On a bustling 25th Street in Oakland's Uptown District, a group of people gathered in front of a storefront gallery and witnessed an innovative window display.
Wearing a yoga top and Capri pants, her body glistening with painted designs, Jillian Bobowicz moved fluidly from a Downward Dog yoga pose to a Warrior Two. From the corner of her eye she saw a little girl shriek with delight and heard her say "One of the mannequins just moved!"
Remaining poised despite the onlookers, Bobowicz said she balanced her body and mind amid the flurry of activity during Oakland's Art Murmur that Friday evening.
"The distractions were there but you use that challenge as a tool to concentrate and remain calm," she said.
Bobowicz and fellow yogis displayed yoga poses as performance art in the storefront window of the 25th Street Collective, a vintage warehouse -- tucked away among a row of car repair shops between Telegraph and Broadway -- where local artists create and showcase their work.
That first Friday of April officially launched "Yoga for Artists," an event organized by Bobowicz, her sister Chelsea and Walnut Creek artist Jenna Mitchell to give artists space to heal as well as gain inspiration to create works of art.
"For me, yoga is my art. It really comes down to practicing yoga as a form of personal expression," said Bobowicz, a Walnut Creek resident. "Yoga has provided an infinite source of wisdom from within."
As Bobowicz continued her yoga teacher training in fall 2011, she was looking for another space to teach yoga. She learned about the 25th Street Collective from her sister, who started as an assistant for a designer at the collective, and now works as the space's gallery director and co-curator.
While many artists boast the therapeutic benefits of creating art, as a yoga teacher, Bobowicz was concerned about the repetitive stress that plagues artists as they work.
"Jewelers can hammer over and over again, painters use their hands and wrists to do brush strokes, and writers crouch at their desks and type -- stress that builds up on important parts of the body can become a block so the creative force can't flow through," Bobowicz said. "We want to keep these body parts open and healthy. I see this as occupational therapy for artists."
For nearly two years, Bobowicz has taught yoga classes for the artists at the collective and now with the April launching, she, her sister and Mitchell hope to open the space for all artists to cultivate inspiration and healing through yoga.
Bobowicz said that every yoga teacher brings their own form of creative expression and experience to the yoga sequences they present in class.
"Teaching yoga in itself is an art," she said.
For Jenna Mitchell, painting designs inspired by Indian and Henna art on yoga practitioners was her contribution to sharing the benefits of yoga. Mitchell, a 2004 Las Lomas High School grad working toward yoga teacher certification, said she was happy to share her painting skills for a noble cause.
"Creating art can be taxing on the body," said Mitchell. "Artists' block can be very frustrating. But when you tap into this infinite, creative source within you through yoga, it can be extremely helpful for inspiration and creativity."
Chelsea Bobowicz said the concept of "Yoga for Artists" at the 25th Street Collective, founded by designer Hiroko Kurihara, came about organically as the work and gallery space drew more artists.
"It's been a really great way for artists and yogis to tell their stories and to watch as these stories are unfolding on stage," she said.
After injuring her wrist, Chelsea Bobowicz "outgrew her role as seamstress" for Platinum Dirt, a leather designer and collective member, and focused her creative energy on developing the storefront gallery. Showcasing yoga as performance art has been one of those sustainable projects, she said.
"We're focusing on community building by offering yoga in a healing space while educating the public on what we do here," Chelsea Bobowicz said. "It's also a place where artists can bounce ideas off each other."
Mitchell said her yoga practice has given her renewed inspiration for her drawings and paintings.
"As an artist, yoga has had a huge impact on my creativity and motivates me to get back to my art."