Fresh faced and sofa bound the Narin sisters are it. They are chilled, effortless and cool as hell. Not to mention accomplished. Nadia is a yogi with a mass a-list following that includes Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Reese Witherspoon. Katia is a health food fanatic and founder of Nectar Cafe in Camden, a wholefood vegetarian cafe. Their debut book Self-Care for the Real World became an instant best-seller, it’s follow up “Rituals” described as KonMari for the mind. Nadia and Katia have been walking the self-care walk since the early 90’s, way before it was even a thing. They are charmingly attuned to one another and while Nadia takes the lead in much of the interview it’s not without a knowing nod from Katia. Straight talking and dripping in authenticity, these two have a story to tell.
Born in Hong Kong, the girls describe their childhood as unconventional, dotted with chaos and contradiction. They left home at 16 wounded and wanting more. On their stumble onto the path of healing Nadia says “At the time it was survival. It was more self-exploration than self-care. We were exploring different ways to look inside and to like ourselves and we got blessed or guided doing these practices that we love”. Like most looking for answers they tried it all putting their minds and bodies through its paces, silent retreats and cleanses a plenty. It’s only with hindsight they recognise these extremities as acts of emotional purging on a quest for self-acceptance.
‘As we’ve gotten older we realise that it’s about doing small things and doing them regularly. It’s about having that conversation with yourself. You can go about your life doing yoga or having manicures and doing all these things that people are instagramming as self-care but if you’re having a really shameful conversation with yourself about something you just said then it won’t change a thing’. Nadia recalls meeting people over the years. “People who were brought up really well. They had this innate sense of confidence gifted to them from their parents. They had really clear boundaries, they were able to say no but I was making the same mistakes with the same people over and over. I was scared to say no in case people wouldn’t like me. Some people have it, some people need to learn it and some people never learn it”. It’s fair to say Nadia and Katia learned it.
It’s less about green juice diets and more about slowing down
Collectively they’ve spent their entire adult lives caring for others. After years spent teaching the essentials the penny dropped. They realised they were sharing these disciplines, these habits with others but completely neglecting themselves. They concluded that it wasn’t the big things that shifted the needle but the smaller daily habits accumulated over time that brought about real change. Through decades of personal exploration, experience and trial and error they discovered the secret sauce. Self-Care for the Real World was a smash hit but no-one was more surprised by it’s success than Nadia and Katia. Nadia modestly quips that it was a mix of white magic, good timing and an amazing editor. I say it’s less to do with the shrine and more to do with the fact that it’s a genuinely great read. In stark comparison with the often flowery, airy fairy, hippy dippy self-care stuff on the market today Self-Care for the Real World is surprisingly relatable. It’s describes everything from the basics of self awareness to getting a good night sleep, finding your tribe to workplace stress and everything in between. Dense in wisdom and wholly practical it presents self-care in a more attainable way that I’ve ever seen. It’s less about green juice diets and more about slowing down. Building positive habits into your routine and practicing them consistently. Discipline is key.
When quizzed on the fundamentals of their own daily routines they keep it simple. Katia’s daily do’s include eating great food, walking in nature and getting to bed by 10:30 every night. Nadia’s include a morning routine, saying ‘no’ to the things that don’t spark joy and cooking. But it’s got to be simple. If there’s a recipe involved, forget it. When it comes to tips for getting started on a self-care journal in true Narin style it’s simple simon. Eat good quality healthy food, and often. Hydrate with water and do a regular body scan. It’s all about knowing yourself – a body scan lets you connect with yourself, your thoughts and emotions.
The start of self-care is getting to know yourself. Until you know yourself you’ll think that buying a matcha latte is self-care but in fact it’s nothing more than a band aid for underlying unease. It’s about going inside more than anything else, checking in regularly and building little habits into your routine – that’s when the true magic happens.
Their approach is so unassuming that I wonder what they really think about the explosion of the self-care industry. ‘It’s amazing’ says Nadia, ‘that this word is now out there, people are starting to get interested. When I started none of my friends came to yoga. Suddenly your aunt in Ireland is doing yoga on a video and that’s a great thing. It’s one of those things. It will blow up, then quieten down. It’s only a good thing that more people are hearing about it’. But she’s quick to add a sprinkle of cynicism. ‘Everyone is creating businesses so they can be instagrammed. It’s got to be instagrammed or don’t do it. I like to go to places because they’re good. People are spending all this time making sure people know they’re self-caring, but that’s not self-caring. Self-caring is turning your phone off. It’s sitting to have your meal mindfully, doing a meditation. It’s not taking pictures of yourself, not going outside yourself, it’s checking in with yourself’. And with this they try to be as mindful as possible when it comes to technology but it is difficult, now more than ever with both running their businesses from their phones. But Katia keeps her phone on silent always, and has all notifications switched off. Nadia is a little less restrained and admits that when she’s down her phone is her go-to rabbit hole. When the self-care foundations are weak the phone is the vice.
So what’s next for the Narins? ‘An online community, one where those on the same journey can connect and share tips and tricks’. Alongside this there’s an online course in the pipeline that will allow people to check in and practice self-care in a way that’s personal to them. That’s where it’s at.
More than anything it’s their outlook on life that gets me. They’ve felt the pain, they’ve done the work and they’ve come through the other side. Real, raw and beaming with gratitude something tells me that whatever the Narin’s turn their hand to next will no doubt be golden.