Breathing Beauty

Breathing Beauty

by marlies|dekkers

An interesting thing happened when I did Nadia Narain’s yoga class the other day. I had checked myself in the mirror beforehand, and thought I looked fine, but when I looked again afterwards, I fell utterly in love with my reflection! Wanting to find out about yoga’s 5000-year old ‘beauty secret’, I sat down with Nadia who is as glamorous as she is down-to-earth (and gorgeous to boot). Having taught yoga for over 20 years to celebrities like Kate Moss and Reese Witherspoon, Nadia recently teamed up with her sister, health-food pioneer Katia, to write ‘Self-care for the real world’, a bestselling manual for looking and feeling great from the inside out.

Marlies: Your class was amazing, Nadia! How did you get into yoga?
Nadia: Thank you! I was very young, and I was running away from my life in every way. One day, a friend took me to a yoga class by a woman called Gurmukh Khalsa. That was it; I was home! She is 76 years old now and Gurmukh still looks the same; she practices yoga every day. But what makes her truly beautiful is the way she shines her light on whomever she’s talking to. You feel that you’re seen. You are loved. I get choked up telling you this Marlies, because growing up, nobody really saw me. My dad always said I talked too much. My mum was busy with her own life. Gurmukh showed me how you can change a person’s life by truly seeing them, and that became an important part of my own teaching practice.
Marlies: When did you decide you wanted to become a yoga teacher?
Nadia: I figured I wouldn’t be teaching till I was 60: a wise old woman having a few people in her house doing a little yoga. But Gurmuhk said: “If you don’t start now, you’re never going to be that wise old woman at 60.” So, she made me go out at 23. I remember asking her if I was ready. “Well, we’ll find out!”, she said.

Marlies: According to some people, yoga is already 5000 years old. Why is it so popular now?
Nadia: With yoga, you get a combination of physical, mental and spiritual practice all-in one. It’s a proven way of restoring balance in life, and that is something that more and more people are looking for as they try to cope with the conflicts and stress of modern life. It brings you back to your breath, your body and the present moment.

Marlies: Speaking of the breath, can you share some tips for breathing right?
Nadia: You start from the belly and bring it up into the chest. At first, breathe in for two counts, and out for four. Do that a couple of times. Then you might increase. Breathe in for three, exhale for six. Breathe in for four, exhale for eight. By doubling your exhalation, you breathe yourself into a more relaxed state. It has actually been scientifically proven that when you breathe calmly, you feel calm.

Marlies: One of my main goals as a lingerie designer is to give women confidence by framing their beauty. Because when we sabotage ourselves with our insecurities, our reflection in the mirror can become our biggest enemy. How can yoga help women deal with the pressure to be perfect?
Nadia: An important idea behind yoga is ahimsa: the concept of non-harming. That includes being kinder to yourself. We all have days that we look in the mirror and think things like ‘Urgh, my ass is too big. My body doesn’t look good. I’m not good enough.’. Yoga gives you the choice to observe your reflection through a different lens. By just breathing and giving thanks for all the things your body does for you, you can stop those negative thoughts. You learn to treat your body with kindness! And you will find that you leave the yoga class with a very different perception from when you entered it. Also, when you’ve had the discipline to get on the mat even when you didn’t feel like it, and you are finally able to do some really complicated poses, you can be really f***ng proud of what your body can do!

Marlies: With ‘Self-care for the real world’, you and your sister share decades of insights, broken down into small, achievable steps; from the recipe for the perfect Golden Turmeric Latte to social media survival tips. One of the most important themes in the book is self-love.
Nadia: It is. You probably already know what the basics of self-care are: move your body, feed your body, nourish your mind and your soul. But we need to keep reminding ourselves, every day! Even me. When I feel bad, and I go on Instagram to see what my ex-lover is doing, I may not be drinking or doing drugs, but I am practicing a form of self-sabotage. If your friend was in a bad place; would you suggest she does some online stalking? No way! You would tell her to get out and do something nice for herself! It’s easy to think that love only means romantic love, and that if we don’t have that in our life right now, it must mean we’re unloved and unlovable. But it’s not someone else’s job to love you!

Marlies: We have to love ourselves first!
Nadia: Exactly! Self-love is not selfish, it is a kindness to yourself and those around you. If we can look at ourselves in the mirror with love, we can go into the world looking the same way at other women. And who knows? Maybe by lifting each other up and seeing how good it feels for us and for them, we start to break those old patterns of competition and jealousy and just move forward in sisterhood!

Marlies: Beautiful. Thank you, Nadia!

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