Stretching Yourselves Whole Again

We all know the phrase, “I’m stretching myself too thin.” As college students, it’s sometimes hard to comprehend all that we’re actually doing and accomplishing in a day while fully wrapped up in papers, studying, parties, clubs, interviews, applications, volunteering, office hours, and hey, um, don’t forget sleeping, eating, and breathing! Rinse. Repeat.

Yogi Tea Quote via

And I say, it’s about time that we “stretch ourselves whole” again.

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So let’s chat about physical fitness for a minute. Ever since I came to college and am no longer a part of team sports like I was in high school, I’ve become very phase-y. First, there was the running phase. That wore out. Next was the strength training YouTube videos. That quickly ran its course as well. I’ll always have dancing and walking in my pocket because to me, I never feel like I consciously have to be aware that I’m “working out.” We are all different beings, though. So whatever your exercise plan is, you do you.

But one thing we should have in common is stretching. Stretching is in a category of its own. It’s like tea in physical form. It can warm your muscles and your central system, while relaxing you to a calm. The heat from the mug can sometimes be painful to touch, but the more you adapt to its fire, you find it comforting and embrace it. It’s good any time, morning, noon, night, when you’re sick, when you’re sad, when you’re cold, when you’re stressed, when you’re chill, when you’re in pain, when you’re bored, when you’re among friends.

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Okay, enough of the tea metaphor, you get my point. I’m not even talking about hot vinyasa yoga, I’m talking basic gym class stretches. Taking a moment to rub out the kinks of the day, to drink in the quiet, to listen to how your body feels and connect mind to body. We force our body to work so hard through the day. Stretching is your way of giving back to it. It’s the best non-vocal way of saying, “Thanks” (which is probably better – because can the body actually hear itself talking to itself? Philosophers, physiologists? What’s your stance on this?)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “What does stretching have to do with art?” Stretching is a practice of stimulating both mind and body at the same time, just like painting, writing, acting, dance – only at a slower pace. The carpet or mat you stretch on is an open canvas where you can let your mind wander, explore your imagination and discover yourself. It’s active, just like all types of art. There’s no correct way of doing a stretch. You listen to your own limits, follow your own desires. It’s recommended to open the window, breathe in the fresh air, scratch the carpet, draw with your fingers as if you were carving imaginary loops into the ground below you, hum to yourself, transport yourself to a far-off sandy beach in your mind while traveling deep into your heart. The more senses you can engage while stretching, the better. Stretching is your time to be positive, to be graceful. Allow yourself to be surprised. In the time that you could watch a V-Sauce video, you could also generate waves of positivity and possibility within your body.

Trust me, even through this hippy-dippiness, begin and end your day with a quick stretch. You know how satisfied you feel after you sneeze or yawn? Stretching is like a slow-motion form of your body yawning. You will love how you feel and you will find that joy steeped throughout your day [okay, tea jokes are now done!]

Best wishes for this final exams week, everyone!

P.S. Here are some of my favorite stretching videos on the InterWeb (if you know any others, please share them in the Comments below!!!)

Everything Old is Vogue Again

“The past is regarded as instrumental to the formation of modernity, of modern times, in the same way that (visual) quotes from the ancient account for the charm and potential of fashion.”

A Visit to the Gallery

 This quote from Ulrich Lehman underscores the UMMA painting A Visit to the Gallery by Pier Celestino Gilardi. In the painting, a group of clothed Victorian women look at a first century marble nude that stands elevated on a pedestal in an elaborately decorated space. The women sit on a couch looking up at the statue and pointing at it, but they do not approach it. In the eyes of the elaborately clothed women, the Venus is an idealized figure from the ambiguous age of antiquity. The deep space of the painting and the visual contrasts between the Victorian women and the Venus hint at a temporal and fashionable distance.

As viewers, we may be tempted to do the same when viewing classical statues. But underneath the obvious temporal, spatial, and nude-clothed differences between the Victorians and Venus there are also similarities. In 2012, the University of Modena carried out an investigation into the statue and uncovered her colorful past.

What they found has changed my view of pristine classical sculptures forever. Far from being a white-washed and bland conglomeration of classical eras, the Venus represents specific trends in fashions and aesthetics that may have produced a different reaction from the Victorian crowd, had they been able to see her in her original state. The University of Modena uncovered layers of makeup, gold hair paint, and earrings.

The gaudy accessories that the Venus sculpture once wore in her heyday would have been used for the same reason of the Victorian women or of any pop star today; namely to elevate her social status and call attention to certain areas of her body.

Kylie Minogue in concert, dressed as Venus emerging from the sea

The makeup of the Venus also once played a large part in her presentation and eroticism. The same scholars that uncovered her ancient jewelry also discovered a layer of bright red paint on her lips and gold paint on her hair. The gold and red would have drawn any viewer’s eye to her head (much like the ostrich feather on the hat of the women on the right).

Venus’s hands are placed on erogenous zones, including her breast and pubic area. In a seeming attempt to cover up her body, she only calls attention to the greatest points of visual impact.

The Victorian women of the Gilardi painting also call attention to evocative areas. With their erect postures (seen in both the seated and standing figures) the women make sure that the elaborate ruffles on their chest and buttocks can clearly be seen. One woman even crosses her legs while seated, enabling her to show a small portion of her ankle. Venus similarly uses her legs to create an exaggerated crook at her waist and reveal an enticing gap between her thighs.

It is always easy for us as modern spectators to perceive the white, podium-displayed visuals of an older era and immediately decide that it bears no connections to one’s own like the distanced women in Gilardi’s painting with their pointed fingers and sly smiles sent in the direction of Venus’s high podium.

But by automatically distancing ourselves from an era without considering its original context we limit ourselves to a singular idea of beauty from antiquity. If the group of Victorian women had seen Venus in her original fashionable state, they would most likely have different reactions to this goddess. I know I will every time I view white antique statues from now on.