This past week, I had the pleasure of making some new friends: Gina-Marie and Hailley of the "Love Your Belly" Movement. After seeing the belly-shame Lady Gaga received during her Super Bowl half-time performance, they knew it was only one instance of the body shaming that happens every single day, and wanted to make a difference. Now, their movement has amassed over 150 followers, and it's only been live for three weeks. Coincidentally, I happened to share a picture on Instagram declaring the love of my belly just a few days before I came across Gina-Marie and Hailley:
"I know February is over, but I have a few #onelookoflove posts I never got around to writing. This one is dedicated to my belly. I think something interesting is that nearly every woman I’ve ever met has a strong opinion and a lot of emotions around her belly. It’s always too soft, or too round, or it has too many folds and curves. I know so many mothers who, despite the power and incredible task of creating a human being inside their body, curse the new lines and marks across the belly that grew their baby. Although I’m not a mother, my stomach is still the center of me. It houses the organs that keep me alive, it allows me to digest the foods that nourish me, it blesses me with the feeling of butterflies I get when I’m doing something truly exciting, and it guides me with its gut reactions and innate instinct. And for this, I choose to love it."
When I stumbled across their movement, I knew they were Everyday Goddesses, and I knew I wanted to learn more about them and their purpose. Without further ado, here is their story.
Who are you? What is "your story?"
Our names are Gina-Marie and Hailley. We are yoga teachers at BIG Power Yoga in Houston, TX. We met during our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program at BIG and we instantly became friends. Hailley likes to call us soul sisters. We knew we had a special bond from the very beginning and we have loved growing together on and off the mat; and now in our journey with the Love Your Belly Movement.
We started the Love Your Belly Movement a couple of weeks ago after witnessing the body shame that Lady Gaga received after her Super Bowl halftime show performance. The movement began with a single photo on Instagram that Hailley posted of her bare belly - this post inspired Gina-Marie to do the same. Many other women in our community soon joined us and only a couple of weeks later we had over 100 women who had posted their belly on Instagram. It was clear, a movement was born. We call it the #loveyourbellymovement. It is a movement designed to encourage women to stand tall, live bravely, dream BIG and celebrate their perfect bellies exactly as they are. It is a movement that is created by women, for women.
"It is a movement that is created by women, for women."
Has yoga impacted your journey? How?
Yoga has absolutely impacted our journey. Yoga allowed us to connect to our physical bodies in ways that we have never experienced before.
Hailley says, “It has completely transformed my relationship with my body. It allowed me to see my body for more than what it is on the outside. It has allowed me to appreciate my body for all of its abilities; from its powerful ability to create and sustain breath, to how rapidly my heart beats when I’m working hard, to how my muscles and core lift me into handstand. Through yoga I have learned how to listen to my body. My body will let me know when it is time to rest, to slow down, to take it easy or when I can move deeper and go further.”
Gina-Marie says, “Yoga has changed my life. It has allowed me to live from a place of being whole and complete. The practice challenges me through staying present and feeling the power of my body, mind and spirit. It allows me to express myself and let go. I am also a singer so being able to tap into my breath has completely transformed my voice. Yoga has also given me the gift of community. I have found some of the most amazing friends in the world!”
Yoga is a constant practice. We love the ever-evolving and always changing nature of the practice of yoga. Having the foundation and the consistency to continue showing up on the mat each day, regardless of how you might feel, allows for ease, space and freedom. It gives us access to loving and appreciating ourselves and our bodies in a unique and incredible way. The practice of yoga has been a gift and a wonderful journey. We trust and know that yoga will always be a big part of our lives.
Tell me the lowest or darkest point in your life. Tell me the happiest point in your life. Now tell me the connection between the two: how did "rock bottom" become a foundation for success?
Gina-Marie says, “The darkest point in my life was when I wasn't taking care of my body during yoga teacher training and actually ended up in the hospital due to severe dehydration. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. It was also the wake up call I needed. I have struggled with disordered eating in the past and putting my health first hasn't always been my priority. I have now put my attention on caring for my body and I'm continuing to learn how to listen and support it with food and electrolytes! My body provides me with so much to be thankful for and I MUST give it the respect it deserves.
The happiest point in my life was the day I married my husband, Rob! He has been the biggest blessing in my life! He allows me to be me, 100% of the time, even when I'm not at my best. His love allows me to love me more, and that is the best gift of all. He is kind, loving, loyal, encouraging and sweet. He makes me feel like the most important girl in the world!
I’ve learned that taking care of myself is a necessity and having people by my side that support me in that is my new way of being. I’m so so excited about that!”
"My body provides me with so much to be thankful for and I MUST give it the respect it deserves."
“When I was 15 years old, I went to boarding school thousands of miles away from my family. I was terrified. The first month was the hardest thing I had ever done.” Hailley says, “I remember crying every day, multiple times a day and I begged my parents to let me come home. Those first days, weeks, months were hard. I thought it would never end… Then it did. It got better. Every day got a little better until just a few short months later I was absolutely LOVING school. I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. Fast forward to present day; a few years ago I made a choice to move to Houston. I left my home, my friends and my community in San Antonio and moved into a small studio apartment in the heart of Houston. The moment I walked into my new apartment in Houston, I started crying. This time, happy tears. It was perfect. I was perfect. I was on a new adventure and I couldn’t have been happier.
My experience at boarding school taught me two BIG things;
1) I am strong. I am so, so strong. I am MUCH stronger than I know. I will always have access to support, love and trust in myself - in any situation.
2) It will get better. If I keep showing up for myself each day, it will begin to get better.
Giving myself a little grace, a sprinkle of faith, and a whole lot of love is exactly what I need. It was my experience in boarding school that allowed me to take a chance, make a bold move and create a new future for myself in Houston, TX. I knew that I was strong enough to create a whole new chapter in my life and that whatever came my way, I was (and I am!) strong enough to stay and to create a beautiful full life.”
What does it mean to you to be strong?
Strong has so many different and important meanings for us. There is physical, mental and spiritual strength and we believe they are all so important and also accessible for everyone.
For Hailley, “being strong means showing up. Simply having the courage and strength to show up again and again for yourself. Especially when you don’t feel like it, especially when you don’t want to and especially when not showing up is easier. It takes something to continue to be a stand for yourself, for your friends and family, and for your community. It is truly being up to something bigger than yourself that demonstrates strength, faith and love. I believe that choosing to show up for yourself and for others is the most beautiful display of strength.”
"Being strong allows me to be exactly who I am without forcing it. I can be vulnerable and open because I know the truth."
For Gina-Marie, “being strong means living life from ‘I am enough.’ When I step into my power I feel bold, brave and powerful. Being strong allows me to be exactly who I am without forcing it. I can be vulnerable and open because I know the truth. I am MORE than enough.”
Describe the fearlessly authentic you.
We are fearlessly authentic when we are being 100% ourselves FOR ourselves. Being fearlessly authentic means that we go after the things in life that we want the most and we don’t let anything or anyone stop us. It means that we boldly and fearlessly pursue our passions and our wildest dreams even in the face of fear, doubt, critics, those who might not understand and all the other people or things that might get in our way. We stand tall, live bravely, dream BIG and celebrate ourselves EXACTLY as we are.
Join the Love Your Belly Movement! Share a picture of your belly on Instagram under the tag #LoveYourBellyMovement and join a powerful shift in the way we think about body image and self-love.
Thank you for sharing your light and inspiration with the world, and thank you for the work you're doing to improve the confidence of women. Empowered women empower women!