Yoga Matters: Empowerment Through Practice with Primal Yoga

Liz Arch is the bright-eyed and beautiful girl next door, the best friend you call at 3am, the classmate you pick first for a game of dodgeball – or, rather, elect your team captain.  Add to this the fact that she is a national Kung Fu and Tai Chi competition winner, and you’ve got a true force to be reckoned with.  Liz’s smile is infectious, and her powerful signature style of Primal Yoga make you feel a ninja-esque confidence that transcends your typical Warrior 1.

In addition, Liz is a proud advocate for A Window Between Worlds, a non-profit organization in Venice, CA that uses art as a healing tool for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.  The free yoga classes she teaches to these individuals prove to be the ultimate healing tool and help build back up lives that sometimes seem to have all but crumbled.  We sat down with Liz to pick her brain about martial arts, shark cages and the power yoga has to heal us from the inside out.

The Chalkboard Mag: What originally drew you to yoga?
Liz Arch: “I was originally drawn to yoga for the physical benefits – a healthier, stronger, more flexible body.  It has since become much more than a physical practice for me, but I am grateful for how humbling that first experience was.  I remember profusely sweating and trying my hardest not to splat flat on my face while my arms trembled and threatened to give out in downward facing dog.  It revealed all my weaknesses and challenged me on every level. Years later, it continues to challenge me in new ways every time I step onto my mat.”

TCM: Your signature class, Primal Yoga®, combines martial arts and yoga to create a very special tool for empowerment. What lead you to combine the two, and what have you found to be the unique benefits of a Primal Yoga® practice?
LA: “My parents enrolled me in Aikido when I was five years old and it ignited a spark that has since grown into a full blown love affair with martial arts. When I graduated from college, I began training and competing in Kung Fu and Tai Chi and used yoga as a way to supplement my training, helping me develop more body awareness, strength and control.  I realized how complementary those two art forms were and that together, they offered a complete system for the body, mind and spirit. I have had the opportunity to train and teach other systems that fuse yoga and martial arts and have drawn inspiration from all of the different styles I have studied to create Primal Yoga®.

Primal Yoga® is a harmony of yin and yang energies – it is a graceful dance between strength and suppleness, control and surrender.  It challenges people to get out of their comfort zone by being less static with their bodies and more creative, dynamic and fluid with their movement and breath.  It not only increases flexibility, balance and strength, it also improves coordination, builds stamina and improves reaction time and reflexes.  The vibe is always lighthearted and playful and allows room for people to work at their own level and become masters of their own bodies.”

TCM: How did you first hear about A Window Between Worlds and become involved?
LA: “I discovered A Window Between Worlds (AWBW) after I had gotten out of an abusive relationship. I was looking for a place to volunteer my time and fell in love with AWBW and their mission of using art as a healing tool for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.

After volunteering a few times and opening up about my own personal experiences with domestic violence, they invited me to join the Survivor’s Art Circle.  I had some resistance at first because I had always been very private about my abuse and it felt very vulnerable to share that pain in a group setting. But I realized that as a yoga teacher, I couldn’t help heal others if I wasn’t healed myself.  So I started attending the monthly Survivor’s Art Circle and am so grateful that I did! It helped me peel back all my layers of sadness, fear, anger and shame and provided a safe and supportive space to express and release.

I am now a proud advocate for AWBW, and was honored to be one of the featured speakers at their annual heART Gala this past month. For more info about the heART Gala and other ways to support AWBW, please visit www.awbw.org.”

TCM: How has your involvement with A Window Between Worlds informed and enhanced both your career and day-to-day life?
LA: “The tragedy of domestic violence is that it silences women out of fear and shame and I know all too well how heavy that burden of silence is to bear. A Window Between Worlds has allowed me to find my voice. It has helped me to replace my fear with love and my self-doubt with self-worth. I have silenced the voice that told me I wasn’t good enough or strong enough to make a difference in this world and I have replaced it with a voice that is joyful, accepting and uplifting.

The physical scars of abuse eventually fade, but the emotional scars take much longer to heal. In learning to forgive and love myself, I have discovered an infinite capacity to love others. It has made me a more compassionate yoga teacher and has set me on a path to help others see their own worth and find their voice.”

TCM: In your opinion, why is yoga such a healing and empowering force?
LA: “Yoga has physically made my body the strongest it has ever been. I used to put limitations on what I thought I was capable of, but have learned that anything is possible and the only thing truly limiting me is my own thought patterns.”

TCM: What is the biggest lesson yoga has taught you?
LA: “It has taught me to be more accepting of myself and as a byproduct, more accepting of others.  The more I practice, the more I understand the power of our collective consciousness and how truly connected we all are.”

TCM: What is the biggest lesson you hope to teach through yoga?
LA: “I want to help people see and embrace how beautiful and powerful they are and to know that we are all so much stronger and more capable than what we give ourselves credit for.”

TCM: What has been your most rewarding yoga-related experience?
LA: “My most rewarding experience has been teaching free yoga to women who are survivors of domestic violence. It is such an honor for me to be able to create a safe space for them to breathe freely, explore their bodies, release fears and open their hearts.”

TCM: What are 5 things on your Bucket List, personal or professional?
LA: “My bucket list is ever expanding, because I keep crossing things off!  In the last few years, I have checked off skydiving, getting my Scuba Diving certification in Fiji, swimming in a shark cage in Hawaii, paragliding in the Swiss Alps and flying upside down in an aerobatic stunt plane.  Next on my list is…

1. Study Shaolin Kung Fu in China
2. Learn to speak Mandarin fluently
3. Visit the Galapagos Islands (I’m holding a yoga retreat there in March 2013!)
4. Swim with Whale Sharks in Belize
5. Take a humanitarian aid trip to Africa”

TCM: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
LA: Live fearlessly, love freely and don’t be afraid to be yourself because who you are is pretty darn awesome!

TCM: What is your personal mantra? 
LA: “I am divine love.”

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