I enter the dark hallways of Mississauga City Hall, guided by the illuminated AGM. Just a week ago, these halls were bustling with people drinking and engaging in conversation as the gallery opened its new show. On January 20, however, the AGM dedicated gallery space to a whole other purpose.

“Art of Yoga”, somewhat an introduction to yoga, is hosted on one Wednesday per month. Fees are minimal—a donation is encouraged as all proceeds are returned to the gallery. However, all are welcome.

Salimah Kassim-Lakha, yoga therapist of 10 years, leads the class as an alternative means of appreciating the gallery’s work and as a way to introduce the experience of yoga. The form practiced tonight is known as the “Kundalini” style of yoga. Kassim-Lakha explains that this form is meant to “raise consciousness and awareness” of the body and its energy. While other forms traditionally focus on tuning up the body, this one focuses on coming to terms with the body, and its philosophy adheres strongly to appreciating and recognizing one’s mantra, and meditating.

She expresses that the gallery is a “community space” where the art’s presence is key as it represents the community’s work and the environment assists with concentration during the session. The atmosphere is tranquil, and the acoustics really complement the chanting and the melodies provided with each stretch and breathing exercise. During the class, deep breathing is a major focus as participants are encouraged to concentrate on releasing the day’s stress and clearing the mind of any thoughts. There is spiritual chanting and calming music throughout which to help relieve stress.

I was originally slightly skeptical regarding yoga, but Kassim-Lakha makes her point clear when she says that an art that has been practiced this long must be beneficial in some manner; otherwise it just wouldn’t have such widespread longevity. Walking in, I had the weight of classes, graduation, and work on my shoulders. As I sat down and went through the positions, those concerns dissipated and were replaced by concentration.

Kassim-Lakha’s next class at the AGM is scheduled for February 10.

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