Visual Art and Yoga – A Potent Mix

Arts Spaces in St Pete
Welcome Yoga Classes

. . .

Four arty spaces in St. Petersburg mix yoga with art, a potent combination. The Studio@620, The Woodson African American Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and The Dalí Museum all offer classes juxtaposing the ancient art of physical postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama) with amazing visual artwork.

Two hold morning yoga sessions every week – The MFA (on Thursdays at 8:30 am in its conservatory) and the Woodson (on Saturdays in its Legacy Garden at 9 am). The Dalí’s classes are also in the morning, but are held monthly (every third Sunday at 9 am in the Raymond James Room or in the Avant-Garden). The Studio@620 offers art-inspired yoga in the evening, on the second Monday of every month at 6:30 pm.

Yoga at the Woodson African American Museum, offered free by Mindful Movement, takes place in the Legacy Garden every Saturday from 9-10 am

The Woodson is the only yoga-plus-art session that is free. The others charge $10 per class or more. (See details for each site below).

All four venues give participants the opportunity to pay tribute both to the Sun and to the art that is housed on their walls. At The Studio@620 that artwork is actually right in the room where you are practicing your Sun Salutations and your Downward Facing Dog. And as an added bonus, those exhibits are constantly changing – each month as you twist and turn on your mat you are surrounded by entirely new art.

When I took a class at The Studio on a recent Monday evening, I found myself, staring at the nude backsides of three young women, strolling toward a pier looking like a space ship that just landed. The photograph of these three women, complete in the buff, was part of the exhibit showing at The Studio then called Instant Nostalgia: Photographs by Harvey.

Yoga at The Studio@620 with Annica Keeler is held every second Monday of the month at 6:30 pm

Michigan photographer Harvey Drouillard set up that surreal shot at the old St. Petersburg inverted pyramid pier in 2014 when it already was closed down. Drouilard is known for photographs of nude figures posed at iconic spots in American cities from Albuquerque to St. Petersburg. He calls the art form “Guerrilla Nudes in public.” “Harvey’s black-and-white photographs,” reads the description at the Instant Nostalgia exhibit, “are intended to make people smile.”

It certainly is hard not to smile while looking at completely naked figures reading a book together as they walk past Haslam Books or stand in front of other well-known spots in St. Petersburg, from the Museum of Fine Arts to the Palladium, from the Detroit Hotel to Sunken Gardens. I can’t think of a better exhibit to go along with yoga. After all, as the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh once said, “Smiling is a kind of mouth yoga.”

But is yoga an art form? I posed this question to Annica Keeler, the certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who leads The Studio’s yoga classes every month.

Actually what I asked her was – “Skulle de säga att yoga är en konstform?” (Would you say that yoga is an art form?). Annica was born in Sweden and since I’m trying to learn the language of my material grandparents, I decided to conduct my interview with her in Swedish.

Yoga instructor at The Studio@620, Annica Keeler

Keeler came to live in the U.S. more than 27 years ago. She first worked in the tourist industry. Now her day job is Development and Community Relations Director for the Tampa Bay Times where she directs that newspaper’s fundraising efforts. She has worked for the paper for 18 years in various capacities, from marketing and community relations to administrative support for the CEO of the Times Publishing Co. She has been married for 26 years and has two adult kids, a world traveler and an aspiring baseball player.

For our interview I met Annica at The Studio@620 an hour before her class started. Then I joined her class with six other yogis. As we spread our mats out on the concrete floor of the gallery a few feet apart from each other, she told us our yoga routine was going to tap into the energy of the half Moon. That was the phase of the Moon that was rising that evening in the night sky.

“We’re going to open up our hips today. It’s always good to work the hips because we sit so much these days. We sit in the car, we sit at the computer, we sit, we sit, we sit,” she began. Behind her were Drouillard’s amusing photographs.“Yes, very hip.”

I wasn’t sure if she was referring to our upcoming asana poses or Drouillard’s smile-inducing artwork on the wall. Maybe both.

Yoga at The Studio@620

When the invigorating session was over, I decided that there were three things I had leaned from my interview and workout with this dynamic woman. . .

  1. I need to learn more Swedish.
  2. I need to do yoga more than once a month.
  3. Yoga may or may not be an art form, but doing yoga surrounded by art definitely is a unique artful experience that I will gladly sign up for again.

The following interview has been edited for clarity. I’ve included both the English translation and my original exchange in Swedish.


Do you consider yourself an artist? A yoga artist?

Ar du en konstnär? En yogakonstnär?

AK – No, no, I really don’t. Some people might see it is art, but for me yoga is more of a philosophy. A lifestyle.

Nej, nej, det gör jag inte. Kanske andra kan säga det. Konstform? Men nej, för mig är yoga inte en konstform. Det är en filosofi. En livsstil.


What are the health benefits of yoga?

Vilka är hälsofördelarna med yoga?

AK – Yoga has many benefits. We become more flexible, of course. But more importantly, it’s an inside job. It can help to slow down your nervous system, which leads to a row of other health benefits. We learn to breathe better and deeper, leading to more oxygen intake. These things can help lowering the blood pressure and the risk of heart problem. It also helps us sleep better. These are just a few examples.

Yoga har jättemånga. Som att man kan bli mer flexibel, förstås. Det hälper på insidan. Det lugnar vårt nervsystem, vilket i sin tur hjälper alla andra organ. Andningen gör att du lär dig ta in mer syre och när organen får mer syre så blir de friskare. Att andas rätt kan hjälpa oss att sänka blodtrycket vilket leder till allt från lägre risk för hjärtproblem till bättre sömn.


Health for the body, but also mental health?

Hälsa för kroppen, men också mental hälsa?

AK – Absolutely. Yoga not only has physical benefits but mental benefits as well. You practice patience, you become calmer – so when facing obstacles, you are in a better position to handle them.

This is, in part, the philosophy of yoga. You learn to breathe with intention, and to be in the present moment. And when you are in the here and now, you don’t let the past or the present direct your mood. So, in a stressful moment when you might go into “fight or flight,” the parasympathetic nervous system keeps you in the safe “rest and digest” mode. And that feels mentally great. You usually feel happier when you can process your trauma on the yoga mat.

Absolut. Yoga är inte bara för det fysiska utan även för den mentala hälsan. Ja, ja, man lär sig. Man lär sig tålamod, man blir lugnare, man lär sig hantera svåra saker bättre— detta är filosofin av yoga. Man lär sig att andas med avsikt (medvetet), och att vara här och nu. Och när man är närvarande, låter man inte det förflutna eller framtiden, ändra ens humör. Så i en stressful situation när man kanske går in i  “fight or flight”, kan det parasympatiska nervsystemet hålla dig i det ”säkra viloläget”. Att inte vara rädd helt enkelt. Och det käns mentalt jättebra. Man blir oftast gladare när man kan bearbeta trauman på yogamattan.

When did you begin to do yoga?

När började du yoga?

AK – 1995


Why did you start to do yoga?

Varför började du yoga?

Well, that’s a funny story. I had met my husband Jay (who I didn’t know would be my husband) so I stayed in Miami Beach and got a job at a gym. Madonna exercised there and I was the biggest Madonna fan in the world.

So one day when Madonna was running on a treadmill, I got up and stood next to her and talked to her. She said she had started doing Ashtanga yoga. I wanted to be like her, so I took an Ashtanga class. My first introduction was to sit crosslegged for 45 min. It was awful! But I continued and got hooked.

Det är rolig historia. Jag träffade Jay, som nu är min man, på en resa till Miami Beach, och blev kvar. Jag fick jobb på ett gym som Madonna gick på, och då var jag var världens största Madonna fan. Så en dag så när Madonna var där så sprang hon på en treadmill, jag gick upp och ställde mig jämte och pratade. Då sa hon att hon hade börjat yoga med Ashtanga yoga.Jag ville vara som henne och testade Ashtanga yoga. Min första klass satt vi i 45 minuter med benen i kors utan att röra oss. Det var det värsta jag varit med om i hela mitt liv. Men jag fortsatte och på den vägen är det


When did you start the first yoga class here at Studio@620?

r var den första yogaklassen här på Studio@620?

AK – 2017. I had finished my Ashtanga yoga teacher training and practiced with a large group of friends. Once a week we did yoga at someone’s house or out in a park, to get my practice in.

When I graduated, I had nowhere to do yoga, so I just asked The Studio@620 if they wanted to offer yoga on their program. Of course, here the answer is always yes.

2017. Jag hade avslutat min yoga lärarutbildning i Ashtanga. Jag hade en stor grupp människor som jag tränade med hela tiden. En gång i veckan yogade vi hemma hos någon eller ute i en park, så jag fick träna. När jag tog studenten hade jag ingenstans att yoga, så jag frågade Studio620 om de ville erbjuda yoga. Naturligtvis, här är svaret alltid ja.


Is yoga popular in Sweden?

Är Yoga populärt i Sverige?

Very popular. I think it’s popular all over the world.

Jättepopulärt. Jag tror det är populärt över hela världen, egentligen jättepopulärt.

How often do you recommend that people do yoga? Should we do yoga more than once a month?

Hur ofta rekommenderar du att folk gör yoga? Ska vi göra yoga mer än en gång i månaden?

AK – If you want to reap the mental and physical benefits of yoga, I suggest three days a week (at least). Less than that might be like starting over every time.

Steady and constant practice will result in overall health and a sense of well-being. But it’s still good if you do it twice a week. It’s always good.

Om man vill få de mentala och physiska fördelarna med yoga så föreslår jag minst tre dagar i veckan. Annars kan det kännas som om man börjar om var gång. Stadig och konstant praktik resulterar i bättre hälsa och en känsla av välbeffinande. Men det är ju ändå bra om man gör det två gånger i veckan. Det är alltid bra.


Do you do yoga every day?

Du gör yoga varje dag?

AK – Every day (almost). I practice for my well-being. I suffer from RA and yoga helps to keep me mobile and pain free.

Of course, I have poses I don’t love, like backbends. Those are hard for me, so I might not do much of them.

Varje dag (nästan). Jag måste praktisera var dag för mitt välmående. Jag har reumatism och yogan hjälper väldigt mycket. Så klart tycker jag inte om alla övningar, har till exempel svårt med bakböjningar och gör de inte konstant.

Is it harder to do yoga as we age?

Är det svårare att yoga när vi blir äldre?

AK – Yes and no. The style becomes different.

My yoga has completely changed. Ten years ago I was always upside down. I loved to push myself into pretzel moves. I loved taking my body to the edge, putting a foot behind the head. But now with the rheumatoid arthritis I can’t do that.

Getting older also comes with less mobility and more stiffness. There are those who are full-time yoga teachers who just do yoga all the time and of course they keep up. But it also depends on how your bones age.

We all age differently. For me the biggest change has been mental. I don’t have that ego drive anymore. I don’t feel the need to be upside down or to do pretzel moves. I look more inside and how I feel. Does this feel good? No? Then you shouldn’t do it

Ja och nej. Stilen blir annorlunda. Min yoga har ändrat sig helt. För tio år sedan så var jag jämt upp och ner. Jag gjorde alltid galna poser och älskade det. Jag älskade ta kroppen dit — lägga i foten bakom nacken och allt sånt. Men nu har jag ju ledgångsreumatism så sånt gör jag inte längre. Med åldern blir vi också stelare. Det finns de som har jobbat som yogalärare i många år och tränar var dag, de kan kanske hälla sig smidigare än människor som inte spenderar timmar dagligen på mattan.  Men det beror också på hur ditt skelett åldras. Alla åldras olika. Men för mig är det också den mentala ändringen. Jag har inte det ego drivet längre, att man måste stå på händer, att man måste göra de coolaste poserna. Man går mer inåt och känner in i kroppen. Känns det här bra? Nej? Då ska du inte göra det.

Is your class good for all ages?

Är din klass bra för alla?

AK – Yes, it’s good for everyone. When I teach a class with people who have practiced yoga for a long time, then I think differently. Then it might be more advanced.

At my classes here at The Studio I do a little of both, easy and hard – because I know that every month there will be people attending, who are new to yoga.

Ja, det är bra för alla. När jag kör en klass med folk som har gjort yoga länge, då tänker jag annorlunda. Då blir det mer poweryoga och mer ashtanga mer avancerad. På mina klasser här på studion gör jag lite av båda — lätt och svårt — för jag vet att varje månad kommer nya människor som aldrig gjort yoga.


How many people come to the class? 

Hur många kommer till din klass?

AK – Today when it’s pouring we might only have five. I don’t know. We’ve had had up to 44. Before Covid we had a steady group of 25–30.

Idag när det spöregnar kanske vi bara har fem. Jag vet inte. Vi har haft upp till 44. Innan Covid hade vi en stadig grupp på 25 – 30.


Is yoga more popular with women?

Är yoga mer populärt bland kvinnor?

AK – No not really. My classes often have more boys than girls so you never know who’s going to come. I think yoga is popular with everyone out there.

Nej, egentligen inte. Mina klasser har ofta mer killar än tjejer så man vet aldrig vem som kommer. Men jag tror yoga är populärt för alla därute.


Arty Places to Do Yoga


The Studio@620, downtown St. Petersburg

. . .
WHEN: Every second Monday of the month at 6:30 pm
WHERE: In the gallery
INSTRUCTOR: Yoga Flow with Annica Keeler, a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher
DESCRIPTION: Yoga Flow incorporates energetic movement through a series of asanas (yoga postures), by which the student experiences a sense of fluid physical motion. Movement through these postures is matched with the breath, creating an even greater sense of flow, strength, ease and tension release. This monthly class is adaptable for all levels of experience.
INSTRUCTIONS: Bring your own mat and blocks
COST: $10 per class
PERK: Surrounded by a different art show every month, open free to the public. Current show – Ghetto Gods, artwork by Pinellas artist Jabari Reed-Diop, aka iBOMS, produced with the support of Creative Pinellas, Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners.

Yoga at the Woodson African American Museum, offered free by Mindful Movement, takes place outdoors in the Legacy Garden
Woodson African American Museum of Florida,
St. Petersburg’s Deuces Neighborhood

. . .
WHEN: Every Saturday morning from 9-10 am
WHERE: The Woodson’s Legacy Garden
INSTRUCTOR: Mindful Movement
DESCRIPTION: Mindful Movement takes a 360-degree approach to helping individuals become their most well-balanced, educated and healthy selves. Their mission is to serve adults and youth without access to this type of health information. Their programs focus on classes that teach beginning and advanced yoga postures, meditation, breathing techniques and positive affirmations.
INSTRUCTIONS: No registration required
COST: Free
PERK: The yoga session is held in an outdoor setting. After the class you can visit the museum’s current exhibit at no charge – African American History: Resilient, Relentless and Revolutionary, featuring images of African American leaders, works created by artists Adrian Pickett and Dr. Dallas Jackson, and original posters carried by protestors during Civil Rights marches in the 1960s.

Participants practicing yoga in the MFA conservatory led by Latreca Ali every Thursday at 8:30 am are inspired by the play of light from the museum’s current exhibit, Christian Sampson’s “Tempus volat, hora fugit”
Museum of Fine Arts, downtown St. Petersburg

. . .
WHEN: Every Thursday at 8:30 am
WHERE: Middle of the conservatory
DESCRIPTION: A serene and rejuvenating morning of stretching, breathing exercises, meditation and mindfulness. The class is designed to accommodate all ages and skill levels, so no prior yoga experience is required. You’ll be encouraged to move at your own pace and according to your own abilities.
INSTRUCTOR: Latreca Ali – “People are so willing and ready to do yoga when they come to places that already have art because yoga is an art as well.”
INSTRUCTIONS: Bring your own mat or towel and a signed waiver.
COST: $10 for MFA Members, $20 for Not-yet Members
PERK: The ambiance of the current exhibit — up until January 7 — serves as a captivating backdrop for a restorative and enlightening yoga practice. Christian Sampson’s Tempus volat, hora fugit, a four-part installation series, explores the concept of time and the vastness of our natural world through the interplay of light and color.

Yoga is offered in the Dalí Museum’s Raymond James Auditorium overlooking the Avant-Garden – or outside in the Garden – every third Sunday of the month from 9-10 am
The Dalí Museum, downtown St. Petersburg

. . .
WHEN: Every third Sunday of the month from 9-10 am
WHERE: Either inside the Raymond James Community Room or outside in the Avant-Garden, both with views of the waterfront
DESCRIPTION: Vinyasa Yoga, an all-levels approach that incorporates an interplay of basic breath work, postures, meditation and relaxation. Each student is encouraged to go at their own pace.
INSTRUCTOR:  Lucky Cat Yoga teaches vinyasa yoga, an all-levels approach that incorporates an interplay of basic breath work, postures, meditation and relaxation. Each student is encouraged to awaken and sustain their practice at their own pace.
INSTRUCTIONS: Arrive early on a light stomach, allow time for parking and admission. View health & safety guidelines in advance. Bring your own yoga mat, and register in advance at register now.
COST: $10 members, $15 non-members.
PERK: Practice in a remarkable environment where Dalí’s energy infuses the physical, mental and spiritual inspiration of yoga. You can visit the museum’s galleries on the same day at half-price, $14.


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