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  • Van Gogh and mental health: The Untold Story

    01 / Nov / 2021

    Van Gogh and mental health: The Untold Story

    Today we are fortunate to live in a world where mental health is today’s zeitgeist. Whilst it might not be a conversation we can always have easily with those around us, we are lucky that there are many places and people we can approach with this subject. 

    Today we are fortunate to live in a world where mental health is today’s zeitgeist. Whilst it might not be a conversation we can always have easily with those around us, we are lucky that there are many places and people we can approach with this subject. 

    For us to arrive in this state many have suffered silently along some very difficult paths. But there are a few brave individuals who started this conversation long before it was an open topic. 

    Many know of the mental health challenges that Vincent van Gogh battled with through his life which infamously became the most common part of his story through self harm and ultimately caused him to claim his own life. But the story which is solemnly told is his apparent openness to discuss these issues with those closest to him and seek help.

    Vincent’s story is one that draws many parallels with many of us in today’s society. He struggled with the level of recognition he was getting through his hard work. He pushed himself in his work to the point of exhaustion trying to progress with his career in painting. His personal relationships were falling apart as he began to become more estranged from those closest to him. Self doubt, burn out and the pressures of personal relationships and desire or need for community are all topics that hinder our society today.

    It is because of Vincent’s openness in talking about these issues with his brother Theo, and his self awareness that he needed and wanted help to recover that drove Manduka to seek a collaboration with Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. 


    ‘For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together.’

    Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, 22 October 1882


    This quote represents everything we embody in Yoga and strives to tell the story of yoga and its positive impact on everyone. There is no one fix. It is a series of small steps on the journey to wellbeing. Whether it be 30 seconds of focused breathing, a few minutes of self calming thoughts or a 5 minute flow of movement, every little thing adds up to success.

    In many letters to his brother Vincent spoke about his troubles and the darkness that he felt. After a series of mental episodes that appeared through hallucinations, panic attacks, nightmares, suicidal thoughts and self harm, Vincent checked himself into St Remy. A “Maison de Santé" or the mental health institution in France.

    Vincent wasn’t able to work during his darker periods, but when he felt well enough, he was exceptionally productive. Whenever he could, he headed out into the garden of the clinic to draw and paint. Van Gogh made some 150 paintings during his time in the South of France. Manduka has decided to focus on three works from this period that are all connected with nature to tell his story of struggle, recovery and genius. 


    Wild Roses, Irises and Almond Blossom.

    Each artwork represents a journey of small steps of growth and wellbeing. 

    Through the inspiration from each piece, we’ve created a capsule collection of performance products that provide something unique to any yogi. With this collaboration, we hope to promote conversation around Mental Health and support for health and positivity in communities around the world.​

    The series includes design variations inspired by Van Gogh’s most-impressive work, imprinted on select Manduka products, such as the PRO Mat, Restorative Round Mat, Yogitoes Yoga Mat Towel, Hand Towel and Foam Blocks.

    Wild Roses painted in May-June 1889 

    This was the first painting he did when he arrived at the hospital. In the first weeks, he wasn't allowed to leave the grounds, so he focused on subjects within the institution's walled garden where he came across a bush of Wild Roses.


    Irises painted in May 1890

    Van Gogh painted this bouquet style still life towards the end of his journey in Saint-Rémy. He set out to achieve a powerful color contrast. By placing the purple flowers against a yellow  background, he made the decorative forms stand out even stronger. The irises were originally purple. But as the red pigment has faded, they have turned blue.

    Manduka developed PRO Series Yoga Mats to recreate the exact pantones of the Wild Roses Green and Irises Gold. Each product was supported by exact replications of the paintings on our Yogitoes towels, as well as exact printed replicated detail of the flowers on the mats. The combination of colours provides an invigorating Wild Roses Collection or a warming Irises Collection.

    Almond Blossom painted in February 1890

    The painting was a gift for his brother Theo and sister-in-law Jo, who had just had a baby son, Vincent Willem.

    The Almond Blossom painting was enlarged with precise replicated details showing, brush stroke and colour mixes on our Restorative Round Mat. This unique Manduka Yoga Mat gave the perfect placement for the Almond Blossom and is a crowning jewel to the calming collection.


    The practice of Asana, Pranayama and Meditation are great tools for anyone and everyone to use to help calm their world and bring their focus inwards. Many people are using daily yogic practices to bring balance to overwhelming schedules and commitments, in their professional and personal lives. 

    Connecting your breath and movement has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and help fight depression. Yoga can be used as a preventative and supportive treatment for anyone susceptible or suffering from mental health issues.


    Our hope is that by honouring these great works from a celebrated and troubled artist we can help to further the openness in this conversation around mental health. And it’s a thank you to all those who have walked this road before us, to show anyone struggling in today’s world that you are not alone.

    • Lotte Dries Lotte Dries 01 / Nov / 2021 @ 16:01

      So true!!! Vincent Van Gogh <3<3<3

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