Guest Posts, Owning It!, Self Image

Confessions of a Naked Yogini. Guest Post by Liz Arch.

March 2, 2012


Liz Arch is a dear friend of mine. In fact, last year we were roommates when Lululemon sent us, as ambassadors, to Whistler B.C. for an Ambassador Summit. Liz is ambassador to the Santa Monica store and I’m ambassador to the Beverly Hills store. It was a huge honor!

We had a great time together jumping on the bed and having pillow fights at the Four Seasons. (It’s a verrrry comfy bed.) 

It was truly an epic experience and life changing for both Liz And I. Thank you Lululemon for believing in us.

Liz shared with me that I inspired her to begin writing and to be vulnerable. After I read this fantastic piece, I was even more touched. Talk about living my life on purpose. I told Liz yesterday on the phone that in my fantasy life “The INSPIRER” is my job title. 

“Thank you for inspiring me to start writing! Your blog, classes, life and message are a source of daily inspiration.  You have such a powerful voice and have helped so many others to find theirs.  Infinite gratitude.  Love you soul sister! Love, Liz.”

This article and my buddy Liz make me happy. Read on. Yes, she is naked in the picture. 

This article was originally posted on Elephant Journal.

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

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.

So 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 andmalasadas (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.

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.


Jennifer Pastiloff will be teaching at the Tadasana International Yoga & Music Festival over Earth Day weekend on the beach in Santa Monica, CA, April 20– 22. Click here to check out the festival website and purchase tickets. Enter the code Pastiloff for a $50 discount! (Please note that discount codes expire April 1.)

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6 Comments

  • Reply Barbara Potter March 2, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Hi Liz, I love your article. (Jens mom here). Jen speaks so highly of you. I will meet you one of there days. My daughter has a knack for attracting wonderful people into her life. Your first attempt at writing really is wonderful. You drew me in and I could completely understand what you were/are feeling. It’s funny how things change over the years and maybe not. I feel like I know your story so well but for slightly different reasons. I can relate so well. I was born in 1948 and I am 63 now. While growing up I was so skinny. Was teased because of it and called toothpick etc. I hated it and was so embarrassed. I was also 5’4″ in elementary school which is not tall at all. But reaching full height at a really early age I towered over all the other kids in class and felt like the Jolly Green Giant. The days before creme rinse I had thick hair which was full of knots when washed and it hurt like hell to comb so when I was young my mother took a bowl and using it as a template cut my plain brown hair short. All the girls in elementary school had long beautiful hair. They all seemed to have a beautiful color too. I was so embarrassed with my short cut with short straight thick bangs. To make matters worse my permanent top teeth grew in behind my baby teeth which never fell out. A whole row behind. So my lower jaw protruded forward. Finally the dentist pulled my baby teeth and put this ugly yellow hard mold in my mouth (not removeable) to force my top teeth forward. I had to wear it for a long time. Later down the line around 12 he said I needed braces and my mother said no. I was born with ADHD which was not diagnosed until I was 52 (ran in my family). Back then my teachers would say I was stupid and bad. I could remember as a really young child looking at the back of the other kid’s heads (being tall I always sat in the back in class) and thinking something was wrong with my head because when the teacher spoke it went into everyone elses head but not mine. Maybe 2nd grade. I can still remember that. You get the picture of me by now I am sure. As I grew up as a young teenager I let my hair grow but was still so embarrassed to wear shorts or sleeveless blouses because my skinny arms and legs would show. I would look at the girls in school with fuller shapely bodies (fuller and shapely was all the rage then 50’s and 60’s) and would wish to be them. Anorexia was not well known back then (if at all) and when it became so widespread not so many years ago I could never understand how anyone would want to be “skinny” as it caused me so much pain growing up. By the way I ate like crazy. It was just my nature. How things change. I had large full lips and it seemed like all the pretty girls had these small little heart shaped lips I hated my lips. I also had narrow straight hips and a bottom that was very firm and stuck out. Everyone seemed to have curvy hips and flat bottoms. No one had a bottom that stuck out like mine. Girdles and flat bottoms were the style in high school. How I hated my bottom. I finally realized in the 80’s thanks to Jane Fonda that everyone was trying to get that bottom that I already had:). In Junior High School I was teased all the time and the boys called my bottom with the terrible N word. Yes they did and some of the boys called my lips that too. Ironically as strange as it sounds my first husband did not compliment me. Lets just leave it at that. The negative thoughts continued unto the 80’s. I never found Yoga in Cherry Hill New Jersey. In fact never heard of it. I started doing the Jane Fonda workout everyday and going to the local small gym at the JCC to lift weights with mostly all guys (it was not so popular back then for girls). I was thin (I would call that slim & firm now-no longer the toothpick) but the big difference is….now I loved myself. That was a hard road to travel. I had found my self-esteem. I was around 33 at this time and the mother of two young girls. Going back to one of Jen’s blogs that she recently wrote I look at a picture of my 5 or 10 year old self and I want to hug her and say: “Don’t feel so bad everything will be great one day.” She would have loved to hear that. Truly loved hearing your story.

    • Reply Barbara Potter March 2, 2012 at 10:03 am

      Sorry for the typos thanks to Typing on IPhone:)

  • Reply ManifestYogaJen March 2, 2012 at 11:36 am

    so so beautiful mom. Wow, thank you for sharing!!! way to go Liz, for inspiring this xoxo

  • Reply James Vincent Knowles March 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    there’s no “wow” BIG enough, so how about a bow, as in bow to your form? but okay, and a HUGE WOW.

  • Reply Liz Arch March 3, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Thank you Barbara for sharing your story! Incredibly powerful, honest and inspiring. Jen is truly one of the most beautiful and inspirational women that I know and it’s easy to see where she gets it from! I look forward to our paths crossing and getting to meet you in person one of these days! Love & Light

  • Reply barbarapotter March 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Thank you Liz.

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