Netizens react to yoga sessions at National Museum 2

‘Insensitive,’ ‘insulting,’ ‘disrespectful' — netizens react to yoga sessions at National Museum

Yoga instructor Allan Enriquez on disapproving sentiments: 'When the Koreans had a music fest at the old Senate Hall the day before my event, no one reacted. So why the hate? It shows [people’s] bias.'
RHIA GRANA | Oct 06 2023

The National Museum of the Philippines (NM) held on Wednesday the first of four sessions of its “Yoga at the Museum” in the Spoliarium Hall at the National Museum of Fine Arts. 

A Facebook reel posted by NM featured 18 participants who were seated on their mats, facing Juan Luna's "Spoliarium," and engaging in stretching exercises guided by the experienced yoga instructor, Allan Enriquez.

A previous promotional post about the activity says it “aims to provide experiences that promote and improve wellbeing through a sensory activity that combines yoga with art therapy.” 

It’s also in line with this year’s theme of “Exhibits and Reflections: Crafting Opportunities for the New World.” This is the first time that the Museum Services Division is offering free weekly yoga classes in select galleries of NM. 

However, the concept of conducting a yoga session in proximity to one of the most treasured and iconic artworks in Philippine art history has raised concerns among passionate art and history enthusiasts, as well as museum visitors. The collective question echoing among netizens is: “WHY? Why choose the National Museum, of all places, for this activity?”

A yoga teacher and student thinks using the National Museum as a venue for a yoga activity is a disrespect to the masterpiece of Juan Luna and other artists. 

A commenter reflects on the historical significance of Luna's painting, suggesting that it serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by our ancestors at the hands of colonial powers. The person says “the museum’s multipurpose activity lawn should’ve been a better choice [for the yoga sessions]”. 

For another netizen, “self-reflection and meditation in between works of tragedy doesn't make sense.” He points out that it's “uncomfortable to [reflect and meditate] when you're in between Spoliarium and The Assassination of Governor Bustamante.” 

Given that Filipino museum-goers are notorious for not following gallery etiquette (“They touch [the paintings]!”), allowing meditation in museums could encourage more disrespect for the artworks, another commenter thinks. 

For others, it’s more of a concern on the preservation of the treasured art pieces at the museum. “I appreciate the effort to bring more people into the National Museum but the rooms are temperature controlled to protect the art,” says a social media user. “Who in the world thought bringing in people doing physical activity (thereby adding to the room humidity and temperature) was a good thing?” 

Another netizen concurs: “Sweat dissipates into humidity in the paintings, creating fungi and molds, destroying two masterpieces of world-famous national artists.” 

“I don’t see a dehumidifier anywhere,” a Facebook user observed. 

Others simply laugh off the idea, suggesting that NM also should also hold a zumba, a boxing match or “might as well start offering the space as a dance studio.” 

Amid the flurry of comments, a web user’s opinion seems aligned with the museum’s. “…doing yoga at the museum offers amplified benefits for the mind, the body, and the soul. Yoga is more than just stretching and sweating. In a nutshell, yoga is a spiritual practice where one can do self-reflection... and so is going to the museum and appreciating art.” 

ANCX reached out to yoga instructor Enriquez who facilitated the activity and he requests people to embrace a flexible mindset. “Culture and the arts should be adaptable to change,” he says. “I would invite everyone to have a fresh take and an open mind on how our culture and arts interact with different cultures and arts ready for the New World.” 

He also finds the public’s negative reaction baffling. “When the Koreans had a music fest at the old Senate Hall the day before my event, no one reacted. So why the hate? It shows bias,” says Enriquez, also a K-pop fan. 

Yoga in a museum sounds like an alien concept to many Filipinos but looking through the internet, we found out that it’s actually a growing trend in recent years as museums look for new ways to attract visitors and engage with the community. Museums organize such activities as a way for people to experience art and culture in a new and unique way. 

Among the museums around the world that offer yoga classes include The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, The British Museum in London, The Louvre Museum in Paris, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., The Art Institute of Chicago, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney, The National Museum of Singapore, The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The de Young Museum in San Francisco.