Combining art and meditation

This past weekend, the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery hosted a unique event exploring the connection between art and meditation.

The practice of yoga has different applications for everyone.

For some, it is a way to improve one’s flexibility and physical well-being, to help achieve a toned body, reduce stress and acquire better posture.

Others take the practice of yoga one step further, choosing to utilize it as a means to achieve higher levels of self-awareness and a sense of spirituality.

Although commonly mistaken as a sub-type of religion in the same vein as Buddhism, yoga is not a religion.

Yoga is really more of a physical and mental discipline akin to a philosophical practise rather than a religious one.

Yoga is also a progressive process; the mind and body will continue to move forward as one achieves and experiences new areas of enlightenment.

Taking yoga yet a step further is Queen Street Yoga Director Meaghan Johnson at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.

What Johnson has done is bring together the experience of yoga meditation and art in order to give participants a heightened perspective.
KWAG’s experience of art through yoga was a two hour workshop put on by Johnson in the Art Gallery’s new programming space.

The workshop was designed for all types of yogis, from beginners to experts, from young to old.

Participants required no prior experience with yoga or contemporary art.

Johnson has been teaching yoga for eight years, and teaches a blend of Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga in addition to meditation techniques from the Buddhist tradition.

The new programming space has allowed Johnson the opportunity to fulfill her dream of teaching yoga at the art gallery.

The workshop began with stretching and meditative techniques designed to enhance the capacities of awareness and feelings of presence in the body.

Participants then wandered through the galleries focusing upon three elements of experience and perception in relation to art: the physical, the emotional and the cognitive.

While walking through the exhibits, positive or negative responses to the art evoked physical change like tension or release in the body and determined whether participants were interested or bored by the pieces on display.

Speaking to The Cord, Johnson said, “I’ve always thought of art galleries as a playground of experience. Here, we can be more open to experiences, and meditation really enhances that.”

She continued, “Art galleries are an awesome place for practice. Often the feeling is that we need to know art in order to go to galleries. We are always focused on knowing what the art means or what the artist is saying.”

Johnson concluded, “This sort of practice helps us look at art as our experience, exterior to what the art ought to say. How we see and perceive art can and should be our own experience.”

Promising to be a unique and informative experience, Johnson’s next workshop will be this coming January at the Clay and Glass gallery in downtown Waterloo.

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