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by Jen Lucas, Pack Up + Go Contributor

If you happen to find yourself in Pittsburgh on a Thursday evening with nothing to do, be sure check out the yoga class now offered at the Carnegie Museum. I’ve been fortunate enough to practice yoga with one of my all time favorite instructors, Stefanie Zito, not only at my office but now at the ultimate zen space, the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Stefanie, a 500-hour YogaWorks graduate, has a variety of public class offerings at local Pittsburgh venues such as Schoolhouse Yoga and Green Heiress Holistic Health. She also offers private lessons and visits a few local companies to share her playful, enthusiastic, strength building, all level yoga magic with their employees during normal work hours.

“We are here, we live in a space, and we share it with others. While we have spatial limitations in the physicality of where we dwell, yoga teaches us how to thrive within this space and to continue to learn how to create space.”stefaniezito.com

As I mentioned, she teaches at my office once a week during our lunch hour and I’ve enjoyed her teaching style so much that once I learned about this class, I knew I had to check it out!

The Carnegie Museum of Art, not only being the most beautiful setting to practice yoga, has a history that goes back to the late 1800s when Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie founded the Carnegie Institute. His goal in establishing various series of contemporary art exhibitions was to educate the audience and to attract the art world to Pittsburgh. Today, the Carnegie International is the oldest exhibition of international contemporary art in North America, and the second oldest in the world. Today, the museum collection includes over 30,000 objects including paintings, sculpture, prints, photographs, architectural casts, film, video and digital imagery, just to name a few.  As of recent they can add downward dog, tree pose and savasana to the list.

One of the classes I attended was held in the Hall of Architecture which showcases over 140 plaster casts from the past and was opened in 1907. During that time there were similar collections located in Europe and the United States, but today the Carnegie Museum’s collection is the largest in the country. Pittsburgh’s architectural cast collection is renowned for remaining intact despite being housed in the skylit space which was inspired by the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Due to the widespread negative reactions against replications such as these, few casts are being made and most have been destroyed. Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection has endured these tribulations and remains a world-class collection. Practicing on marble floors amongst casts of architectural masterpieces and massive columns really supports the main objective of yoga: being present.

Although I’ve been fortunate enough to practice in a variety of the beautiful spaces the Carnegie Museum of Art has to offer, most classes moving forward are expected to be held in the Hall of Sculpture, depending on the museums exhibit schedule throughout the year. The Hall of Sculpture was designed to showcase the museum’s collection of reproduction Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculptures and, similarly to the Hall of Architecture, is an epic space for yoga class.

As if this venue weren’t grand enough, there will be music accompaniment during class on occasion with various local Pittsburgh musicians. On February 23rd a cellist from the Pittsburgh Symphony, Michael DeBruyn, will be playing music, complementing Stefanie as she instructs.

Sessions take place Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. and are open to all levels for those ages 18 and over. All classes are drop-in and the fee is $10 for non-museum members, $8 for members and $5 for students; no online pre-registration is available. A 10-class pass can be purchased at the door for $75, $50 for members and students. And don’t forget your mat!

Having been a yogi for several years, practicing in a variety of spaces and studios with different instructors and types of yoga, I have to say this class and venue are one of a kind. It’s something that I enthusiastically anticipate each week. Now if only this Pittsburgh winter can cooperate so I don’t have to miss another class!

Photo credits: Carnegie Museum of Art

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