Yoga at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Yoga in an art gallery! Another first for me and definitely yoga in a funky location! I would never have thought of looking on the Dulwich Picture Gallery website for a yoga event. Who would?! To make this even more appealing, I would be viewing the Rembrandt’s Light exhibition. I studied History of Art (and ceramics) in High School so this event combines my newfound love of yoga with my art background.

I got up really early on Sunday so that I could leave the house at 7 am to arrive at the Gallery at the requested time of 8:30. My journey from North West London to South East London consisted of a bus ride, two changes on the tube and another bus ride. When I left the house it was only 0 degrees!  Morning yoga classes in the British Winter requires some real dedication!

Start time mix-up

The ticket and events page expressly asked everyone to arrive at the gallery by 8:30 for registration, and the yoga would be from 8:45 to 9:45. I got there for 8:30 and was welcome by a member of staff and asked to wait near the cafe. By 8:35 everyone – roughly 50 people – had arrived but we had to wait around until 8:45 before the doors of the gallery opened. There, all 50 of us had to queue to sign disclaimer forms. We all pulled out our phones to show that we had tickets for the event, but the staff were only interested in getting us to sign the disclaimers. I thought this was strange, but I signed the form and went to find my place (more about this later). By the time everyone had found their places and we were ready to begin, it was 9 am – 15 minutes later than advertised.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed in this.  I had travelled far and had made the effort to be there at 8:30 as instructed, and then the gallery kept everyone waiting.

The yoga

As you enter the Soane Gallery you are struck by morning sun streaming through the skylights, filling the long gallery space with a beautiful soft light. 

I put down my Lululemon Carry Onward mat under “St Jerome and Giralamo Petrobelli”. St. Jerome is the bearded man in the pink wrap. An interesting fact about this painting, which I only read on my way out and had not realised as I was downward dogging next to it, is that it is a fragment of a much larger altarpiece circa 1563. The hand on the left, the hand of the devil at the bottom left corner and the lion on the right, were painted over and only revealed when the painting was cleaned in the 1940’s.

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The class started at 9 am.  It was a basic Vinyasa Flow class with lots of focus on breath and not many repeats of the flow.  It was definitely suitable for beginners. In fact, intermediate or advanced yogis would get frustrated with the slow pace – unless you were there for relaxation and/or enjoy breath work. I would say I’m at intermediate level and I didn’t feel like I had worked at all. I did however like how the instructor explained that when our feet are facing her, it would be “forward” in stead of “left” or “right” because there were people on both sides of her. 

 

 

When the class came to an end at 09:45 we were told that we had to queue again to claim our tickets for Rembrandt’s Light exhibition – it’s at this point that you show proof of purchase of the yoga event ticket. And here is another annoyance: the event description says “[….] and is followed by early access to Rembrandt’s Light.” and “yoga session followed by private view”. In reality our tickets allowed us to view the exhibit in a 30 minute time slot which started at 10 am – exactly as it does for anyone else who wants to view Rembrand’s Light on a Sunday.  There was no “early access / private view” to Rembrandt’s Light for us. We did have early access to the Gallery’s permanent exhibition because of course we were all milling about waiting for our allocated slot to open up, and that is a privilege that members of the public did not have, but it’s not what was advertised.

Rembrandt’s Light exhibition

 

 

The exhibition celebrates 350 years since Rembrandt’s death with 35 of his iconic paintings, etchings and drawings including three of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings of women: A Woman Bathing in a Stream, A Woman in Bed and the Gallery’s Girl at a Window all hanging together. 

 

 

I found the exhibition very well thought out with many special touches that really brought home the idea of light v. dark. I especially loved the display of “Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb” where the lighting on the painting shifts from dark to light, emulating the break of dawn.

By 10:30 it was time to head home, but not before I got a coffee from the the Gallery Cafe. I’ve been to yoga events before which included private viewings of exhibits (at the Design Museum London and Natural History Museum), but this is the first time that the ticket price also included a hot drink. It’s a really nice touch. And the coffee was very good.

My verdict

I was disappointed in the event organisation and advertising, and the yoga was too easy without modifications for those at intermediate or advanced levels. Maybe these things wouldn’t have bothered me as much if I didn’t have to get up so early on a Sunday and travel in the freezing cold, but I did. I feel I could have spent my £25 on a Triyoga drop-in class near my home and still had money left over for a latte and croissant.  But, saying all of that, it was still a nice experience to have done yoga in an art gallery surrounded by Rennaissance masterpieces. The experience would just have been more enjoyable, had the admin side of things been better.

Instructor:  A member of the British Wheel of Yoga. I didn’t catch her name.

Location: Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, London SE21 7AD

Time: Advertised as 08:45 – 09:45, actual start time 09:00

Price: £25 which includes a hot drink from the Gallery Cafe and entrance to Rembrandt’s Lights Exhibition

Date attended: Sunday, 19 January 2020

Yoga mats provided: Some were provided but we were asked to bring our own

Yoga intensity: According to my Fitbit Inspire HR, I burned 92 calories with average bpm of 84 over 52 minutes.

Good to know: The DPG website states that you can get the P4 bus from Brixton station and alight at “Dulwich Picture Gallery” stop. However the entrance to the Gallery is not in the street where bus stops at the Main Entrance gates, but around the back of the building.

Something I learned: The Lululemon Carry Onward travel yoga mat is brilliant. It was very easy to carry it around with me on public transport, it was grippy, it’s long and the microfibre texture feels lovely under foot. The star of this yoga in a funky location, was my Lululemon Carry Onward Mat.

If you like doing yoga in quirky places, outside, or in iconic London buildings, check out my list of Funky places to do yoga and pilates around London.