Celebrating International Yoga Day

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19th century indian figure Image courtesy of National Museums Liverpool

Dr. Chrissy Partheni, our Curator of Classical Antiquities shares her love of yoga:

"21 June has been declared International Yoga Day and huge preparations are under way, not only in India, but across the world to mark the positive effect yoga has on individuals and communities. Whether you attend a class on the day or practice at home this is an opportunity to give thanks to those who have devoted their lives in making yoga accessible to all, passing on their knowledge and practice as well as to join in the spirit of universal human consciousness.

Yoga is about unity and oneness (the word derives from the Sanskrit word yuj which means to join). Yoga is not about performing incredible acrobatics and demonstrating flexibility, as some people may initially think; the practice is the means of helping your body and soul to cope with all types of physical and mental challenges, yoga is therefore a way of living. I have been practicing Iyengar yoga for 10 years and my practice has seen me through all kinds of challenges. I am a firm believer that even half an hour practice in one’s busy day can really make a difference. Our less active lifestyles and long hours of sitting in front of screens often mean that our posture and breathing become poor. Without a balanced and well aligned body the soul and mind will suffer.

What better way to celebrate the day than with an item from our Indian collections: a religious figure from the 19th century. It came to us in 1942 via the Royal Liverpool Institution but we do not really know very much else about it. Can you identify his posture or relate it to one you have been practicing?
The man is seated with left knee bent upwards towards the chest. His chest is extended with two ribs clearly visible and suggesting that the figure is undertaking meditative breathing exercises. The figure also wears a pointed cap that appears to be tied under the chin.

The figure has been made out of low fire clay and has an internal wooden stick frame onto which the mud, dung and straw mixture, used for the body, has been built. The figure has been painted and a white club-shaped motif on a dark background decorates the figure's dhoti. The figure has been painted overall in a dark brown colour and the eyes are also picked out. All the painted decoration has been created using a slip.

The left eye has a piece of cloth pinned to the top of the eye suggesting an eyelid, the right eye appears to have once had the same. The right hand rests on the thigh and is badly broken, only one finger remains. The ends of the fingers that support the raised right leg are also broken. The figure is seated on a plain rectangular mat, painted in red slip.

Broken limbs aside, at least we know his posture and breathing are in good shape! Hope you enjoy International Yoga Day."

Find out more about our antiquities collection.