With fans including Reese Witherspoon, Kate Moss and Sienna Miller, sisters and wellness experts Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips are on a mission to turn self-care from a hashtag into a new way of life… By Elle Blakeman
What does self-care mean to you? Is it a hashtag to roll your eyes at on Instagram, a large glass of wine while watching Netflix (guilty), a wishful thought as you rush out the door ticking off yet another thing from your ever-growing to-do list?
For sister and wellness experts Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips, authors of the best-selling book /self-care for the real world/ it is vital yet severely underrated, especially by busy women, and something we should all be doing a lot more of. ‘Self-care is being able to treat yourself as kindly as you would your best friend or your child,’ says Nadia. ‘Whether that is with your inner dialogue – how you look at yourself, how you feed yourself, how you allow yourself to rest – or how you challenge yourself, we need to start from a place of genuine kindness and care.’
Together the pair have spent a total of almost 50 years in the wellness industry – Nadia, a model-turned-yogi, teaches at the London’s chic Triyoga centre (with several A-list devotees attending her Primrose Hill classes) while her younger sister Katia started one of the capital’s first raw-food cafés and today runs the Nectar café at Triyoga.
However, despite living a more virtuous life than most, they both suffered with a less-than-kind internal dialogue, one that they acknowledge plagues many modern women. ‘It took us a really long time to figure that out,’ says Nadia. ‘We were doing all this great stuff, like yoga, massage, eating well and so on, but we still had this really harsh tone of voice with ourselves – very restrictive, a little perfectionist (or a lot) and just generally quite mean.’
‘We all seem to be able to do things with such a sweetness to others but not ourselves,’ says Katia.
‘We also realised that when we neglect our self-care, there is a knock-on effect. If we miss a meal, we are usually a bit grumpier, if we don’t hydrate, we notice we start feeling a fogging of the brain, if we don’t go to bed by a certain time, we don’t feel good when we wake up. There is less space to respond rather than react and that affects everyone we come into contact with. When we pay attention to self-care we are more resourced and have more energy for everyone around us. When we feel full, we have more time, energy and general generosity to give others.’
With complementary disciplines, the sisters decided they were well placed to consider the issue with a holistic approach. ‘We have both been so gifted by all our many teachers with some great tools, allowing us not just manage, but to flourish in life,’ says Nadia. ‘We really wanted to share these tools with others.’
In the end, it was His Holiness the Dalai Lama who inspired the pair to put their thoughts to paper. ‘We went to a talk of his. He said: “If you do not take care of yourself, you are not qualified to take care of anyone else”. The words stuck with them. ‘On every airline you get on, they will tell you to put your oxygen mask on first, then on your child. We need to be full and grounded within ourselves first before we can give to others,’ says Nadia.
They pooled their decades of experience and the end result was a beautiful, easy-to-read tomb split into the sections of ‘love’ ‘hope’ ‘joy and ‘light’. Practical and not remotely preachy, the book offers smart, sage wisdom – like an older sister switching the television off, pouring your wine down the sink and marching you up to bed for a much-needed early night. There are recipes for green juices, Buddha bowls and wild-rice salad dotted among features on the best way to get over heartbreak, how to achieve work/life balance and wise words on preventing social media from taking over your headspace.
The book touched a nerve, gaining fans all over the world including Reese Witherspoon, Lily Cole and Sienna Miller. Kate Moss reportedly gave a copy to all of her closest friends. Now the pair are launching a new selfcare online course called A Gentle Revolution starting in January 2020.
‘We created the course to be closer to our readers,’ says Nadia. ‘We like the idea of doing it in a community as there is 65% more chance of completing a goal when you commit to someone. In this case it will be a whole self-care community.’
The four-week course will be filled with tasks to complete, a yoga video for the week, a meditation audio for the week, some recipes for the week and as a live video to answer questions and communicate with their community.
‘People that feel good, do good, People that feel bad, act badly,’ says Nadia. ‘So we figured in our small way, if we could get anybody – not just ‘yoga people’ or vegans or people with money to do expensive treatments – but real-world people to start treating themselves kindly then that goes out into the world and hopefully spreads that kindness out,’ says Nadia.
‘It all starts with ourselves,’ agrees Katia. ‘If we are grumpy or in pain we are usually grumpy with others. When we eat well, sleep well, exercise, we feel good, and have more time and energy and patience for others – it’s a virtuous circle!’
So if someone is new to the idea of self-care, how would they pair advise they start the process? ‘Start with small achievable things that you can implement and be consistent with it, says Nadia. ‘One of the simplest and most practical approaches we have in our book is to make your self-care list: draw a line down middle of page and on one side write the things down that make you feel resourced and taken care of, on the other, write things down that make you feel drained or tired or just rubbish.
It’s a list you can keep coming back to and when you are going through a difficult time in your life, look at your list and see what you can do more of and less of.
Does it change as you get older? ‘Generally, the acts of self-care change of course, depending on the different phases of your life. But the main objective remains the same: How do you talk to yourself? How kind are you with yourself? When you are going through a difficult time, are you able to be gentle? Are you treating yourself with the same amount of kindness that you would give someone you really loved?
‘When you are going through something really difficult, do one nice thing for yourself each day,’ says Katia. ‘It doesn’t have to be grand, just a small thing that makes you feel good.’
With all this hard-won knowledge, what would they tell their younger selves? ‘I need to think about that one, there’s /so/ much!’ says Nadia. ‘Mainly we would tell ourselves we are enough, we are good enough, we are more than enough. Stop comparing yourself and learn to like yourself. You got to live with you, your whole life! Get to know her well, and be kind to her!’