If you follow Irene Pappas on Instagram and Social Media you'll know her as Fit Queen Irene.
She has been practicing yoga since 2012 and has an extraordinary capacity for movement and understanding her own body and it's limits. After an incredible injury, Irene rebuilt her perception of her own body and what it was capable of but not only this, she has found ways to have gratitude in her own body no matter what it was going through. Not only is her knowledge of yoga inspiring but so are her perceptions and insights on life.
She teaches many retreats and workshops across the globe, but took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about gratitude.
1. Can you think of a time when you had to dig really deep to find gratitude in a certain situation?
One thing I am working on right now is finding gratitude in the moment instead of looking back and being grateful in retrospect. But of course sometimes it takes days, weeks, or even years to see the bigger picture. When I was younger my parents send me to a boarding school that was very rigorous and similar to military school in a lot of ways. Even though my own actions were what got me to a place where I needed such reformation, I blamed my parents and everyone else. Looking back it was one of the best things to happen to me and really shaped me into who I am today, but it did take me years to realize that.
2. On your website it says "After experiencing a life changing wrist injury Irene has redefined her yoga practice in many ways, placing more emphasis on a strong foundation and finding gratitude for her body with or without advanced asana." Can you tell us a bit more about this experience and finding gratitude for your body?
I spent many years obsessing over my body- working out incessantly and counting every calorie, convinced that if I could get the "perfect" body I would finally be happy. Once I found yoga I transferred this same mentality into my practice, convincing myself that once I had a handstand I would be happy. This cycle continued for quite some time. I placed a lot of value on an advanced asana practice and was constantly striving to be better. Eventually I started having terrible wrist pain, and found out that a bone in my wrist had broken and started to die and decay. The first few surgeons I went to told me I would never use my wrist again. Although they all told me I had a genetic predisposition to this happening, I knew I wasn't listening to my body and even as this was happening I knew it was going to be one of the greatest learning expieriences of my life. I finally found a surgeon that believed in her ability to help heal me, and two surgeries later I am able to use my wrist again. While I am supremely grateful that I can do handstands most days, I am even more grateful for how this experience changed my perspective. Instead of focusing on what I can or cannot do, I have found a sense of gratitude for every single thing my body is capable of, even on my hardest days. This gratitude has trickled into all aspects of my life. I am now free from the obsession with my weight, body, and handstands/physical ability- and I feel exactly that, free.
3. You have a lot of instagram followers, you travel to give workshops and teacher trainings, what has been your greatest challenge and your greatest accomplishment through all of this?
One of the greatest challenges for me has been staying grounded. Traveling almost constantly and not having a strong local community of students and friends has been difficult at times. But it has given me an ability to find grounding within myself, without having to rely on my external environment. I think the teacher trainings are the most powerful thing I am part of right now, because they have the ability to give people the tools to be their highest selves.
4. Who is the one person real life, actor, passed away etc. that you would love to meet and why?
This is a hard question! I would have to say my grandfather on my dad's side. I never met him and he is one of the most influential people in my family, I would love to sit down and talk to him and tell him how grateful I am for him.
5. What is your version of #mygratitudeattitude?
Gratitude is everything to me. It changes a situation from negative into positive, and allows me to let go of stress, anger, depression, and anxiety.
To get more from Irene follow her on instagram @fitqueenirene or check out her website www.fitqueenirene.com
I met Rachel Brathen (@Yoga_Girl) this past August 2017 in Sweden. I had signed up to participate in her NGO 109 World Women's Mission Trip dedicated to raising awareness of sexual violence and funds for the Panzi hospital in Congo. (Photo credit Soda Lime @sodalime)
I admit when I first saw Rachel in the flesh I had butterflies and swoon eyes and felt a bit star struck. That is until I heard her speak and greet each and every one of us. She is such a down to earth, lovely and caring person and immediately I realized she is human just like us.
Her knowledge of Yoga is in depth and studied. She knows alignment, and her cuing is so good that she doesn't even need to move to demonstrate, we can move into the postures easily following her words.
I think the part that stuck with me the most about Rachel was how she made sure to chat with all of us, and she would sit down amongst us at breakfast or lunch and just chat about light things or about heavy things. She never once left us feeling like she was any more important than the rest of us. I'm not sure why I thought she would be any other way - after all her Instagram account is flooded with real life and vulnerable moments and feelings. She just lays it all out there.
Her work around the world spans way farther than handstands on the sand and yoga poses in tropical places. She owns and operates 7 companies - two of these are NGO's aiming to help the world change for the better (109 World and Sgt. Pepper's Friends) and she has most recently partnered with a Swedish initiative and Yoga of Hope to raise funds for Childhood Cancer in Sweden.
She does all this all while owning a studio in Aruba, a cafe a boutique, an online yoga platform and she is going to be launching her first teacher training this year. Oh and did I mention that she is a mom! This woman is bad ass and shows us that you can have it all and do it all and make the world a better place!
So, when I had the chance I asked Rachel a few questions about her life and gratitude.
Can you think of a specific situation where finding gratitude was really hard and you had to dig deep to find it?
Yes - any time the universe throws me a curveball. When things get hard, one of the first things that happen for me is I tend to get stuck in whats not working and I forget about all the things that actually do. My best friend past away and for a very long time I didn’t feel grateful for anything, which was a downward spiral into things feeling much, much worse. We NEED gratitude for our live to function! No matter how tough things are, there is still beauty in the world. Find it!
As a new mom in social media you have had so many opinions come your way about parenting. Seems like it’s "open season" and anyone and everyone thinks they have a right to judge your choices. How do you handle all of these negative comments and opinions?
It’s hard. I try to remember that people like to share their opinions because thats whats worked for them and not only because they like to judge (even though there is plenty of that around, too). We are all just doing our best. I try to tune the negative stuff out and focus on following my intuition when it comes to parenting - so far so good!
I myself have struggled with body image. You posted not long ago about your followers commenting on your “post-baby body” and how frustrated you were with these comments. It’s super ballsy to comment on someone’s body to begin with but, can you share your thoughts on this concept of “post-baby body”?
My body did a superhuman thing! It birthed a baby! Now is not a time to judge or label it, it’s a time to celebrate and appreciate it. Yes, it’s softer than it was before. Yes, it weighs more. But for a greater purpose than anything I’ve ever done! We lose sight of the magic that is our bodies when we try to change it. I’m doing my best to stay healthy and feel good but still enjoying all the sweet things life has to offer without guilt.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude? #mygratitudeattitude
Gratitude is something we need to connect with every day! Not just once in a blue moon. Make it a daily practice - keep a gratitude list!!! And try to automatically drop into gratitude when things get rough. It’s the best way to step into the light again :)
Thank you so much Rachel for your generosity in answering these questions!