Curiosity Gap Recommends: ‘Yang Sheng: The Art Of Chinese Self-healing’ by Katie Brindle

With all of modern supposed advances, most of the people, when asked how they are, seem to reply that they are ‘tired, stressed, exhausted, anxious etc’. A sign that not all is right in[...] read more

Self-care with Nadia Narain & Katia Narain Phillips

Self-care seems to be the latest buzz word, but in actual fact it is something that many of us have been practising or neglecting to do for many years. It is something that all of us need in our busy world to calm our minds, balance the bodies and make us feel more at peace with who we are. Yoga teacher Nadia Narain and her chef sister Katia Narain Philips recently published they first joint book, called ‘Self-care For The Real World’ based not only on their own life experiences, but the feedback of many women that they have met through work, as well on their personal life journey.

I bought the book as soon as I have heard about its publication and read it every night until I turned the last page. Divided into five sections – LOVE, HOPE, PEACE, JOY & LIGHT – each chapter acts as a thoughtful friend, who doesn’t judge your choices, but offers you ideas and tips for doing things a little bit differently in order to improve your life for the better. A mix of recipes, stories, massage tips, inspirational quotes and much more, it is a book not only to read once, it’s more akin to a training manual into which you dive in when the need arrises. My dog-eared copy ‘lives’ by my bedside table now & seeing its cover elicits an inner smile.

As I allow my curiosity to lead the way, when I heard about Katia and Nadia’s first joint workshop, following the book’s publication, at Triyoga Camden ( where Nadia teaches yoga & Katia runs an on-site Nectar cafe – try her tahini choc cookies or chocolate beetroot cake and try not to develop an addiction!), I promptly booked my ticket. Midway into my cold, I was determined to show up and listen and I wasn’t disappointed.

‘You can’t always choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you feel about it.’ Danielle LaPorte

Having done Nadia’s yoga home DVDs and burning her candles for many years & with Katia teaching me the basics of baby massage when my daughter was just a few a couple months old, I arrived with an open mind, as it’s been a while since I have seen them both & was intrigued to observe their sisterly dynamic from the side-lines of a yoga studio.

Nadia, sinewy & somewhat more fragile looking, but with a wonderfully melodic voice that commands attention and Katia, who very much dislikes public talking, but when she speaks, you feel at ease and listen, are quite yin & yang. They look alike, yet are quite different in many ways – Katia dislikes yoga for example and prefers walking, for hours if she is upset or needs to think things over, Nadia can’t imagine life without daily meditation. To watch them in action, gently teasing each other, each in her element and adding her own unique perspective made for a very special workshop for a female-only (no men were brave enough to show up 🙂 audience.

As women of different ages sat down on their mats, (some of us weren’t sure if yoga was on the ‘menu’, hence our arrival not in yoga pants, but in jeans or dresses, while other devotees came in relaxed yoga attire) calm descended. Katia and Nadia talked, Nadia taught us some easy-flowing yoga – in-between we did partner work and that in itself was revelation. Many of us were complete strangers when we came to the workshop, yet we ended up sitting in pairs on the yoga mats, placing our hands on each other and guiding our partner in their breathing patters and correcting the posture. We told each other things that were quite emotional – imagine looking at a stranger and telling her the three things you like about her or what you are most proud of in you life and see how it makes you feel. For me, fairly easy, but also liberating. For some women it was a very emotional experience.

We all talked and shared. We breathed and whispered. We enjoyed the precious time that we had to ourselves and shared with wonderful group of strangers. Below are some of the tips that Katia and Nadia shared. I hope they will intrigue or inspire you to make some changes this year. If not, maybe just read and think about a thing or two that might jump out from the screen & plant a seed in your mind.

  • Nice mindset towards yourself allows you to have a positive mindset towards the world (and we can all do with a nicer world right now!)
  • Be kind to yourself. We would never be unkind to our friends or criticise them in the same way that we criticise ourselves, daily, denting our own confidence in our sense of worth and abilities.
  • Remember that your home is a sanctuary and cleaning & tidiness help to calm things down and create a peaceful oasis when you return to it at the end of the day.
  • Never underestimate the importance and value of face massage. Katia taught us some great techniques to help clear the sinuses and help shift colds by massaging above the brows, around the eyes, along the hairline, behind the ears and then downwards on both sides of our necks. She also intercepted this we gentle fist tapping on the collar bones to help speed up lymphatic drainage.
  • Start your day not only with a warm glass or cup of water with lemon, but by asking yourself ‘What would make my day great?’ rather than listing the pile of daunting tasks you have to complete.
  • Nadia shared a great quote by Dalai Lama along the lines of – If you don’t look after yourself, you aren’t equipped to look after the others. After all, the better YOU feel, the more you have to give. Makes for a good post-it reminder to put on your laptop or bathroom mirror.
  • Saying to yourself or moaning to a friend or partner ‘ I don’t have the time for this’ simply means it’s not a priority for you. Now pause and think about this and see what comes up. That was a biggie for me to contemplate! Katia simply suggested that ‘we have the time, we just have to change how we use it’ and shared the story of how she went from always being late, even when dropping her sons at school, to actually doing things on time and having more time to address things that need to be done on the day.
  • Once a day turn the radio up and dance like there is no tomorrow to your favourite song. Nadia made all of us dance and shake with our eyes closed – if someone was looking into the room, I am sure THAT would have been quite a site for their eyes!
  • Say ‘thank you’ to your partner. We often forget to verbally acknowledge our appreciation for what our loved one does for us, so just take the time to be grateful for their good deeds. It makes such a difference to a state of relationship (I put that tip into practise that evening and it made me feel SO good, I am sure to do it on a more regular basis).
  • If you forget gratitude, you will never have a proper relationship with kindness.

The class ended with a sound bath, but as everyone was settling in, I ended up with a sudden bout of coughing that just wouldn’t end. So I quietly tiptoed out of the room, drank the water, browsed the shop, drank more water, but the cough just wouldn’t go away, until the minute the sound bath was over. While it is a beautiful and deeply spiritual experience for some, sadly on a deep level I am not ‘matched up’ with it, as the previous time I was present during one I got quite restless, which proves that different things resonate with different people in their own way.

Overall it was a wonderfully nurturing experience that not only made those present reflect and learn new things, but it created a quietly happy environment with grounding energy. We cleared the room, queued for some delicious nibbles and kombucha that Katia and her team prepared for us and talked to each other, while having copies of the book signed by Nadia and Katia. I thanked my partner for that day, Bec, who allowed herself some precious time away from her young sons and was almost baffled that they were perfectly content while she was away. I also had a quick chat with the smiling Melissa Hemsley, who came to the workshop, having found a window in her busy schedule for promoting her new book ‘Happy’. She and her sister Jasmine, Hemsley & Hemsley sisters, seem to be forging their unique paths for the time being, following projects close to their individual areas of interest. A big smile confirmed that indeed it is a happy time for her.

I also had a touching conversation with a young woman and mum to a teething 18 months toddler. I shared in class that my special nurturing time comes from reading by myself, as well as listening to my children read or reading to them. A ritual that is serene and blissful and signifies one of the best things about motherhood – nurturing and love. A perfect activity to end the day with, to share in and to find contentment and knowledge. It clearly resonated with her and only expanded the serene happiness I already felt innately inside. My cold was still there, but I left the building content and walking towards the rest of the evening that was to be spent in the company of my family. Just proves that some self-care towards yourself allows you to expand and be content when facing the world.

‘Self-care For The[...] read more

My Moment: a beauty relaxation ritual by Dafna’s Skincare

This year has been a particularly busy one for me, since both of my kids have gone back to school after summer holidays and started slow, but steady preparations for various tests ahead. They have full-on schedules and by default, so do I. In addition to work schedules, I have to do school runs, piles of homework to supervise & extra work on top of it, as well as dropping off & picking my kids up from various after school activities. By the end of the day, when the kids go to sleep, I end up catching up on e-mails and working late into the night, leaving precious little time to attend to my own internal needs. Even beauty routines have to be quick and at times feel like they are done on the run, so what is one to do? When Dafna, founder of Dafna’s Skincare, got in touch, telling me about My Moments ritual that she has devised, my ears pricked up.

Dafna, as a mother of two, as well as a founder of a successful & growing brand Dafna’s Skincare, knows only to well the restrictions of time and the depletion we all experience at the end of the day. This spurred her to develop a beauty ritual that allows you to relax, while nurturing your skin. Combining Dafna’s skincare, the power of essential oils, modern ayurvedic holistic approach to wellbeing & traditional Chinese medicine, the four-step ritual takes minutes, yet manages to deliver lasting satisfaction. All YOU have to do is simply commit to a few minutes of ‘me-time’ at the beginning and end of your day.

My Moment is your place to relax, to reconnect to your feelings, and go back to loving your skin & yourself

Step 1: Apply a small amount of cream to your fingertips. Inhale the scent of the cream. Take a few deep breaths & let your body relax & mind calm down.

The olfaction sense is the first one we develop. It helps a newborn survive by knowing his mum’s milk is safe for him or her to drink & by helping form a bond between a baby & a mother. By taking the time to smell the cream or serum you use on your skin ( I alternate between Dafna’s ‘Moisture + Light version‘ & ‘Moisture +‘, depending on what my skin demands in the morning & switch to ‘Nutrition‘ in the evening. With the help of this quick ritual I end up feeling more energised, while in the evening calm descends on me, all simply because I take the time to breath deeper, letting my nose & mind decipher the fragrant ingredients of the skincare I apply to my face, neck & hands. Who knew that ‘Moisture +’, which combines extracts of Calendula & figs can lift the spirits, at the time when you might long to go back to bed, but have to run instead? It’s those unseen details that help us get on with our day with more vigour in our step.

Step 2: Tap the cream with gentle movements from inside to the outside & from bottom to the top of your face.

Why tap, you ask? Well, tapping your moisturiser into your skin will help it penetrate better & work more thoroughly on different skin layers, by increasing circulation. It will also help avoid leaving oily residue on the upper skin layer. Another little tip, is the direction of your moisturiser application. As we are all under the effect on gravity on planet Earth, tapping our moisturiser from inside outside & from bottom to top of our face will act against the power of gravity, which over time contributes to skin’s dullness & loss flexibility & suppleness.

Step 3: Continue by massaging the cream in small circles & by applying a little pressure to the temples, between the eyebrows & behind the ears. Take the time to relax and enjoy the simplicity of just being in the moment with peacefulness and no external distraction.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, our life energy should flow fluently. However, our energy flow is often disrupted by various factors, like anxiety, lack or bad quality of sleep & negative effects of stress. By applying small pressure to pulse points on our faces regularly can help release blockages & allow the skin to have more vitality, reduce negative impact of stress & promote general wellbeing.

Step 4: Put your hands on top of your face, gently touching the skin. Take deep breaths, with long exhales, while keeping your eyes closed.

Closing the eyes & inhaling deeply helps us concentrate & reconnect with ourselves. It also helps to focus on inhales & exhales, trying to lengthen them & taking them deeper into our tummies, helping shift stale air & toxins out of our bodies more effectively. Something we were so natural at doing when we were babies, without any intent or laser focus. Now many of us take very shallow breaths, instead of full ones, thus taking in less oxygen. Maybe if we consciously focus on inhaling the positive energy and exhaling all the negative vibes that we might have been accumulating or holding on to internally, it will help us feel more alert & content?!

In many ways our own wellbeing depends on the steps we take to look after ourselves and an excuse that many of us make – ‘I don’t have the time’ – becomes quite lame, when we pause to consider the consequences of the lack of our own actions to safeguard our future. Dafna’s ritual, which has its roots in aromatherapy, yoga, meditation and mindfulness, allows you, when practised daily, to bring some meaningful moments that will nurture not just your skin, but your mind & your soul. Self love & self care, something that women who are mothers feel particularly guilty about, are in fact the tools that allow us to nurture others. After all, you can’t pour from an empty vessel & when you have a few moments of peace in the calming space that is your bathroom, it allows you to be more grounded in your intentions & more at peace with yourself. It will also empower you & make you more productive, when combining personal & professional schedules.

And for those days when I feel too tired to nurture myself with intention, there are always little hands that start giving me a massage, as I lie down on the floor, listening to my children reading out loud. They help to form precious moments the power and meaning of which in my life is never underestimated or taken for granted. The future is unpredictable, so take the time to savour every minute of every day, no matter what you do or what life throws at you. Rituals & gratitude create a powerful armour that we all need in the battlefield of life.

For more information about Dafna’s[...] read more