Yoga with Fisher combines art, exercise on campus

Elizabeth Holmes probably never associated yoga and art together, much less expected them to be combined in a program. After moving to Los Angeles with her husband and son, she spent a great deal of her time collecting art, and eventually donated 29 pieces of work to what would become her museum, the Elizabeth Holmes Fisher Gallery at USC. She had one simple wish for the place: that all of their programs were free and open to the public.

It’s because of this wish that recreational athletics is collaborating with the USC Fisher Museum to provide free yoga classes every fall and spring semester. As of 2016, the program, known as Yoga with Fisher @USC, has attracted enough people to reach an eight-year milestone and is kicking off their spring session with artist Lita Albuquerque’s first showcase with the museum after 33 years — 20/20 Accelerando. The program itself is taught by composer Francois Dompierre, who has worked with the Fisher Museum in the past, including the course of the previous exhibition. Yoga this semester will be on select Tuesdays from Jan. 26 through April 10 from 10:45-11:45 a.m., with 20 spots available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Because of its open-ended, minimal commitment and free structure, Yoga with Fisher @USC works with all schedules. People can join classes based on their own availability, and as a result, the program has managed to reach out to people of all backgrounds.

“It’s not just students that join, but also faculty and staff,” said Ani Mnatsakanyan, the education and program coordinator. “For some, this is their first experience with yoga; others are experts. This yoga class is open to anyone who wants to begin or continue their practice while getting in touch with art.”

For Kay Allen, associate director of the museum, yoga and art is an unlikely combination that helps attract more visitors.

“People average probably less than a minute in front of every work of art when they visit,” Allen said. “With this experience, they may focus on a work of art and really look at it as they’re doing their stretches, meditations and so on.”

While the yoga collaboration shifts based on every exhibition, overall, the concept is the same: to foster a meditative relationship between yoga and the arts as well as help guests spend some time away from the busy world and just concentrate on themselves and the space they’re in.

“One of my favorite parts about the program is how happy people look once the class is over,” Mnatsakanyan said. “Not only do the students get to view the exhibition in a new perspective, but they get to reflect on the art during the practice… If one hour of weekly yoga helps battle everyday stress, then our yoga program has been successful.”