The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.

“I thought this is was a great way for our wellness community to come together, see the museum's current installation, include the work of local artists rooted here in Tampa, meet on a social level and make a donation for a great cause,” Bangs said. Several community yogi-artists will participate, he said.

I asked yoga teacher Laura Tillinghast, who owns Inspire Yoga, what attracts people to practice yoga in a museum.

"By simply entering a museum, your mind opens and your heart lifts to the possibility of inspiration. You look to the external — the work on the walls, the sculpture, even the building — to make an impression," Tillinghast said. "By practicing yoga in these spaces, we harness the inherent energy of the art around us and consciously shift the awareness to the internal, connecting with our own inspiration within. At the end of class, you find yourself open and free while in a beautiful environment that is also open and free, the internal and external in a beautiful harmony. A museum is truly a unique and inspiring place to practice yoga. We are fortunate to have museums in the Tampa Bay area that feel the same way."

Inspire Yoga offers classes at the Tampa Museum of Art from 9:30-10:45 a.m. Saturdays and at The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg from noon-1:30 p.m. Sundays. For information, visit the museum websites or email ltillinghast@gmail.com.

At the precise moment your voice of resistance speaks to you, the sentences and words that only cause self doubt, like “You are not an artist,” check yourself.  Remember that you are blessed with the creative genius that makes us human.  Listen to the voices that give you energy and light, and defeat the words with the mantra, “I am an artist; I am a creative genius."

Use your genius, your light, your sun to burn those clouds of resistance.


Jack Casey December 06, 2011 at 12:38 PM
I wish I had known about this event. I could have donated a piece. Jack Casey


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