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Oct. 15, 2021 | Friday
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Yoga becomes a museum affair in NOTL
Sonya de Lazzer sits on her mat before a gentle hatha yoga class in the museum courtyard on Monday morning. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Museums are places of quiet observation and peaceful introspection – NOTL museums are taking that sought-after stillness one step further by offering gentle hatha yoga classes throughout the summer.

RiverBrink Art Museum and the Niagara Historical Society and Museum have both jumped on the fast-growing trend of holding yoga classes in their spaces – both taught by registered yoga teacher Sonya de Lazzer.

De Lazzer has been on board at RiverBrink for more than 10 years, first as a volunteer and then a summer student, now she is on staff full-time as the programming curator assistant.

After becoming a certified yoga teacher, she said she wanted to combine her love of yoga and her passion for teaching to bring something fresh to the museum – offering yoga classes in the newly updated Coach House Studio at RiverBrink seemed to be a “natural fit.”

“It’s a beautiful, fresh clean studio. It just made sense,” she said.

Michela Comparey, conference and communications co-ordinator for the Ontario Museum Association, said in an email response that, over the last several years, at least 20 Ontario museums have offered yoga programming on-site, some recurring and some as a one-time event. She said that number could be even higher because she didn’t have a comprehensive list of programming offered at each museum.

“Yoga is one of many popular programs to provide local communities the opportunity to connect and engage with museum collections in new ways,” Marie Lalonde, executive director of the province’s museum association, said in the statement. 

“Unique programs such as art battles, sleepovers, food and drink tastings, and yoga give visitors a new way to experience a site or collection and develop a renewed appreciation for the museums in their community,” in the response.

De Lazzer said she has noticed an increased interest in combining the arts with physical and mental wellness.

“There seems to be a movement now and I’ve seemed to notice it, not only from being in academia but in the museum world as well – this trend for wellness and the arts,” she said.

“It was just a natural kind of thing for the museum to offer.”

Once the first few classes kicked off at RiverBrink, Amy Klassen, society administrator of the Niagara Historical Society and Museum caught word and said she wanted to offer something similar in the courtyard outside the building on Castlereagh Street.

“We had talked before about doing something here in the courtyard, a drop-in yoga, and I thought we could have her do it here,” she said.

Klassen said she connected with de Lazzer through RiverBrink and the idea to hold yoga classes in the courtyard aligned with the museum’s goals.

“We’re always looking for more ways to use our outdoor space ... We thought the courtyard would be a perfect space to do yoga,” Klassen added.

De Lazzer said before becoming a certified yoga teacher, she took classes at local studios. It was when she started to make time for her own home practice that her love for yoga and its benefits began to shine through, she said.

She decided to take the 200-hour yoga teacher training course at Shine On Yoga in Niagara Falls when she realized she had some extra time in her schedule. She took the course because she wanted to deepen her own practice, but she said she didn’t plan on teaching afterward.

“Shine On Yoga’s 10-month teacher training program allowed for that flexibility, so I can do a weekend every month. So, I decided to take the plunge, I said, ‘I’m just going to go for it,’ and I’m glad I did,” she said.

Navigating through the later years of her PhD in visual culture, de Lazzer said she found yoga especially helpful for finding personal balance and grounding in her life.

“It’s sort of a whole different ballgame when you’re juggling life, you’re juggling school. I was also working full-time,” she said.

She needed to prioritize her mental health while also navigating so many different facets of her life through work, school and a social life, she said, adding that yoga helped her achieve some of that balance.

After realizing the benefits yoga brought to her own experience, de Lazzer said teaching seemed like the next logical step.

“You seem to find a love for it. And in terms of teaching, there was a nice connection there. Because I teach art history, but you can still integrate yoga in many ways,” she said.

All classes are 90 minutes. At RiverBrink Art Museum, classes begin at 8 a.m., and are offered on July 19, 26 and Aug. 2, 9, and 16.

The Niagara Historical Society and Museum will hold classes at 9:30 a.m. on July 22 and 29, and Aug. 19 and 26.

Participants are asked to bring their own mats, water and props if needed.

Classes are $15 and space is limited.