July 1st, U.K—The Imperial War Museum (IWM) is holding yoga classes in a room decorated with bombed out cars, missiles, and Spitfire planes used in World War II.
Despite protests, the Imperial War Museum is defending its right to hold the yoga lessons.
Normally, yoga and war do not go together.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Prince Arjuna is taught to perform his warrior duty by performing yoga and meditation. This is the historical beginnings of yoga: as a “warrior duty”. However, the Gita explains that the Warrior Duty is about slaying the enemies of the mind, as opposed to literal enemies that were destroy by the missiles and Spitfires in the Imperial War Museum.
The IWM’s decision to hold yoga classes in the in the atrium of its Lambeth flagship building has offended both yogis and military historians.
Andy Saunders [Military history expert, TV commentator, and former editor of the Britain at War magazine,] said on Twitter that the classes are “singularly inappropriate and ill conceived”.
Another Twitter tweeted, “Look at this promo shot. The car was blown up in Baghdad, 5 March 2007 by a car bomb which killed 38 people.”
And yet despite the theme of death, the Imperial War Museum’s promotional campaign tells people to, “Find your inner peace by undertaking a mindful reflection in a breath-taking spa.”
Promotional Posters For The Imperial War Museum’s Yoga Class Tell People To “Find Peace”
The IWM shared its promotional posters on Twitter, explaining that classes would be 75 minutes and focus on Vinyasa Flow, one of the different types of yoga.
Classes are scheduled to begin on October 15th.
The posters make for truly confusing images—a group of yoga practitioners performing yoga around Spitfire planes and bombed-out-cars while smiling. In the background of one of the promotional images is a car that was destroyed by a suicide bomber at Baghdad’s Al-Mutanabbi Street book market in March 2007, killing 30 people.
The IMW’s website states that the atrium makes for a “soaring and inspiring” space to practice yoga in. Worse, it states that taking the lessons will help people to “Find inner peace by undertaking a mindful reflection in a breath-taking space, finishing with a story-led Savasana accompanied by live music.” The IMW also says that people who attend the yoga classes can also take a seat in the Spitfire plane.
The move has offended all-comers. Many are concerned that the lessons are offensive to those who lost their lives in World War II. On Twitter, Dave Doherty said, “At best, this is an ill judged move made by people with clearly no grasp of their surroundings; at worst, this is incredibly offensive to many people both living and dead. I urge you to reconsider the yoga.”
Yogis are offended that the setting for the classes puts yoga in a bad light, suggesting a link between yoga, violence, and war.
The IMW responded by saying, “the atrium provides a spacious and profoundly contemplative setting for an activity such as yoga and enables people to connect with our collection in a totally different and unique way.
“We are aware of the concerns expressed by people on Twitter regarding the Yoga classes and appreciate that it is taking place in a space which holds a number of objects representing sensitive subject matters…
“We have, and always will, ensure our collection items are treated with the utmost respect.”