By Zowie Martin, Yoga Tutor

My first thoughts on creating a Yoga practice, in connection with this exhibition, were simply to explore horizontality physically, through asana, the postures.

But as I pondered on it more, I realised there was so much more just in the title.

Yoga and Buddhist philosophy teach that we are essentially asleep. Ignorance, misunderstanding and misconception (Avidya) prevent us from knowing our true nature. We see life through a veil of illusion (Maya). This life is essentially a dream, an illusion. In my life, the spiritual practice of Yoga has been the way I saw to survive. A raft of wisdom to cling to on a turbulent ocean of trials, an island to retreat to, to find peace in turmoil, it does give me great joy.

At the start of our first session on Monday 20 March, as the video and audio shut down and the gallery fell into silence, I invited students to consider the artwork Necessaire, which I felt most drawn to. Its simplicity and emptiness seemed to bring a wave of relief over my mind. A clearing. The joy of escaping the constant narrative of the mind.

This stilling of the thought waves, (the vrittis) is Yoga.  The moment we are able to glimpse our true nature, the Self and know the illusory nature of temporal reality.  My mind, so constantly full, is longing to be empty. For me, Necessaire represents the goal of Yoga, the cessation of thought, and dissolution of mind, the beauty and purity of emptiness.

We lay amongst the recumbent figures in the SLEEPING section for a body scan, a form of mindfulness practice to increase awareness of our present experience, to ‘fall awake’.

We explored our relationship to the ground through a sequence of lying stretches before moving mats into the WORKING section and creating horizontal lines in Asana postures.

In the MOURNING section, we paid close attention to the breath – inhalation, exhalation and the pause in between, the suspension of breath, the stillness.

In the DANCING section, we adopted corpse pose and visualised Shiva as Nataraja – Lord of the Dance. The purpose of his dance which is played out within the heart is to release all souls from the snare of illusion.


In preparation for our second workshop on Monday 10 April, I thought less about a specific piece of work (although the genre of landscape in the working section was uppermost in my mind), but rather the general theme of Horizontality and stripping it back to the root being the Horizon itself.

These words of Elizabeth Price the curator seemed to give permission for my own creative license:

The project of the exhibition is to bring together images and objects that manifest a horizontal composition or express horizontal states. It comprises to some extent a formal survey, but it also seeks to extend stories …………. a key artistic objective is the composition of a supplementary narrative…….”

My intention was to invite students to become part of the exhibition as bodies brought together to explore the possibility of expressing horizontal states using yoga asana to manifest a horizontal composition.

We drew around the small photograph XXX and I offered this supplementary narrative from “A book of silence” by Sara Maitland to propose more meaning and connection between the key theme of the exhibition and the practice of Yoga.

“The horizon line of the hills abided. It was uncluttered by trees or houses. I could see it out of every window. Wherever I sat to meditate, there was the clear clean line that divides earth and sky, and also unites them. That line was constant. It emerged out of the dark in the first dawn light and was swallowed back into the dark at nightfall. Above the line infinity; below the line mortality. But the line itself was both, and the wind blew along it fresh and free like the passage of the spirit.”

When we raise our arms to shoulder height we create a horizontal which intersects our vertical axis at the heart like the symbol of the cross. The heart is the central chakra, the point of transition between the worldly concerns and the spiritual.

All above the line infinity, all below mortality. But the line (and the heart) being both, life in the world, relationships, work and play, and also, beyond life in the world, the Heart being the seat of the Self, the Atman, the soul.

“Unable to check in a mirror if extended limbs were truly parallel to the ground, Zowie invited us to feel the line of postures and asked us to consider why the truth of a line we can see, would be truer than the truth of a line we can sense – a great question in the context of a visual art exhibition, where some people might not always feel our responses, sensations and thoughts, are as important as images and forms we are presented with – but of course they are” Student

Posted by Laura Sayers on Thursday 13 April 2017