Why The Primavera?
You may have seen my post or email recently that used Botticelli’s Primavera to illustrate May Day and the celebrations that have surrounded that time of year since the Roman’s roamed the known world. You may have enjoyed seeing some Renaissance art or maybe that’s not your thing. Either way you would be forgiven for wondering what a painting of Roman Deities from the 15th Century has to do with Yoga!
Yes, the painting depicts the Goddess Flora for whom a festival named Floralia is the first recorded celebrations of May – but that doesn’t really answer the question. Surely it would have been more fitting just to use a single image of her to highlight the history? Perhaps, but there is so much more to the painting that we can draw on in our practice. And if you’ll indulge me a little, I’ll explain.
The Primavera depicts the whole movement of Spring. From right to left, we see the biting winds of March shown as Zephyrus interacting with Chloris, who through marriage he would make the Goddess Flora. Flora is the Goddess of flowers, who we see in full form to the left of Zephyrus and Chloris. She is the symbol of abundance, pregnant with the flora of spring. In the centre is Venus with her son Cupid overhead, they perhaps symbolise love, marriage, new life and the abundance that comes from those unions. We then have the Three Graces, those who represent love, beauty and charity, and finally Mercury, the God of May who clears the cloudy skies and shepherds in summer.
This painting is a celebration of what Spring symbolises – coming out of the dark, cold days of winter and beckoning in the halcyon days of summer.
What Does That Have To Do With Yoga?
Again you might ask, what has this got to do with yoga??
Well for me this has everything to do with yoga because it has everything to do with life!
We all experience those dark times, those dark days of winter in our lives, those times that seem never ending. In those times we come to our mats to find solace, relief and perhaps enough joy to remind us that just as Spring will come to shepherd in Summer, those times in our life will also pass.
All Things Must Pass
For me The Primavera is a shorthand reminder that no matter how cold and dark things seem, better times are coming. That the world is still full of beauty, love and abundance, and I don’t have to see it all the time to know it is there. Nor do I have to put expectations on myself to always be positive and upbeat, there is time to dwell in Winter when we trust that Spring will come. My yoga practice tells me that too.
It also tells me that it is important to celebrate those moments of Spring and Summer, just as human beings have done for millennia. That we must come together to share our joys, as well as our sorrows.
The world is becoming an increasingly black and white place with constant reinforcement of “good vibes only” or “it’s okay not to be okay”, and those things have their places. But yoga and art remind us that the world is not black and white, there aren’t only shades of grey either but rather it is full of colour and nuance. A thousand hidden, tiny joys and heartaches that touch all of our lives. It teaches to celebrate each triumph and defeat as they shape who we are.