Recently I spent the day in London with an old friend from way, way back. I was interested to go to the All Too Human exhibition at the Tate. It seemed to me a rather eclectic collection of paintings (plus a few photos) from various artists which “celebrates the painters in Britain who strove to represent human figures, their relationships and surroundings in the most intimate of ways”.
I didn’t expect it to be easy viewing, and it wasn’t. Piles of flesh, unexpected angles and perspectives, uneasy textures. Nothing comforting, nothing obviously beautiful. Nothing like the simplistic conception I easily slip into, that art is soothing and easy on the eye!
You’ll gather that I’ve never been particularly interested in art and I don’t claim any knowledge at all! But I spend more time staring at the human body than ever before, so at least I begin to realise that there are different ways of perceiving (and therefore portraying), just as there are different levels on which I might view my students’ bodies and indeed my own.
Of course I too try for this not to be about aesthetics and surfaces and superficial prettiness. I try to view the young athletic girls and the hairy older men through the same lens; I try to view my own body through the same lens, striving for some objectivity and detachment no matter who I am looking at.
Reflecting on my reactions to this exhibition I am struck again by how much yoga influences my way of perceiving the world now, and as often as I feel I spend all my ‘spare’ time engrossed in only yoga, reading books on the theory of teaching, studying breakdowns of poses and all that… even despite this apparent narrow focus, yoga extends into all aspects of life and refuses to be contained. It opens my eyes to things I’d not noticed before or not been interested in.
My friend and I usually take a yoga class together when we meet up — no time this particular weekend. Instead just art and lunch. Very civilised. I can’t claim that the little party at my local yoga studio that evening (also very civilised) counted as yoga practice on this day either! Ha ha — the idea of ‘off the mat yoga’ could become a wonderful excuse for never getting on the mat in the first place!… An excuse that would be ‘all too human’ I think 🙂