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Sackler Gallery Explores History of Yoga In New Exhibit

Hilaria Baldwin teaches yogic concepts to students from D.C.'s Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Lauren Landau
Hilaria Baldwin teaches yogic concepts to students from D.C.'s Duke Ellington School of the Arts

On a Friday morning, students from D.C.'s Duke Ellington School of the Arts gathered at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, where they spread out on rubber mats, following directions from yoga instructor Hilaria Baldwin.

The class was offered as part of Yoga: The Art of Transformation, which is on view through January 26. In college, Baldwin majored in art history and specialized in South Asian art. She says the collection demonstrates that, despite what some people think, yoga isn't a passing trend.

"A lot of people call yoga a fad, and to look at these pieces that are very, very, very, very old, they can show us why it's so important that we're still doing yoga. It shows us the roots and why it's been around for so long."

Exhibition curator Debora Diamond says the exhibit, which includes more than 130 sculptures, paintings, illustrated manuscripts, printed books, films and photographs, explores roughly 2,000 years of yogic identities and concepts. She's been working on yoga-related topics since the 1990s, but says there's still much to learn.

"Yoga as a subject continually grows," she says. "As a historical phenomena, it is always more diverse than I expected. It's filled with unanticipated turns. I'm truly a student."

Visitors can put the art in context with yoga workshops, which will be offered two to three times a week in the gallery space.

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