Confessions of a Naked Yogini. ~ Liz Arch {nudity}

Via on Mar 1, 2012

For a little more from Liz: Living & Dying on the Mat. ~ Liz Arch

The Real Unphotoshopped Me. ~ Liz Arch, Photographed by Robert Sturman

~

 

If you had asked me a few years ago about my thoughts on posing nude, my answer would have been: Hell, no!

What self-respecting woman would ever want to pose naked for public viewing? Doing ass-up yoga poses, no less? Not me.

I now stand corrected, and upside down and ass-side up.

Screen Shot 2013-07-13 at 10.12.49 PMSo how did I end up in a calendar with legs spread, sporting nothing but my birthday suit? I got on my yoga mat. I learned how to breathe. I learned how to let go. I learned how to accept myself and stop judging others for my own insecurities. Let’s face it, it’s hard to celebrate others for being comfortable in their own skin, like Briohny Smyth (in her underwear-clad video that went viral) or Kathryn Budig (in her nude toesox ads), when we’re not comfortable in our own.

I certainly wasn’t always comfortable in mine.

But, before you write this off as another article from a skinny girl whining about her body image, let me concede. At 5’8”, I am aware that I am tall and slender. I wear a size four-six and openly admit that my ass looks great in a pair of lululemon leggings. But insecurities come in all shapes and sizes.

I come from a large Hawaiian family and I mean large in every sense of the word. My sisters and I were raised on spam, rice and malasadas (deep fried Portuguese donuts covered in sugar). My father has diabetes and so did my grandparents who both died young due to health complications.

So while I might be able to squeeze into a size four on a good day, I am fighting an uphill battle with genetics. I have womanly hips (easily hidden in tight-fitting luon) and cellulite on my ass that I’ve had as long as I can remember (even luon has its limitations). I used to refuse massages because I didn’t want anyone getting a handful of my butt jiggle. On the rare occasions when I would get a massage, I would spend the entire session trying to subtly tilt my rear toward the ceiling to make everything seem rounder and smoother. At the end of the hour, I would hobble off the table with my lower back on fire from all of the effort it took to keep my ass skyward.

Photographed by Sven Hoffmann

My insecurities went deeper than my cellulite.

Growing up, I was an awkward looking kid with mouthful of crooked teeth because we couldn’t afford braces. My parents let me get a boy haircut in the third grade and instead of looking like my idol at the time, Mary Lou Retton, I looked like Justin Bieber. Awesome if you’re a boy. Not so awesome if you’re a girl. To add to my awkwardness, my family owned a funeral home. Nothing paints a larger target on your back as a child than being picked up from school in a hearse. Let’s just say, I spent a lot of my childhood being teased and crying in bathroom stalls.

Thankfully, I grew up. My hair grew back, I got Invisalign braces in college and thanks to HBO’s hit series Six Feet Under, funeral home families had become cool. All was well in the world and I had, as my sister would say, “turned out much prettier” than everyone thought I would.  Thanks guys.

But that ugly duckling feeling never really went away. It ultimately manifested with me marrying a man who constantly validated all the worst things I thought about myself. I wasn’t good enough, skinny enough, and strong enough. I just wasn’t enough. Period.

It was yoga and meditation that I turned to to help me find the strength to leave an unhealthy relationship. It was yoga that helped me create a new and healthy relationship with myself. Tuning into my breath allowed me to tune out all the bullshit I had been telling myself since childhood.

All that I had learned from yoga and meditation was all tested when I got a call from Jasper Johal, one of the best fine art photographers in the yoga industry, asking if I would be interested in shooting nude for the 2012 Body As Temple Calendar. I was incredibly honored and agreed. But when the initial excitement of the call wore off, panic set in and all the old insecurities came flooding back.  The shoot is this Thursday? Thursday as in three days from now? Shit. 

That wasn’t nearly enough time to prepare my body for its naked debut.

I found myself stepping onto the scale and immediately stepping off to Google the lemonade diet. Thankfully, before I could head off to the store for cayenne pepper and maple syrup, I had a, “What the f**k?!” moment. Was I really back to this place? Don’t I tell my students on a daily basis to accept and embrace themselves exactly as they are?

I wish I could say that I silenced my inner voice right then and there. But instead, I went to the tanning salon. If I couldn’t starve myself skinny in three days, I could at least fake and bake a few pounds off (that should have been the real WTF moment!). And, baked was what I got. I walked out feeling like a lobster with crispy nipples.

To make matters worse, I got my period the night before the shoot and a big fat pimple to go along with it. As I sat there bleeding, bloated, blemished and burned (are you turned on yet?), that nagging little voice popped up and told me to cancel. But I resisted the urge to slip back into old patterns.

Shooting nude suddenly became a powerful opportunity to silence my inner critic for good.

The shoot itself was an incredibly freeing experience. The lens was able to capture what I couldn’t see, a strength that only arises from vulnerability. The final photo now hangs in my living room and when I look at it, I see much more than a naked body. I see an inner confidence that exudes outward.

Now I embrace every line, every freckle and every wrinkle. I embrace my small breasts. I embrace my hips. Admittedly, I’m still working on embracing my cellulite. Perhaps for my next shoot, I’ll do a nude version of half moon and finally show off my full moon in all its glory.

Hey, even the real moon has craters, but that doesn’t stop us from admiring its beauty.

Related articles:

Photos: The Pure Essence of a Yogi {mild nudity}.

Briohny Smyth: The Full Story, Straight from the Yogini’s Mouth. {Article in English & Spanish}

~

Editor: Tanya L. Markul

Liz Arch is the creator of Primal Yoga®, a dynamic yoga/martial arts fusion class that merges Vinyasa yoga with the playfulness of Capoeira, the artistry of Kung Fu, the grace of Tai Chi, and the agility of Budokon into a creative and mindful flow. She has over 10 years of experience in various yoga and martial arts styles including Power Yoga, traditional Northern-style Kung Fu and Yang-style Tai-Chi. She is a yoga ambassador for lululemon athletica and YogaEarth and a proud advocate for A Window Between Worlds, a non-profit in Venice, CA that uses art as a healing tool for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. Visit her here or find her on facebook or twitter @primalyoga.

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43 Responses to “Confessions of a Naked Yogini. ~ Liz Arch {nudity}”

  1. Masha says:

    Wonderful article Liz! I guess we are all going through this process: fighting insecurities, trying to find inner confidence. But you definitely did an amazing job in getting to where you are right now. I sincerely admire you.
    This is going to be one of my favorite quotes from now on "even the real moon has craters, but that doesn’t stop us from admiring its beauty"!!

  2. modernyogi says:

    Liz, you are beautiful on the inside. Where it matters. Thank you for letting us see that part of you. Love, Atma

  3. Shep says:

    Radiant smile, shiny long hair, thoughtful eyes, a smokin' hot bod, strength to do a one armed handstand, and the confidence to do it naked. I can't imagine even a single cell of low self esteem in that package, but hey, its nice to know that everyone has at least a few inner demons to conquer. I'm glad you've moved past your old patterns and now embrace yourself just as you are, which honestly, ain't half bad.

  4. i have just shared this on my fb wall. said how my dad was the first naked yogi i knew, tho he practiced in a jock. bodies were not a prob. being naked is a very "interesting" feeling. taking clothes off is very liberating. BUT have found really cute pairs of stripy, stretchy boxers which are really brilliant when i practice….tho at 64 i am beginning again with practice…it's never too late for anything. AND, LIZ….i practice plant-based diet (99%) and have read a lot = what one doctor says, and i believe it is true is that "DIETS RUN IN FAMILIES, NOT DISEASES". and we can influence and change the disposition of our gene-pool……to a great degree. The answer lies on your dinner-plate….am i preaching to the converted ? (one of my dad's favourite rejoinders to me.)

  5. dimples says:

    beautiful photos. article? sorry, a little airy.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Nice opinions. Say why, and add something to the conversation, friend..!

    • BEK says:

      Agreed, this is disappointingly fluffy, it was hard to get past the veiled competition of "I fit into a size 4 on a good day" and the overall women's magazine tone. Oh well, to each their own.

  6. Andréa Balt says:

    I absolutely loved this. Thanks. Beautiful in every way.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on elephant culture.

    Andréa Balt, editor elephant culture.
    "Like" elephant culture on Facebook.
    Follow @MindfulCulture on Twitter.

  7. Allyson says:

    Wow, I already had a major girl crush on you from afar – based on the most incredible Primal Yoga photos, your kickass Lulu poster, and amazing reputation – but now it has increased ten-fold. I could not have articulated that freeing feeling any better – that yoga nurtures our inner bruised young self in order to liberate our future self. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, your photo, but most importantly your inner beauty.

  8. Deborah A. Smith says:

    Beautiful final photo!

  9. Liz Arch says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments! Your words are deeply felt and appreciated! Love & Light

  10. yogijulian says:

    nicely done liz! and the photo is stunning!

  11. i prefer clothes lol says:

    i think the story is great and very real. And, I'm all for overcoming out own insecurities- especially the ones about our physical bodies. However, I still don't understand the need to pose nude for yoga. The photographs are definitely beautiful, but yoga isn't about physical appearance. It was the event of posing nude and having it published that perpetuated old feelings of insecurities to the point of over-tanning and possibly lemonade diets?? Not worth it, I don't think.

    That said, I appreciate your honesty in that even yoginis (who know they're awesome and beautiful) are susceptible to ideas that we are values solely on our appearance. Thank you for sharing.

  12. [...] Confessions of a Naked Yogini. ~ Liz Arch {nudity} [...]

  13. hellomoment says:

    Liz – Thanks for writing this; it takes a lot of courage to be so vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. For what it's worth, I always thought you were seriously awesome (and gorgeous) back when we were in school, hearse and all. Reading your article reminds me to consider that we all have our struggles, no matter how perfect things may seem from the outside, and also that we sometimes forget our own radiance.

    Lisa A.

  14. Yoginspired says:

    This article really does very little outside of validating this girls continued underdeveloped self worth and crase character. She is supposed to be a high level yoga teacher, yet she curses like a sailer, speaks like a halmark card "even the real moon has craters" and is just figuring out that her beauty doesn't come from the outside in. What a revelation for a 30 year old yoga "teacher" who the "creator of a yoga style". She further demonstrates a lack of development in regard to her lack of self reflection and accountability when she suggests she was married to someone who "validated her worst fears". No person validates your fears, or "makes" you feel anything. People simply mirror your truth and you get the opportunity to accept or deny that truth. Anything anyone does, when you see yourself as ugly, will seem ugly to you. You can't see anyones good when all you see is your bad. So to villainies someone else for your fears shows you have not learned as much as you would like the reader to believe. In conclusion, this article is written by another one of the yoga communities mediocre "celebrity yogis" who is clearly not developed enough to teach anyone above high-school. I would seek a teacher who has at least learned the lesson of self reflection and personal accountability, not a little girl who is still working through her adolescent vanity issues and unresolved anger issues towards people who have been mirrors for her… And what does yoga have to do with naked photos, nothing, nor is her pose even a yoga posture.

    • Caitlin says:

      There are–what–seven billion people and counting on this planet, and you are questioning whether this woman could be a leader to a small portion of that number? We all come from different walks of life, and a teacher who is not for you may be a teacher for somebody else. There is no reason to judge who somebody is by the way you personally feel. This article has taken negativity and transformed it into something uplifting and beautiful. I'm afraid I can not say the same for the negativity of your response. What have you gained?

      And don't forget, the most important thing a teacher can do is be a student. Could you learn something from this experience right now?

  15. Jen says:

    We have to stop admiring hot yoga teachers who have pretty faces and very little to offer in terms of life experience, wisdom and knowledge of true yoga as a therapy. This girl sounds like a kid just figuring out she's pretty. Which is fine if you aren't my teacher!!!

  16. Robert says:

    This article approaches what great Art often approaches — embodying the fear of a culture and creating a safe space for others to experience it as well. It is in us all. Sometimes the best teachers are those who are the most human. A great teacher is really a great student.
    When we touch these raw notes, there will always be malicious response from others.
    The argument can never end. Just know that your courage and willingness to be naked (and we all know we are not talking about a physical nudity) in the depths of your fear is an awesome gift to life. Who better to be the founder of something called 'primal yoga' than someone who has the courage to go there and actually live it.
    Thank you for this inspiring work of Art. The world just got better.

  17. Liz Arch says:

    Thank you everyone for the comments. When I wrote this article, I realized that I was naturally opening myself up to criticism, so I appreciate all the feedback both positive and negative. Thank you so much to those who have expressed such heartfelt words of support – I greatly appreciate it and your words resonate deeply with me. I was a painfully shy and introverted child growing up to the point where my teachers asked my parents if I had a learning disability because I wouldn't speak. So putting myself out there and finding my voice, even if people disagree or judge is a powerful part of my journey. To those who did not enjoy this article, I sincerely thank you for expressing your thoughts. It allows me the opportunity to continue working on accepting criticism gracefully without internalizing it. Mahalo Nui Loa.

  18. MRK says:

    You are an inspiration Liz! I stumbled across this on my favorite yoga teacher's facebook page. I can relate to so many of the feelings and insecurities that you had. You inspire me to like myself for who I am. This is a daily challenge that I am seriously trying to tackle. When I'm practicing yoga (especially with Michelle), I feel truly serene and at peace with myself. Thank you again. All the best to you in your journey. You are beautiful.

  19. Ulyana says:

    I think it's easy to criticise her body image message, it is the nature of body image. Liz hasn't gone "deep" enough for some but she has reached her comfort zone, which I believe is much further than my own. I think this is only the beginning of what she has to offer and I'll look forward to more of her work.

  20. Elle says:

    Thank you Liz. I've been to your class before and always admired you from my yoga mat. I admire you even more now. I used to, and still do, have so many body issues, but it's often difficult to confide in anyone as I'm quite petite. From the outside, I imagine people think I have it all put together, a husband and two beautiful children, but the truth is my marriage has fallen apart and I am soon to be a single mom in LA and I'm scared shitless. I know I have to be strong, but it's so challenging. To read your articles makes the task seem a little less daunting. Thank you.

  21. Vane says:

    Hello Liz, I never heard of you before until I saw this picture (which is currently my desktop background!) because for me it represents the beauty of strength and vulnerability, and also the strength of vulnerability. Thank you for your honesty, openness and for adding some beauty to the world through art and movement. Please disregard the haters – they have a lot to learn. Best wishes to you.

  22. [...] Getting naked is just one of the many ways that Kathryn has built her brand, and building her brand is what has allowed her to make a living out of teaching. We, her audience and students, still get to decide if her teaching is any good. It is. Every famous-teacher-type winds up with some kind of shtick. Kathryns is “Aim True.” [...]

  23. I would like to show some gratitude to you for sharing this particular post. I really like your website and check it often, continue the good work.

  24. [...] the initial fear of being naked in front of someone else goes away, it becomes one of the most liberating moments one could ever [...]

  25. [...] 17. Confessions of a Naked Yogini. {Nudity} [...]

  26. Grant says:

    Liz, you are beautiful both inside and out and the few outspoken critics have their own more serious and deceptive issues to deal with namely being judgmental, jealous and self-righteous. Please keep on doing what you do – being authentically you… beautiful and transparent in your process. You are a gift. :-)

  27. yogib says:

    why aren't there all these male yoga teachers posing naked and barely dressed–sigh ..always the women and the their bodies being displayed

  28. Rogelio says:

    Artful grace n beauty. This is art for me also athletics contorting. I admire it from that point but calling it yoga? Not in my book. My ist yog teacher was similar. But I got injured within 3 months. She really plate to the ego n competiveness. But she was a performer entertainer.
    One question to u and the other two people that u mentioned. Would they have posed nude if there wasn’t a pay off of money free add and fame?

  29. Susan Jensen Yoga says:

    You are a brave warrior. That lens was definitely able to capture what you couldn’t see. Thank you for the reminder about strength rising from vulnerability.

  30. This was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for encouraging us all to accept and embrace our (so called) flaws. You are truly a beautiful soul.

  31. I absolutely love this, Liz! And just wrote about a similar experience posing nude and doing burlesque! Thank you so much for sharing.

  32. Tyson says:

    Here's hoping that one day Lululemon also embraces all body types. Cheers.

  33. Katie says:

    Beautiful Liz. I’ve loved your articles and your untouched shoot. However, I was so sad when I read that you went to a tanning salon to “prepare” for the shoot. As a 30 year old stage II melanoma survivor, I wish people knew how dangerous even 1 or 2 trips to the tanning salon can be. Melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers, is skyrocketing in young women. Please be happy in your own skin -it’s natural color.

  34. Caitlin says:

    What a beautiful piece! What a disappointment to read from commenters who have not been uplifted by this article. The only critique I have to share here is how unfortunate it is that such a topic needs to be prefaced with, "before you write this off…" I wonder if such a statement is subtracting from the confidence of this piece. I just want skinny women everywhere to own their body image issues and their ability to get through them. I want women of all shapes and sizes to own their bodies and love them. I don't want thin women's issues to be so taboo. It's like, If you're a woman with insecurities and you're heavy, you have an unwritten freedom to speak up about it, to tear down the way society has cast you out. If you happen to be a woman with insecurities and you are thin, what good are your insecurities? You've already reached the skinny quota your society has appointed to you. So shut up, quit whining. This kind of thinking misses the mark on women's issues 100%. It shouldn't be like that. It is not the media perpetuating our insecurities, it's us, the women. Kudos to you, Liz, for speaking up about your insecurities and working to transform them despite the odds against you. Now take that and own it, and let all women of every size and background know that it affects all of us and its not about losing weight, and losing weight won't make it magically go away. It's about being healthy, attentive, and proud of what we can do, and who we can become, no matter who we are and where we come from. That is something women and men can all share in. We are all in this together. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can live more positive and healthy lives.

    This photo is beautiful and exposes the things that run much deeper than the skin. Every curve of every muscle is brilliant, and when I look at this photo I'm not thinking, "oh look, another skinny yoga girl," I'm thinking, "wow, is that what we're made of?" In a perfect world, I believe we could all feel this way.

  35. Hunter says:

    I enjoy your journey from afar. The images are always inspiring and uplifting. It was cool to read about it.

  36. Thomas MacNeil says:

    Thanks for the great article, Liz! It's always nice to read your own emotions in another person's words. Proud of you!

  37. SkinnyYogini says:

    The whole world thinks that skinny girls are sexy. Confidence, honesty, lack of judgement and free-sprit is sexy. I am a skinny girl. Growing up I hated being skinny and at times still do. In junior high, I used to wear 2 bras just to make my chest look like I have breasts. I even wore 2 jeans to make myself look like I had hips. I crave for hips and curves. Again, I still do. I am in my mid thirties skinny petite girl. Every time I see acquaintances, they always nag and say “you are so skinny. How can you eat so much and be so skinny.” For others, they would love eating anything and stay skinny. For me, I dislike it with a passion. I feel ugly to be skinny. Now, I am learning to love my flesh and bones even though I want the curves. So for this article, I think it is a beautiful art that captures the confidence and free spirit in a human being. Skinny or curvy. There, you have the confessions of a skinny girl. So everyone take note that ALL beings have insecurities. Let’s all be grateful that we have found yoga and meditation to embrace ourselves. What we learn is to be open, free of judgement and able to express gratitude in any way shape or form as we practice daily. This photo is a photography of art. It’s not like she is making a DVD naked yoga to teach others. Embrace this piece of art that captures the essence of beauty and it’s avante garde way if showing how it is to be open in your spirit as it strips off all insecurities just as if you are nude.

    I appreciate art, photography and YOGA. Namaste.

  38. crowhillhouse says:

    I always look for the ToeSox ad first in YJ. Love the photos!

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