Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sun Salutations


Last week, I learned I have elevated blood pressure, for all I know a fairly recent development, right on the borderline to stage 1 hypertension. Since I am clinically a healthy weight and don't smoke, stress and lack of exercise are the probable culprits. I'm trying to make lifestyle changes to avoid going on medication, and my certified-yoga-instructor sister suggested I take up yoga, which according to studies has positive impacts on blood pressure levels. Today is day 4 of my new yoga regimen. In this morning's practice (I use dvd's at home for now), during the meditation, I found myself casting for a visual image to serve as inspiration. The Van Gogh painting pictured here (click image to enlarge) popped in my head, and I think I've found the perfect inspiration image to waken me to each day.

Meditating on an image is not about "facts," but the facts for me help provide the inspiration. Vincent painted this in late Nov-early Dec 1889, while he was in the asylum at Saint-Rémy. The walled wheatfield was visible from his bedroom window, and he drew and painted it many times during the seasons of his year there. This particular painting is unusual for him because it was done specifically for an exhibition: an exposition hosted by the avant-garde artists' group Les Vingt, which would be held in Brussels in early 1890. After receiving the invitation to participate--a great honor--Vincent chose five works from his Arles and Saint-Rémy oeuvre for Theo to send, and made this one especially. Also unusual for him at this point in his career, he spent weeks on it, working and reworking it to the point he felt it perfect. "I am curious to know what you will say," he wrote to Theo. Theo replied, "[It] has poetry in it." Vincent wrote to artist friend Émile Bernard about this picture and said, "I have tried to express calmness, a great peace." Vincent believed that his painting helped him with his illness and that painting soothing pictures would soothe his mind -- self-diagnosed art therapy!

What a life-affirming result. The rising sun with its "yellow halo" (Vincent's words), the greens of the young wheat growing in the field, the undulation of the Alpilles mountains behind...the painting reminds me what it felt like in summer 2007 to stand in that very field (now a flower garden), feel the warm sun on my face, the brisk wind at my back. A day that had no stress at all, just enjoyment of the moment and the experience of travel. I am reminded with this picture that even at his most ill, Vincent tried to find hope and peace in the world around him, especially in nature. And if that's not inspiring, I don't know what is.

3 comments:

Chris Hansen said...

Sheramy, I emailed you at your USF account, but I wanted to drop a line here, too, in case my email went into a spam folder. Just blast from your (high school) past, and I wanted to get in touch.

Drop me a line at christopher_hansen (at) baylor (dot) edu. I'd love to get caught up!

Chris Hansen

artmodel said...

Great to hear that you are starting a yoga regimen! Yes, it can have a positive, therapeutic effect on your high blood pressure levels. Yoga has so health many benefits. I have been a proponent for many years and wouldn't give it up for anything. I credit yoga with everything from flexibility to weight loss to overall wellness and peace of mind.

Good luck with it, Sheramy! Namaste . . .

Sheramy said...

Hi Claudia--
I've been 2 weeks at my new yoga regimen and just love it. I have more energy, I sleep better, and in general just feel better. My sister got me hooked on Rodney Yee's videos, which is what I use for practice until I get up the nerve and flexibility to go to a real class. ;-) I've seen your references to yoga on your blog before -- you definitely need it to stay still and focused for so long!! Namaste...