I met Carlan Hughes during my yoga teacher training in Vikasa a few months ago. One word: She’s amazing! I felt like I was quite young for doing a teacher training, but there she was, 19 years old, already pursuing her dreams. Carlan became one of my best friends and bean-bag buddies during the training, with an adorable sense of humour and such a lovely presence. So yes – I love her – and when she drew this amazing picture of me I knew I needed to share her magic with the world. And what better way to do it than to dig a little deeper and do a #nofilter interview! After reading through her beautiful answers I am even more impressed. Check her out on Instagram as well. I’m sure you will love her <3
Describe who you are and what you do in 3 sentences or less.
I am Carlan Hughes, a lover of art, yoga, the world and its people. I am 19 years old and have recently transferred to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in hopes of pursuing my passion of visual art. I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada but now live in Alberta’s neighbouring province of British Columbia, where I get to enjoy Vancouver’s endless beauty (and rain).
Which came first for you – yoga or art? How did one lead you to the other?
Art has been my passion for my whole entire life— it’s the one thing I’ve loved since before I can remember. So art definitely came first, but at this point in my life I see my yoga practice and my art as inextricably intertwined. Yoga gives me the gift of getting to know myself and art gives me the gift of expressing that self.
Why did you decide to become a yoga teacher? And do you plan to combine both yoga and art in your future career?
I had always thought that becoming a yoga teacher was something that was far from abilities, and yet for a while the idea wouldn’t leave my brain. When I realized it was fear holding me back, I decided I would commit to my 200 hour training whether I was ready for it or not. Lucky for me, it was one the most transformative experiences I could have ever asked for.
Though I don’t teach yoga right now, I hope to do so throughout the entirety of my life. In terms of a career, my goal today is to become an art therapist. Art therapy is a mental health profession where people are encouraged to explore their thoughts and feelings through artistic and creative practices. Yoga can also be used as an incredibly effective therapeutic tool; I see my growing knowledge of yogic breath and other teachings to go alongside any psychology related career I may choose to pursue. So yeah, I definitely hope to combine both art and yoga in my future career, in fact it’s those two aspects of my life that have shaped how I hope to make an impact in my life.
Who or what inspires you, that is both your yoga and your art?
I think the most beautiful and courageous thing you can be is your true self, so it’s people who are genuine and authentic who inspire me the most. Most of the time these are my friends and acquaintances, sometimes just people I see on the street. When a person’s expression of themselves (in the ways they act, treat others, present themselves, etc.) is in line with their personal beliefs, you can see it; it’s like they glow. In terms of in the media, I love the female rapper Princess Nokia because she is unapologetically herself, and in turn encourages me to do so as well.
Tell me about the yoga portraits you make – when did you start making those and why?
I started making them during my training because I realized what a commodity it was for an artist to be surrounded by beautiful people who could do beautiful things with their bodies. It started off mostly as a practice of drawing bodies, but as my understandings of yoga deepened, so did my intentions around the portraits. It was a gift to be able to capture the inspiring people around me doing what they loved the most. On top of that, creating the portraits was a way to keep up with my art while still completely immersing myself with thoughts of yoga.
In your career and life, what’s been your greatest asset? And, if you care to share, your greatest hindrance? How did you overcome it?
I believe that my greatest asset is my ability to see the positives in any given situation, which is a skill that has been exponentially strengthened by yoga. This gives me the resilience necessary to deal with life’s low points, which are inevitable. My greatest hindrance, however, is definitely self-doubt. I think it’s a very normal thing that everyone has to learn to overcome, and it’s something I’m constantly working on. That being said, it gives me the self-criticism necessary to be sure I’m always putting out my best self. The difficulty is found in trying to figure out a balance. Distancing myself from my ego, mostly through meditation, is something that has really helped me with navigating self-doubt. When I was able to realize that I am much more than just my thoughts and ideas, the weight of those thoughts and ideas became less burdensome and I was able to express them more freely.
Do you ever feel self-conscious or insecure about putting yourself or your art out into the world? How do you deal with those feelings?
Obviously everyone experiences insecurity, I certainly do. The whole job of the artist is to be creating in a way that nobody has ever created, and that’s really scary. I’ve found, however, that the more I put myself out into the world, the less scary and insecurity-inducing ‘putting myself out into the world’ becomes. Creating a platform (for me it was an Instagram account) where I forced myself to share my work, whether I thought it good or bad, has been a very important part of my journey to becoming comfortable with presenting my art. When I first began posting pieces, it was a very scary and vulnerable process, but that’s why it has made me grow. Vulnerability is something that I struggle with, but I have come to learn that the ability to embrace one’s vulnerability may be one of the strongest combatants we have against our self-consciousness. I’m a strong believer that self-growth stems from discomfort.
What is your personal measure of success?
I’m just a kid so I’m still trying to figure this out. I think joy is my measure of success. I think? Who knows.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
I don’t know if this qualifies as advice, but I recently read Maya Angelou’s wonderful book “Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now.” In it, she writes:
“Everything costs and costs the earth. In order to win, we pay with energy and effort and discipline. If we lose, we pay in disappointment, discontent, and lack of fulfillment. So, since a price will be exacted from us for everything we do or leave undone, we should pluck up the courage to win, to win back our finer and kinder and healthier selves.”
This little excerpt has not left my mind. Though the words ‘win’ and ‘lose’ are used to make her point, it’s not about being the best at anything but rather about committing to a life that you will be proud of. Sure, being courageous and isn’t always fun, but in many cases it’s what it takes to live a fulfilling life. And that is definitely more fun than the alternative.