In all she does, Liz Doyle Harmer aims to empower women. Whether that’s through the programs offered at Afterglow Yoga Studio, which she co-owns with her business partner Julie Watson, or through the Afterglow Podcast that they co-host, or through the life coaching business she runs, Liz Doyle Harmer Coaching, she is dedicated to helping women overcome society’s limits and pursue their goals.
Here, we talk all about her career path, why she is dedicated to lifting up young girls and women, and where she sees herself and her business in the future.
To start, could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. My mom is a black immigrant from Jamaica and my dad is a white Irish-Canadian. I lived in Ottawa until I was 18 years old with my mom, dad, and younger brother until I left to go to Western University in London, Ontario. After my undergrad, I made a quick jaunt over to London, UK (I lived there a year), spent another year in Vancouver, a couple of years in Montreal while I did my MBA, and eventually I landed in Toronto where I still currently live. Today, I live in the beach neighbourhood of Toronto with my husband, my four kids (aged 14, 12, seven, and five) and two dogs.
Walk us through your career path. How did you come about to found Afterglow yoga studio?
Oh my gosh, I love this story because it really shows how the universe is trying to support you. I was on the school playground waiting to pick up my kids after school. I mentioned to a friend Kathleen that I had just come back from Costa Rica and really missed the style of yoga taught there. I told her I was thinking of starting a yoga studio in the beach.
Kathleen immediately responded that there was another mom at the school (Julie, of course) who was also starting one. And that’s how Julie and I met! Julie was much further along in the start-up process than me, but we had the same shared vision for inspiring and accessible yoga, a fun and thriving community, and women’s empowerment.
What was it like running a business as a partnership?
It’s awesome running Afterglow Studio with Julie. One thing that differentiates us is that we make time for our emotions. We know that our emotional blocks are very much tied to our business success. So, we regularly make time to tell each other what’s going on in our inner world and to offer compassion and support to the other. Because of this, we haven’t just grown our yoga community, we’ve grown ourselves too.
Covid-19 forced you to close your yoga studio. What was that experience like? Do you think there’s a chance of re-opening once the pandemic is clear?
I completely underestimated the impact of Covid-19. I remember in early March thinking we would definitely not need to close. Then, only a few days later, I was thinking: “Ok, we definitely have to close.” But I thought it would only be a few weeks. Now, I’m realizing that Covid is something that is going to impact our business for a long time.
In Toronto, yoga studios have been slotted in stage 3 and Toronto is still currently in stage 2.
Technically we can reopen in stage 3, but we are still assessing whether clients would feel safe enough to come and would want to practice wearing masks. There are still a lot of unknowns.
What went into the decision to pivot your career and launch the Afterglow podcast?
Julie and I had been having conversations around our goal to help women overcome society’s limiting conditioning and pursue their own courageous and authentic life. We were already doing that with our GLOW GIRLS program and were getting requests from our clients for something similar for the moms!
When the studio closed, we knew we’d have extra time to work on something else. Julie suggested a podcast, bought a few mics, and voila: we were podcasters!
Do you see the work you did running a yoga studio and now running a podcast as sharing similar qualities? Has there been a consistent goal or mandate that has driven your work?
Julie and I have always seen Afterglow Studio (the yoga studio) as a place for female empowerment. Being women ourselves, we recognized the structural gender inequalities in place in our current world. Put very simply, every part of the world we live in has been designed by men. From a historical point of view, when business, government, legal, economic, and financial systems and structures were determined, every single person sitting at the table making those decisions was a man (a white man, as well).
Our goal is not to look at the past and lay blame, but to acknowledge what is and drive towards a more equal and diverse world. We do that by empowering ALL women because we believe their representation will help create a more balanced world.
At the yoga studio we help women find their breath and calm their nervous systems. We create a community space for engaging and supportive female discussions and we run the Glow Girls program to help empower young girls starting at a younger age.
The podcast is simply an extension of everything we were already doing in the studio.
Each week, we host conversations with inspiring women who have in some way overcome society’s limiting conditioning in service of their most courageous and authentic life.
Why is it so important for you to be reaching girls with the podcast, specifically between the ages of 9-12?
This age is still a challenging time for girls when research shows their confidence can start to decline. In interviewing some of our podcast guests, Julie and I have learned that even if a girl is raised at home, with empowering girl-can-do anything messaging, the outside world often gives a different message.
Part of this is because of what I just mentioned—the male/female gender structural imbalances integrated into our current world. Part of this is because of the still-messed-up messaging that girls get about their bodies and how they’re supposed to look
And part of this is because girls today are still being raised by moms (myself included) who in some way (through no fault of their own) embody society’s limited messaging around what women are capable of.
Speaking personally, Julie has one daughter and I have three, so this was something we wanted for our own daughters too.
What is your advice to women who feel weighed down by societal pressures?
Find a way each day to connect to the truth of who you are. I know these words sound vague, but if you close your eyes and find your breath and let these words land inside you, they will make intuitive sense.
You have already had this experience of getting out of your head, away from your fears and connecting with your truth inside. My guess is that as you read these words now, you will get a memory—that time at the beach, when you were by the lake, when you went for that walk in the woods, or when you held a loved one in your arms. You have had those experiences of truth but you usually only let them happen by happenstance and infrequently.
My advice is to find a way each and every day to connect with that place of truth inside. Experiment and see what works for you. That practice alone will make a world of difference.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
There are two things that I love about what I’m doing right now!
Firstly, being purposeful—every single thing I am working on right now is deeply tied to my overall purpose. My purpose is to help people get past limiting conditioning and align with their own purpose and the truth of who they are. This affects everythingthat I do. My coaching, the yoga studio, the podcast, my parenting, my own personal inner work—each and every one of those things is in some way a manifestation of my overall purpose.
Secondly, learning—I love to learn about different people and subjects and find connections between them. Right now I’m learning about contemplative wisdom, neuroscience, complexity theory, anti-racism, yoga philosophy, and the lives of other purposeful people, and seeing all kinds of links and overlap between these seemingly disparate fields.
What is a usual day-in-the-life for you?
I wake early—usually 4:30 am. I meditate, drink coffee, journal, and then do some kind of spiritual movement practice. Usually it’s running by Lake Ontario (I’m so lucky to live close to the lake) or yoga.
Because the kids are home now, we’re doing everything late and we’re doing less too! I have to admit I love that part. Breakfast, lunch, dinner are all happening later and there are much fewer activities to chauffer my kids to.
I’m working a ton right now—on the podcast, studio, writing, and my coaching business. I’m loving what I’m working on right now so I’m pretty much working every moment that I’m not with the kids.
I am fortunate enough to have a pool in my backyard so we swim together each day as a family.
Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I see Afterglow Studio as being a movement and community space that connects people with the truth of who they are and supports them on their path of purpose and courage. I see Afterglow Studio being franchised to other Canadian women who would like to support community, movement, and activism in their own neighbourhoods.
I see the podcast having hosted hundreds of inspiring Canadian guests and Julie and I turning all that wisdom into a book.
I see myself having written my own book (or two) related to my life and leadership coaching. I have several ideas right now and have half written two books already.
I see my kids having an increased connection to who they truly are. I want them to have more self-awareness and really know who they are, what their purpose is and how they can be of service in the world. To be honest, I raised my kids for my first decade of parenting from a very controlling, authoritarian mindset. I wanted them to be who I wanted them to be. I’m letting go of all of that now. I want them to be who they are and my job as a parent is to support them in living life courageously from that place. In five years, I see them having greater self-awareness, compassion for themselves, and courage to pursue their own dreams.
I want a tesla minivan. I just do. I don’t even think they exist yet but for a mom of four kids, this would be the holy grail of #momlife.