Drawn to the exhibition, held at the Wellcome Collection, with the promise of a yogic link, the world of Ayurveda seemed less well known. Posing bloodletting charts against anatomical drawings with zodiac symbols in place of arteries, the exhibition made a striking link between spiritual and physical exercises. Just as yoga can topple between purely an exercise for some, or a way to let bad thought flow free for others, each image could be either rationalised or mysticised.
An article series written to accompany the exhibition is titled "the Story of Modern Yoga" and aptly ponders the way yoga has bridged from this world of Ayurveda, to the microcosms of celebrity instagram and LuluLemon shop fronts. With a place for both incarnations in the world, it's interesting to see how malleable its benefits are in the modern world. The article admits, "yoga is a big business" as each style of yoga has its own book to sell, it's own equipment to promote, and its own classes to subscribe to.
It's also a free practise, a yoga mat or lavender eye bag are just other props to ease and fortify the experience. The NHS promotes yoga in their "live well" program as being beneficial to mental health. So, if you don't believe in the spiritual message, the medicinal benefits need be your only takeaway.
Yoga is a generous movement, you can take from it what you want.
Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian medicine
@ The wellcome collection
(Image descriptions) L-R 1. Indian anatomical painting (18th century) "in spite of the purely medical imagery, the Indian artist who created this painting added chakras and tantric iconography to the spinal column" | 2. bloodletting chart (19th C) "indicating good and bad bloodletting days, and when to guard against demons" | 3. illustrated manuscript depicting jain cosmology "according to jain principles, living beings reincarnate over vast periods of time within four modes of life... [it] represents the middle world... heavenly worlds...lower worlds... [and the] non world" | 4. holy cow world mother (19th/20th C) "depicts a cow as a symbol of the motherland in full health, abundant with milk, revered as one of the purest foods in ayurvedic texts" | 5. an indian person in a yogic posture (19th C) "yogic and tantric traditions began to evolve the idea of alternative anatomy, the subtle body, which mapped spiritual energies" | 6. drawings (1903) "juxtaposing the yogic (or subtle) body and western anatomy... the bookplates depict different nerves and plexuses of the human body alongside conceptual illustration of the locus of pranayama" | 7. a meditator shown with chakras and kundalini (19th C) "six chakras are arranged along the vertical axis running from the base of the spinal colun to the top of the head" | 8. Zodiac Man (19th C) "with persian annotations"