National Museum to ‘evaluate’ free yoga classes held at Spoliarium Hall after backlash

October 11, 2023 - 12:20 PM
Participants of National Museum of the Philippines' "Yoga at the Museum." (natmuseumph/Instagram)

The National Museum of the Philippines said it will “evaluate” its “Yoga at the Museum” project.

The evaluation comes after the program received mixed reactions from the public, some even calling the yoga project insensitive and inappropriate. 

Last month, the National Museum announced its “Yoga at the Museum” project.

Under the project, the museum will hold four free yoga and meditation classes for the public in October, as part of its celebration of the Museums and Galleries Month. 

The sessions were said to be held every Wednesday at the museum’s Spoliarium Hall in the National Museum of Fine Arts. The hall houses the “Spoliarium” by Juan Luna, one of the country’s most well-known paintings.

In a Facebook post, the museum said the “Yoga at the Museum” program aims to provide experiences that “promotes and improves the wellbeing of an individual through a sensory activity, combining yoga with art therapy.”

An Instagram post by the National Museum features a video of the project’s first sessions on October 4, with the participants practicing yoga poses in front of the Spoliarium.

Reactions from online Pinoys on the program were mixed, with many noting that the physical activity will accumulate heat and dirt into the artifacts on display at the National Museum. 

“Yoga is much better to perform outside in an airy and free environment,” one Instagram user said.

Another user noted: “As someone who practices the core teachings of yoga on the regular, this made me uncomfortable. Instead, why not do it out in nature and actually tune in to the right frequencies? This is so tasteless and clearly a horrible choice for optics.”

Others, meanwhile, said it seems insensitive to exercise in front of the Spoliarium. Writer Jose Dalisay describes the painting in his column as a “massive oil on canvas painting depicting dead gladiators being dragged to an ignominious disposal as men and women look on in helpless horror.”

“Who would want to flex their muscles in front of death and gore?” an Instagram user quipped.

In an exclusive interview with GMA News, National Museum Director General Jeremy Barnes said that they are listening and evaluating the comments the yoga program received, noting the importance of public feedback.

“We thank the public for thinking about it and showing us their concern,” he said. “We thank the people who are on all sides of the issue.”

Barnes added: “So, we are gonna listen to you and we are gonna evaluate kung successful ba itong idea o hindi, whether it’s really for us dito sa Pilipinas o hindi naman kahit popular na ito sa ibang bansa. So we’re here to listen, there’s no wrong or unwanted opinion.”

Barnes told GMA News that the idea of the yoga program was to celebrate Museums and Galleries Month while promoting “spirituality and well-being” as October is also Mental Health Awareness Month.

“We said, let’s promote wellness. Let’s promote yung spirituality and well-being, and yoga, and ilagay natin sa isang meaningful na lugar dito sa loob ng museum to promote itong idea na itong museum is a place for mental health, for spiritual improvement.” — Chuck Smith