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The Beauty of Yoga and Discriminating Architecture Unfold in Unity

Harmony. Balance. Unity. These are words used to describe the design of the Darwin Martin House.

The same words are used to describe the benefits of yoga. In many ways, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and yoga are complementary practices. That’s what a group of yoga and architectural fans explored at Thursday evening’s event at the Darwin Martin House on Jewett Parkway.

We removed our shoes at the door, laid our mats on the floor of the Great Batch Pavilion then sat down, which gave us an ideal vantage point for taking in Wright’s complex through the floor to ceiling windows. Docent and yoga student, Cynthia Silverstein told us the story of Martin’s career at the Larkin Company and his longstanding friendship with Frank Lloyd Wright, which began when Wright designed the Martin family’s home in 1903. A man of integrity, Martin wanted a home that reflected his values and Wright was the man to deliver it. Some say this it is Wright’s greatest work and example of Prairie architecture. Wright referred to it as a “domestic symphony”; our docent explained that Wright played an internal soundtrack of Beethoven music while he worked.

After taking in the outside of the building from the warmth of the pavilion, we went next door to tour the inside. Wright’s intention was to connect the inside and outside because “they are of each other.” At the threshold, the roof is lowered, preparing us to venture into the 180 foot entranceway. There is an experience of contraction and then expansion, which yoga teacher KateBaer- Gagola compared to the conscious breathing in and breathing out which is fundamental to yoga.

The horizontal lines and the earthen tones of the interior rooms lend a feeling of shelter and grounding. Low lighting contributes to this peaceful effect. We sat on the rug and experienced it with our senses. There is a mood of quiet, of peacefulness in the room. Again, this quality is associated with yoga when practitioners find peace in the home of their physical bodies.

Although the Martin home environment is rich with details, the consistency and repetition of natural materials and colors allows space for focused attention.

Although the Martin home environment is rich with details, the consistency and repetition of natural materials and colors allows space for focused attention. Darwin Martin was a self-educated man, an avid reader, so Wright created concealed shelves to hold Martin’s huge book collection. Martin or a member of his family could read a book in the library without the visual distraction of other books. Focused attention is a benefit of yoga.

Restoration of the Darwin Martin House is an ongoing project; the house is a museum so everything is being done right as originally intended. The first floor is largely complete except for some glass and furniture. In Kate Baer-Gagola’s annual “Yoga at the Darwin Martin House”, participants witness the slow but steady progress. I am looking forward to the completion of the four-sided fireplace in the entranceway but trust it will be worth the wait. This June is the celebration of “150 years of Frank Lloyd Wright”. Amazing to think that the architect of such modern designs will be 150 years old this year but then again, yoga has never been more popular and it is thought to be over 5,000 years old.

We walked through the home, the pergola and the conservatory before going back to the Great Batch Pavilion for our yoga session. It was twilight and luminaries gave just enough light to see instructor Kate Baer-Gagola as she guided us through a gentle, balancing and inward focused practice. Wright said, “Like poetry, the sense of architecture is the sound within.” He could have compared poetry and architecture to yoga as well.

When the yoga session ended, we shared a light, lovely and delicious reception of food and tea, adding tasteful to the soothing sensory experiences of the evening. For more information about yoga classes, check “Intentional Yoga with Kate” online and the Darwin Martin House website for upcoming events. Join the over 30,000 visitors who come to the site annually and experience why.

Lead image and inset image: Toshiko Mori Visitor’s Center

Written by Judith Frizlen

Judith Frizlen

Judith Frizlen is the founder of the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center and author of Words for Parents, Words for Teachers and Caregivers and Unpacking Guilt, a Mother's Journey to Freedom. Books and blogposts are on her website at judithfrizlen.com. She is a fan of early childhood, urban architecture and the revitalization of Buffalo.

View All Articles by Judith Frizlen
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