Week 10: Namaste at the IMA [Score +13]
Have you ever done something ordinary in an unordinary location? That was my experience this week: I went to a yoga class at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Most Saturdays, the IMA hosts yoga classes inside one of the art galleries or, if the weather is nice, somewhere on the perfectly manicured grounds. One of my original goals for this Intrepid Introvert year was to finally do, see, and experience more of my hometown in ways that I ordinarily pass up, and this was precisely one of those activities. I’ve known of this Saturday class for a long time but have just never made the effort to actually get out and do it.
Was it worth it? Most definitely. I’ll be going again.
After arriving and checking in, we were led through the quiet, still-closed museum to a westward-facing gallery on the fourth floor. Floor-to-ceiling windows allowed us a rare view over the treetops that line the neighboring White River.
The walls of this gallery were bare but the gallery wasn’t empty: hanging from the ceiling was a sound installation composed of dozens of small black speakers suspended by simple, colorful wires. For the first 45 minutes of our class, calming background music played from our teacher’s bluetooth speaker. But as the hour of opening approached, electrified art installations throughout the building were turned on or activated, including in our gallery. Soft sounds of nature, like a bubbling brook and chirping birds, began to rain down on us from the speakers suspended overhead. After a few moments, unintelligible whispers and echoes of conversations taking place just out of earshot replaced the birds and water wounds. This auditory art became our new background music as our class came to a close.
I have a real weakness when it comes to understanding symbolism and meaning in art, whether it’s a dance piece, painting, soundscape, or work of literature. My mom and I once saw Pilobolus live, and I sat through the entire first half of the show having no idea what story(ies) were being told through their dance. (I see on their website that they can’t even find the words to describe themselves, so perhaps it’s not just me.) This was less than ten years ago; it’s not as though I was a child. I turned to Mom at intermission and said, “I have no idea what we just saw,” and she was shocked that I’d essentially sat through half of an abstract foreign film without subtitles. She whispered interpretations in my ear through the second half, which helped tremendously, but I still left feeling unsatisfied and confused.
So I have no idea what the sound installation in this gallery was supposed to convey. But it was a cool experience, even if I didn’t understand the message.
At the end of the class, after we reawakened from our savasana and said our final “namaste”, the woman sitting on my right leaned over and said, “Thank you for practicing next to me today. It was lovely.” We didn’t know each other, and hadn’t said a word beyond “good morning” before that, but it was a surprising, memorable, and warm-human note to end on.
I intend to go back again at least once this summer as the class moves outside to the museum grounds. Doing yoga in an unusual space was a lovely way to start my weekend, and I’ll look forward to enjoying it again.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Activity benefits my health/wellbeing: +1
- Burned real calories (so I got some exercise): +1
- Signed up for an activity without knowing anyone else involved: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3