A few years ago in Bali a total stranger opened my heart. I travelled with a group of very dear friends to be part of the BaliSpirit yoga festival in Ubud. I was in a really complicated and demanding period of my life at that time. I was away from my family for the first time, living on the other side of the world (Singapore), building a new career and new friendships. Some of my old, very precious friendships, however, were slowly slipping away. I was ecstatic and devastated at the same time. I really needed a powerful heart and eye - opening experience in order to heal.
And the Universe sent it to me in one of the classes that Gigi Yogini, the guest of this interview from our ‘Learn it From The Best’ series, taught at BaliSpirit. Gigi’s soft, feminine energy, positive, colourful vibes and beautiful heart-opening flow really rocked my world. At the end of the class I felt like I was reborn. I was crying, both from happiness and grief: happy that I was finally ready to let go of the pain, anger and disappointment that my heart was full of, and sad that I had let my heart down in the first place, and caused myself so much suffer. Gigi helped me heal and I will be forever grateful to her for doing that.
As you can probably guess, I am super excited for this interview. Having Gigi Yogini here on the blog is a true honour. Gigi is a special soul and a powerful advocate for self-love and acceptance, and positive body image. Being a real Shakti herself, she aims to teach us to embrace the goddess in us and just be open, pure, and free. In this interview we talk about how becoming a mom has changed Gigi’s life, body and spirit; we talk also about building a positive-body image and about Gigi's Modern Sacred Circle initiative.
2HB: What would you say to the people who might say that you don’t look like a real yogi, as you are not skinny, but curvy, luscious and sexy? And how do you think that a real yogi should look like?
G: Actually, many years ago when I was first considering a teacher training, a family member suggested that I lose weight first and said that I'd never be a successful yoga teacher unless I "looked the part." Unfortunately, I was young and didn't know better, so I continue to practice but delayed my training. It was nearly 5 years later when I realized that yoga still benefited me, even without a skinny body, and in fact, I could still do many of the most challenging poses with a curvy body.
Once I became a teacher, I was more aware of different body types and I could easily offer variations of poses so that people of all shapes and sizes could find the posture in their body. To me, yogis don't look one certain way. Yoga can benefit anyone.
2HB: How did yoga help you develop a positive body image and cultivate courage, and confidence?
G: I've always had a healthy dose of self-confidence growing up. I found great purpose in athletics, performing arts, and student government. So courage was something that I had been cultivating my whole life. But courage and confidence are cyclical. There were times when I would practice yoga in the back corner of the room because I didn't want people to see me struggling. But no matter what, I always left a yoga class feeling better than when I arrived. So I kept showing up and felt a great sense of self-respect as a result.
2HB: What does it mean to really love and accept yourself the way that you are, cherishing every single flaw?
G: I think it's important to acknowledge that as humans, we are always evolving. If we keep limiting, judging, or shaming ourselves based on our physical appearance and perceived flaws, we'll never be able to fulfill our purpose in this lifetime. But, to be perfectly honest, that doesn't mean that I necessarily "cherish" every single flaw.
For instance, my legs have lots of bruises, scars, and veins, which I don't necessarily love, but I still wear shorts. I'm not going to let these "flaws" stop me from doing what I want. Some women in certain parts of the world aren't even allowed to wear shorts. Some people don't even have legs. To me, being grateful for my body is essential.
2HB: Can you give all the 2 Health app-ers some practical tips on how to incorporate self-love into their everyday lives?
G: I'm big on affirmations. I use positive statements to battle the negative thoughts in my mind. So when I notice myself speaking negatively towards myself, I flip the statement to a positive one. I often repeat: "I love myself" or "I am a beautiful, powerful woman" to keep myself on the right track.
2HB: Let’s talk motherhood. How did becoming a mother change you?
G: Becoming a mother of twins helped me learn how to be more of myself and reminded me that in order to take care of others, I must first take care of myself. I'm much more comfortable saying "no" and creating boundaries in business and personal life. A lot of things seem much less important now that I have two babies to take care of. I also have learned to expect the unexpected, and while it's nice to have a plan, flexibility and adaptability are essential for emotional wellbeing.
2HB: A few months ago you published your birth story, and we totally loved it! Thank you for being so brave and honest! What was the scariest thing about your birth experience?
G: I wasn't actually scared. I was just really sad. Nothing seemed to go as I had planned and it's humbling to realize that we have no control over what happens, we can only control the way we respond.
2HB: How did you learn to accept your new body after giving birth to your twins?
G: It didn't feel like I had to learn how to accept my body. I just did. I had a tremendous amount of self-respect and felt really beautiful as a new mom. I loved the fact that my body carried these babies and was able to feed them. I was more focused on the miracle of life than anything else.
2HB: Tell us more about your Modern Sacred Circle initiative. Why do you believe that women supporting women is so important?
G: As I mentioned earlier, I felt a lot of sadness as a new mom. Granted, the hormonal changes of postpartum are real and many women experience depression, but I also experienced what felt like an intense amount of isolation. My husband and I were not getting along, and I spent a lot of time at home alone with the twins. In the beginning, there were days when I was inside, in my pajamas, and didn't talk to anyone.
But there was one friend in particular, Corti Cooper, who was incredibly supportive despite being long distance. She would constantly check-in with me and listen to me cry and complain. I never felt judged by her. Only loved. Slowly, I opened up to more friends and they started coming over with food and cared for the babies so I could take a shower and get dressed. We would go for walks together and talk at great length. The sadness faded as I allowed myself to be loved and supported by friends.
As the twins approached their first birthday, I signed up for a Wisdom Women weekend at a beautiful retreat center in Big Sur, California. It was my first two nights away from the babies. We gathered in circle and practiced a method called Council, which I had learned and practiced many years earlier. Sitting with women, of all phases of life, and listening to their stories made me feel less alone. There's something magical about getting women together.
So when I came home, I wanted to start a women's circle. I thought I'd just do it weekly for a month, but it really took off. It turns out I wasn't the only woman who was craving more connection and community. One month became two, and we continued meeting every Friday for a year. Together we created a culture that felt authentic and supportive.
The way we share in a Modern Sacred Circle is different from our every day conversations. Each circle has a theme, we discuss our agreements before the circle to be sure we're all on the same page, and then we practice speaking one at a time without interruption. Everyone practices active listening without judgment of themselves or each other. Every woman is welcome to express whatever she wants, knowing that all of her emotions are welcome, and listeners resist any temptation to give advice or fix anything.
Over the weeks, a lot of women experienced intense healing and wanted to learn how to lead a circle of their own. So that's when the trainings began. In addition to hosting circles, I now offer leadership trainings (in person and online) teaching women how they can host a Modern Sacred Circle of their own. Why? Because we all deserve to be seen and heard. No one should feel alone.
Read also our interview with the inspirational yoga goddess Mirian Alonso Cuenca.
Welcome to ‘Learn It From The Best: True Inspirational Health Stories’: our special series where we are interviewing inspirational health and wellness coaches and motivators from all around the world, and are sharing with you their secrets, health tips and personal stories.