My guest blogger is Nottingham artist Charlotte Thomson-Morley, we met when Charlotte attended my yoga classes, and spoke to me of her desire to create some positive yoga body image inspired, illustrations, that give positive affirmations but also the images are of beautiful curvy women practising yoga. The results are just fabulous. Yoga is absolutely for Everyone all ages and abilities but that doesn’t always seem to be reflected in media images. I hope Charlotte’s experience of finding yoga and letting it boost her confidence and creativity will lift and elevate you!
Like many creative people I know, I have a busy mind
Constantly consumed by ideas, projects, plans, what ifs? and worst case scenarios, often all at once.
This coupled with a busy life (as I’m sure many of you will appreciate) is exhausting!
So how does this bring me to yoga? My yoga practice has become my lifeline and the one thing that helps bring order to this creative tangle of a mind! It has been there to help me bring healing to heartache and now it fuels my inspiration to paint curvaceous, yoga inspired women, just like me.
I was first intrigued by yoga as an arty misfit teenager. My first taste was a ‘Yogacise’ VHS and for the first time in my life it was a form of exercise I felt I could actually do. There was no PE teacher blowing a whistle at me for being the fattest and slowest kid. It felt liberating.
Four years ago at the age of 26 , I found a local yoga class to give it a proper try. I went riding high on a weight- loss binge, looking for a new ‘get fit’ scheme to attain the dream of a perfect body imposed on me by diet clubs and media.
What Yoga has ultimately given me has been so much more.
Within weeks I noticed a difference to my wellbeing, I was calmer, felt more balanced and the spiritual side of the class had been a revelation. Nobody there cared what I looked like on the mat, as long as I was doing the asanas safely, everyone’s ability was different and that was ok, there was no competition and everybody’s needs were considered. It was the first time I’d taken part in a class where my body was accepted the way it was and where my mind was just as important as my body.
A few months later mine and my husbands happy world hung in tatters. My mother in law died suddenly and the world no longer made sense. In the following 3 years we tried to create happiness in starting a family but due to my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome we were met with disappointment, endless procedures and heartbreak.
I have often found that creative people have quite fragile mental health and think and feel very deeply. My creativity was sucked away by depression and grief and it has taken help and support from family, friends and therapists to help me through these times.
My yoga practice had dwindled due to my health, I found I made excuses and apologies, ‘I’ve not been well’ seemed to be my new mantra. With encouragement from a friend I found Monique’s yoga class for beginners and people recovering from illness and injury.
Once I was back on the mat or clearing my mind in meditation, I felt like myself again and was amazed at what I was still capable of. I was physically stronger than I thought and my neglected ‘spiritual side’ felt like it had been given a cup of hot cocoa.
In addition, I attended a group learning about crystals, chakra colours and practising colour themed guided meditations and visualisations. I couldn’t help but make a connection between the spiritual side of the colours we explored and my own artwork. I started to look deeper into the way colours can make us feel. The reasons why I used colours the way I do started to become clear and I started thinking how I could help others like me through my work.
My art had always been quite straight forward depictions of people and I have a reputation for creating tongue in cheek, voluptuous 1950’s style pin up girls. The thing that connected my own physical body to these concepts had been yoga, so the depiction of people in yoga asanas was a logical way to start exploring these ideas!
I started researching, looking online for images of people in yoga postures. I was shocked at what I saw.
Everyone photographed was lycra clad, lean or muscular on a sunset drenched beach or pristine yoga studio glowing with ethereal light.
If I’d seen these images before I tried yoga would I have ever dared go to a class?
Where did my 5ft 3″, 13 stone, cellulite and stretch mark strewn body fit in and where did the curvaceous ladies that I drew fit in?
In desperation I searched for ‘Plus sized yoga’ and ‘curvy yoga’ I discovered magnificent women of all shapes, size and ethnicities doing beautiful asanas and celebrating their bodies.
Inspired I started to draw women who looked like me and my ultra curvy pin up girls. Beautiful and self assured in leopard print lycra (cellulite be damned!) with tattoos and wild coloured hair, baring flesh, doing yoga asanas and reaping the benefits.
My first sketches had a wonderful response. My friends could see themselves in these women, even if they weren’t yogis. Curvy friends and slim friends alike, male and female. They all seemed to feel that they could connect to these positive images.
With a lot of encouragement from Monique I developed them into a collection of 8 images, each one is based on a chakra colour. My sense of achievement has been huge. I have also been asked to become the first UK community partner for US based Yoga Body Image Coalition (ybicoalition.com )
Yoga for me has become part of my path to recovery, mentally, physically, creatively and spiritually.
I’ve been hugely fortunate to have been taught yoga in a loving way that is deeper than media images of perfect bodies and encourages us to bypass the guilt, judgement and shame we’re often made to feel for not fitting these ideals.
Your yoga practise is your own, it is deeply personal and I firmly believe that EVERYONE can practice and benefit from yoga in some way. This is a feeling I know I share with Monique and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for the encouragement she has shown me in my yoga and my art practice.
So what next? I’m planning lots new body-positive, yoga inspired artwork and a range of printed t-shirts in the new year. I’m also rocking my unexpected, completely miraculous baby bump down to antenatal yoga classes. I have a feeling that my yoga practice is going to be more useful than ever over the next few months!
Charlotte has been a full time fine artist and illustrator for over 10 years. She divides her time between heading up the illustration team for local craft company Daisytrail.com and creating voluptuous painted yoga ladies and pin up girls. She shares her home studio with her graphic designer husband David and their 18 year old cat Dylan.
Her artwork is available as ethically produced greeting cards and art prints on her Etsy shop.
Etsy Shop: www.charlottethomsonart.etsy.com Special discount code: YOGALOVE1
20% off purchases over £10 Valid until 22-12-2015