The museum yoga trend where fine art meets downward dog

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Have you ever considered doing yoga at a museum? It’s a trend happening worldwide. Recently, the Louvre Museum in Paris invited people to practice among the masters as a promo for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

A group of people practice yoga in a studio, standing on mats in a warrior pose with arms extended. A colorful mural is visible on the wall behind them.
Check out the yoga trend at these U.S. museums. Practice sun salutations surrounded by art, history, science and sea life. Photo credit: Hilliard Art Museum.

Why museums host yoga classes

Downward dog with a Degas? Sun salutations with sculptures? Prayer squat at the planetarium? These are all of the movements you might experience when doing yoga at a museum, cultural center, aquarium, science center or more. At some of these locations, yoga in the galleries is a regular thing. In other places, these classes double as special events. 

There are a couple of reasons that museums nationwide are inviting yogis to roll out their mats and bring their yoga props to classes held in one-of-a-kind spaces. At the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, they wanted to make art accessible to everyone. So they thought a great way to invite new visitors would be through exercise classes. Now, on the second Sunday of every month, you can participate in classes that are part of what they call Movement in the Museum. In addition to yoga, you can also take mat pilates and tai chi classes.

The Saint Louis Science Center in Missouri uses yoga classes as a way to help participants learn about astronomy. Before each Yoga Under the Stars class, held regularly in the center’s planetarium, you get a 15-minute guided Star Show that explores the current night sky. Then, the lights stay low but the stars stay bright overhead for a 60-minute gentle, beginner yoga flow.

Feedback from museum-goers

At the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum + Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri, organizers kept hearing about how the aquarium atmosphere would make for a unique and relaxing location to host yoga classes, specifically restorative yoga. So, in 2020, they began offering yoga classes, dubbed SEArenity Yoga. They are held on the first and third Thursday of every month.

It was the same in Philadelphia, at the outdoor art installation called Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. This is a space where an artist turned vacant lots in the South Street neighborhood into a mixed-media mosaic museum and sculpture garden. “People found it such an inspiring and meditative place that we received a lot of requests for yoga classes,” said Allison Boyle, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens’ events and marketing manager. Now, during warmer weather, anyone can participate in the monthly yoga classes there.

Finally, at the Hilliard Art Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana, Yoga in the Galleries began in 2018 as a health initiative with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. When funding for the program ended, the museum continued offering it on the second Saturday of the month. “We maintain the program because participants and visitors love it,” said Ben Hickey, curator and interim museum director. “We continue to welcome first-time visitors to the Hilliard Art Museum as a result. Plus, we have so many regulars that come to the museum just for yoga.”

Partnering with local organizations and businesses

Sometimes it is local yoga studios or other organizations that partner with the museum or cultural center to bring classes inside their four walls. For example, Yoga on York is a wellness studio in Southern Maine. It holds summertime yoga flows at the nearby Ogunquit Museum of Art in Ogunquit, Maine.

In Hudson, Ohio, it was ​​Yoga Lounge & Barre that broached the idea of bringing yoga to the historic Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in 2018. Stan Hywet, located in nearby Akron, is a historic house museum that was originally the home of the co-founder of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. On the last Sunday of each summer month, people practice yoga together there.

Yoga on Six in Salt Lake City, Utah, helped create the Yoga with the Sharks program at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in nearby Draper, Utah. These hour-long, all-levels yoga classes happen once a month with a backdrop of sharks, fish and sea turtles.

In Richmond, Virginia, two local yoga organizations brought Saturday Salutations to life at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Dozens of locals, including blogger Liz Thomson, participated. “I loved being able to practice yoga in such a beautiful, calming space,” recalled Thomson. “It was amazing to be able to look out at the sculpture in the garden while doing yoga with so many others in my community.”

Cost to take museum yoga classes

Prices for museum yoga classes are as different as the locations that offer them. Many work on a donation or pay-what-you-can model. This is true at the aforementioned Hilliard Art Museum along with the Yoga in the Garden program at the Lightner Museum in Saint Augustine, Florida.

Some museums offer these classes for free. This includes the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri as well as the Georgia Museum of Art, part of the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.

On the other hand, some museum yoga classes cost about what you might pay for a one-off yoga flow at Peloton Studios New York or a local gym. At the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland, it is $20. Yoga Under the Stars in St. Louis is $25 per class.

Still, others have one price for museum members and another for the general public. For instance, the Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds, Washington, offers a four-week summertime yoga series. Museum members pay $16 per class, while non-members pay $20. Members can take yoga for free at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Non-members pay $10.

Finally, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has a Mindful Museum program geared towards participants ages 55 and older. This series runs approximately three months at a time and includes chair yoga every Wednesday. Museum members pay $55 for the series, which also incorporates many other classes and lectures. Non-members pay $85.

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Final thoughts

In addition to classes within museum walls, many also offer yoga sessions outside on their lawn, terrace or roof. So, if you are looking for a different way or place to practice, grab your mat and give yoga at the museum a try.

Leah Ingram writes the Southern Maine on the Cheap blog and practices yoga near her home in Kennebunk, Maine.

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