There is no doubt that Nadia Narain is one of the most in-demand yoga instructors in London. With a long list of clientele that includes the likes of Kate Moss and Rachel Weisz, she promotes not only physical, but also emotional well-being, helping us deal with the everyday stresses of life. Savoir Flair spoke to Narain about her career in yoga and found out a few of her recommended moves for relieving stress.
How did you become a yoga instructor?
A friend took me to a yoga class in Los Angeles when I was around 18 or 19; it was in the teacher’s house and there were about 20 of us in her living room. I don’t know what happened in that first class and I don’t want to sound corny, but I felt like I had arrived. I went back every day, twice a day, and she slowly started to teach me. I then traveled to India to study and lived in an ashram for five months. It was never my plan to be a yoga teacher – well, not until I was in my sixties, at least! I just kept studying and remained completely dedicated to it. I was young, had a bit of money saved, and traveled around the world to learn from some of the best teachers. In those days, they didn’t travel like they do now. I came back to London and people started asking me to teach. I had no plan. It just happened – and here I am 20 years later!
What attracted you to it?
I don’t really know, but I’d say mostly my teacher and the way I felt after class. I was high and grounded and open and felt good, all at the same time.
What do you love most about your job?
Everything. I’m so lucky to wake up every morning and do what I do, helping people feel good. As I get older and have more experience with life, I realize it’s not just yoga that people come for – sometimes they come to talk about how to make their lives healthier or decisions they are making to improve their health and well-being.
My mantra is ‘breathe, love, laugh, be kind, be grateful’.
Do you have a mantra?
I have many, actually. My tagline on all my products is ‘breathe, love, laugh, be kind, be grateful’ and I think that pretty much nails it. When I can focus on these few things, not take myself too seriously, and be kind and grateful, everything flows pretty nicely.
Do you have any top tips for beginners?
Start! Beginners are always scared of yoga – it’s as if it is some unreachable practice in which you have to touch your toes and stand on your head. And you may eventually, just not right now! Like anything else, it takes time and dedication. Find a teacher who you like and makes you want to come back and give it a few chances. Sometimes you come just for a back pain or flexibility, but learn to breathe and leave feeling great. Start somewhere and remember that the best mind to keep is a beginner’s mind. Even when you are advanced, always stay teachable.
You organize yoga retreats on an ongoing basis. What is your favorite place to practice?
One of the most beautiful retreat places – and one of my favorites – is in the mountains in Turkey. My first visit to Turkey was four years ago and I’ve been back yearly since then. They have run it as a retreat for over 20 years and every thing about it is magical. Not only do you get to do yoga, but you’re also very close to nature, which I think is so healing for all of us, especially living in these busy cities.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2016?
This year has already been so busy and it feels like we’ve only just begun! I have a retreat in my favorite place this month and am teaching a retreat on a Belmond hotel cruise on the Myanmar river in Burma from August to September, which I’m so looking forward to. My DVD, Strength and Stability, came out in April and I have a second one releasing in August called Moving Meditation. I also launched my new website last December and am having so much fun with the shop and blogs on it. My new perfume ‘Lua’ is doing exceptionally well, so I will be looking to develop more scents to go with it.
Yoga to De-Stress
We asked Layla Al-Naif, Dubai-based yoga expert, to illustrate Narain’s top four stress-relieving moves. See below for your guide on how to perform them at home.
This first one is a breathing technique. Start in a comfortable seated position, place a hand on your solar plexus, and breathe. Start by breathing in for four counts, out for four, and then see if you can increase the exhalation.
Sit with one leg extended and the other bent at the knee. Of course, you may not touch your toes, so do what you can easily manage. The key is to keep your spine long and your head an extension of your neck, while not dropping down. Take five to eight breaths and then swap sides.
Alternate nostril breathing is very calming. Block one nostril with your thumb and exhale through the opposite nostril for four counts. Next, inhale through that nostril for four and exhale through the opposite nostril for four. Continue this for 10 to 20 rounds – you can increase the exhale by a couple of counts if it feels good!
Take the knee that was dropped to the side, lift it up, and place your foot over the extended leg. Twist in toward the knee. Make sure your big toe is grounded on the bent knee and the extended leg is straight and strong. Keep your lower back lifted nice and tall and breathe five to eight breaths before swapping sides.
Credits: Photographer Anna Shtraus Model Layla Al-Naif