Summary List Placement
I showed up to New York City’s Pier 36 with bloody hands and a negative attitude.
I’d overindulged on craft beer and chocolate tarts the night before for a wedding tasting, and, already five minutes late to my destination — an 8 AM yoga class in the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit — I ditched my malfunctioning Citibike then tripped on a curb, cutting up my knees and palms and shattering what was left of my dignity.
In theory, if anyone needed a yoga class to reset, it was me. In reality, all I wanted was a Gatorade and a swimming pool — my preferred method of getting my life back on track.
But stepping into the exhibit was like leaving the universe — a blessing for a sweaty, haggard New Yorker. The yoga class going on in the middle of it was just an excuse to stick around. I scurried to a mat to join in.
Immersive Van Gogh is a traveling interactive art exhibit.
The exhibit contains more than 500,000 cubic feet of Van Gogh’s artwork displayed through animated projections and choreographed with music.
Press materials say it aims to reflect Van Gogh’s “highly emotional and chaotic inner consciousness through art, light, music, movement and imagination.”
Stepping in feels like taking an edible: it opens the aperture of your senses.
I’m pretty inexperienced cannabis consumer, but the feeling of expansiveness reminded me of the handful of times I’ve been high.
Describing it as IMAX meets art gallery meets live theater doesn’t quite do it justice.
The yoga class took place beneath moving images like the Starry Night and Cafe Terrace at night.
The 35-minute flow, led by Dasha Alekseyeva, founder of Sputnik Yoga, was pretty basic.
There were lots of downward dogs, chaturangas (low planks), lunges, and warrior poses, or where your feet are rooted and your hands outstretched overhead in a sort of power pose.
It was hard to focus on which knee to touch to which elbow or maintain a straight-forward gaze.
With sunflowers cascading over the walls and floor one minute and Van Gogh’s self portrait floating around you the next, I sometimes forgot I was supposed to be doing yoga.
I was grateful the poses were familiar even to me, someone who takes about one yoga class a year, so I could soak it all in.
I lost my balance a few times in tree pose and refused to close my eyes during savasana.
The sights and sounds made balancing especially challenging. And, if I’d appropriately performed the ending pose — where you lay still with your eyes closed to quiet the senses — I would have regretted missing out.
One guy in the back couldn’t be bothered with the yoga at all: He just lay on his mat the whole time, taking in the visions and music. I didn’t blame him.
The surround-sound music that swung from electronic to ethereal and orchestral to joyfully operatic.
It made the experience all the more transcendent, however at some points it was difficult to hear Alekseyeva’s instructions.
The yoga instructors choreograph their flows to match the score, but, truthfully, I couldn’t tell. Perhaps a more advanced yogi would.
Yoga at Immersive Van Gogh began in Toronto after a local instructor approached the exhibitors with the idea.
Leslie-Ann Dominy of Lighthouse Immersive, the company behind the exhibit, told me the sessions swiftly sold out.
So the team decided to host yoga in all the exhibit’s cities, partnering with local yoga instructors along the way.
Using local instructors with big followings, Dominy said, “brings new people to the exhibit, and it also brings people back.”
I will be one of them.
The experience was a welcome shock to the senses after a year and half largely marinating in my plain-walled, stale-aired Brooklyn apartment.
Dominy agreed that the exhibit’s timing makes it even more special.
“We’ve all really felt the lack of connection with people,” she said. “So just having that mind, body spirit, art, music piece all together, I think it’s an amazing thing to do after what we all just lived through.”
If you like yoga, I highly recommend it this new event.
The event I attended was a press preview.
“Gogh with Lifeway Kefir Immersive Yoga” will be held on Saturdays and Thursdays beginning July 24. They cost $54.99 for a 35-minute class and 25 minutes of post-class exhibit-viewing.
If you don’t like yoga, I highly recommend the exhibit.
Sans yoga, prices range from $40 to $70 depending on time of day and how long you stay, so enduring the yoga for an hour in the exhibit may be worth it.
I left feeling calmer, more energized, and grateful that I live in a spectacular city.
My knees and palms still stung, but my dignity had returned. And the Citibike I left improperly docked was still there. (Once I found a proper dock, it cost me $9.)
For a new lease on my day, it was worth it. Maybe the next time I do yoga in a regular old studio, I’ll take a real edible first.