Manduka meets van Gogh: Yoga and art as sources of inspiration

Manduka meets van Gogh: Yoga and art as sources of inspiration

An interview with James Appleby about the Manduka x Van Gogh Museum Collection


James Appleby


James Appleby is Vice President of Product at Manduka and General Manager of EMEA, based in Amsterdam. He came into contact with yoga in 2006 through his partner when they were both living in France. He has been practising yoga ever since and knows its benefits regarding physical and mental health. When he heard the personal story of the famous painter Vincent van Gogh, he had the idea for a very special collaboration, which resulted in the Manduka x Van Gogh Museum Collection. 

Can you explain how the collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum came to life and what your role was in this process?

James: I originally approached the Van Gogh Museum after learning more about Vincent‘s openness to communicate about his challenges with mental health. The relevance to the power of yoga and how this can connect with the community today was something I felt was a powerful story. Through the process of building the collection and working with the Van Gogh Museum I learnt so much more about him, his relationship with his brother, his time at Saint-Rémy, and so the story kept evolving and getting stronger, with it eventually becoming extremely powerful to me personally.

It was certainly not easy to choose from the large number of paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Why did you choose three paintings Wild Roses, Irises and Almond Blossom for the collaboration?

James: The paintings and work were chosen based on the connection with nature, and these were specifically painted during his short time while staying at Saint-Rémy. This being the period of time when Vincent was receiving support and communicating openly about his wellbeing to his brother Theo, the paintings represent a journey of small steps of growth and improving wellbeing.

The great doesn’t happen alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together.

Vincent to Theo – October 22 1882


Wild Roses, May/June 1890


Irises, May 1890


Almond Blossom, February 1890

What inspires you personally about the eventful life of Vincent van Gogh?

James: I was inspired from learning how Vincent was so transparent about his mental state and his openness to his challenges and emotions that he was experiencing throughout his life and his desire to find help. I felt this was an inspirational story that is more relevant to our world today than ever, and with it being still a challenging stigma today, I cannot imagine the bravery to be this vulnerable in the late 1800s. But the time when he was getting help in Saint-Rémy was when he was his most productive, and in that one year he managed to create over 150 paintings. Which is truly incredible. I am very grateful to have been able to spend so much time with the art, with the colours, experiencing seeing the brush stroke and the colour mixing on extreme high resolution versions of the paintings. The project has left a stronger impression on me than I realized, and when seeing the Manduka products in the museum, next to the work, it was strangely emotional.


What is the main message of this collection and how does it go hand in hand with sustainability?

James: The main message that we hope this partnership communicates is one of inspiration. Using Vincent’s paintings to inspire and invigorate people to talk openly with no repercussions about their feelings, to ask for help when needed and to do something that could make you happy. Manduka believes Yoga, meditation, and any form of physical or mental wellbeing have such a positive impact on all people, that we hope the collaboration inspires those who already practice to continue and share their experiences to others to be inspired to start or learn about what yoga and meditation are and can do. Manduka is a performance yoga brand that is constantly using colour and education in its product innovations to inspire as many people as possible about the benefits of Yoga. So using the brilliance of Vincent‘s paintings and colours makes the partnership even more powerful and long lasting. We strive for longevity in our product through focusing on durability, performance and sustainability and are excited that this collection will be constantly relevant to the yoga community.

And why is it important for you as a yoga brand to raise awareness to mental health issues and to encourage people to communicate about these challenges openly?

James:  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 a daily yogic practice to bring balance to overwhelming schedules and commitments. 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 inspiration and drive is the power of yoga and its positive impact on the world, and we believe that yoga is for everyone and anyone. Mental Health has changed since the time of Vincent in its consciousness of how it can affect everyone. The level of difference varies person to person, but everyone can be affected. The stigma of it has changed since the time of Vincent as well, but not as much as it should have. Vincent might be more known to some for his self harm history, over his openness to ask for help and his range of beautiful work, yet similar experiences have occurred in 2021 in sport where mental health is challenged through the stress and environment of a situation and instead of seeing this as being positive for mental health, the focus has been upon their decision to ask for help as a weakness over their achievements. So we still have a long way to go and we hope this is one little thing that can inspire.

Thank you very much for your time and the nice interview.



Designed by yogis and recommended by yoga teachers around the world: Manduka has been one of the most popular and renowned brands for yoga mats, yoga clothing and yoga accessories for many years. With their Van Gogh collection, the label dedicates a special product range to the famous Dutch painter - inspired by his artistic motifs, touched by his personal story. With this very special collection, Manduka wants to encourage people to talk openly about their feelings and seek help when the situation calls for it.

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