Balancing bears and downward dog

The Anchorage Museum is mostly known for its versatile art exhibitions, but Alaska’s largest museum is also offering a variety of classes ranging from painting to yoga.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the museum is offering a 50-minute class called “Yoga in the Gallery” in the recently finished Rasmuson Wing. Amid polar bear sculptures belonging to the Art of the North galleries, participants get to spend their lunchtime practicing yoga.

25542461_10155626202133961_2950281553519269663_o.jpg
Participants of the yoga class meditate in the Art of the North gallery at the Anchorage Museum. Photo credit: Anchorage Museum

Rebecca Pottebaum, programs manager of the museum, sees the class as an opportunity to perceive the museum differently.

“We are exploring new ways to invite visitors to interact with the space,” Pottebaum said. “Yoga is something that knows no bounds … it can be practiced nearly anywhere. The same idea applies to the museum experience, in some ways — you can experience the museum in so many different ways.”

The instructor for the class, Sami Glascott, developed the idea for the class on a trip to Pennsylvania.

“I visited the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia while visiting relatives and learned that they have a yoga class in one of their treetops,” Glascott said.

When the new Rasmuson Wing was built, Glascott’s attention was drawn to the Anchorage Museum.

- Advertisement -

“As soon as the space where the polar bears are now took shape, I told my daughter I want to teach yoga there,” Glascott said. “I reached out to the museum and asked if they’d be interested in hosting yoga classes and they’ve been an enthusiastic and supportive partner ever since.”

Glascott, a yoga practitioner and teacher for over 11 years, has also worked in executive-level management and is familiar with the stresses of modern work life. She recently founded Unravel, an Alaskan wellness company in which yoga practice is a vital part.

“In my business, I provide the benefits of yoga, meditation, breath work and mindfulness to businesses onsite as part of their stress-reduction and wellness programs,” Glascott said. “What we offer at the Museum is similar. Members and visitors to the museum can come at lunchtime and take a true break from the stress of the day.”

Recent studies funded by the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health suggest that practicing yoga helps relieve depression, reduce stress and improve low-back pain.

Dakayla Walters, a UAA alumna with a bachelor’s in Psychology, practices yoga on a regular basis. She, too, is convinced of its beneficial effects.

“It helps people set aside time for their own mental health and uses various breathing exercises and body postures to help facilitate peace of mind,” Walters said.

Glascott’s course is open for yogis of all skill levels.

“For every class, I assess what level people are and what energy they bring and from there teach a practice that will provide them with the benefits that they need,” Glascott said.

The class always starts with meditation and breath work, moving into a yin or yang style practice later. Yin style focuses on the deep connective tissues of the body while yang yoga is a more active style.

According to Glascott, unusual locations like the gallery can be beneficial for yoga classes.

“It’s quiet, clean, uncluttered … This environment is perfect for allowing our over-stimulated brains to rest and focus on just breathing,” Glascott said. “The tall ceilings and large windows [of the gallery] let in a lot of light that all Alaskans need this time of year.”

Classes take place from 12:10 to 1 p.m. and cost $18; members of the Anchorage Museum receive a 10 percent discount. More information can be found at anchoragemuseum.org.