NAHID DE BELGEONNE
"I can’t bear the shift towards the more inhumane, where we are treated as consumers rather than citizens to compassionately serve but, instead of railing against it, get engaged with your community and be part of something better, leading by example is all we can do."
Nahid de Belgeonne is the founder and director of Good Vibes, one of London’s first specialist fitness studios, which launched in 2006. Nahid is a British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance U.S. accredited teacher with a passion for sharing the healing powers of this ancient craft for all levels and abilities. Trained by renowned international teachers such as leading mindful yoga advocate Simon Low and Judith Hanson Lasater, the God Mother of Restorative Yoga.
Nahid teaches an array of practices including Embodied Yoga Flow, Restorative Yoga, Meditation, Yoga Nidra and Somatic Movement. Her emphasis is on intelligent movement and helping others find ease in the body. Continuously refining her skills and exploring new disciplines, Nahid has just embarked on a 4-year training programme in Feldenkrais, an educational method focusing on a heightened awareness of movement, which can increase vitality and improve flexibility, posture and balance.
Nahid is also the course leader for the Good Vibes 200-hour yoga teacher training course accredited with Yoga Alliance U.S. and will launch a restorative yoga teacher training in September.
Nahid works with the curious beginner, right through to those who are training to become yoga teachers themselves. Her aim is to demystify yoga yet still demonstrate the magic of this powerfully timeless technique.
"Looking after yourself is a radical act and something that everyone can move in the direction of."
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
For me Ayurveda is all about living simply and listening in to your body so that you live in a more balanced way. I eat seasonally, naturally and locally. I generally eat according to my Dosha type; I’m Tri-Doshic which means that I try to alternate Vata with Pitta on a weekly basis.
When did you discover it?
I used to work in a health food shop when I was 19 and that formed my lifestyle. It was seen as a little on the fringes of society then, but it’s amazing how healthy lifestyles are now more accepted and part of the mainstream. Looking after yourself is a radical act and something that everyone can move in the direction of.
What drew you to Ayurveda?
I was brought up on Indian food, so food as medicine has always been part of my life, and learning about alternative lifestyles and being around radical lifestyles (squatters, vegans and protestors) has formed me.
How long have you been practising it?
I am a yoga teacher and practitioner and have a respect for balance of mind and body and an understanding that I am in control of my energy levels and the food I eat has a tremendous importance for how I feel.
Anything major it’s helped with?
I am rarely ill, Ayuerveda has really kept my skin glowing, my good skin is a testament to having lived organically and cooking from scratch for most of my life. My diet has always been plant-based and I generally avoid dairy as I am lactose-intolerant. It gives me a long-term approach and stops me being faddy about what I do as that way confusion lies.
Is it part of everyday life or merely part of your medicine cabinet/fall-back routine?
Yes, it is part of my everyday life. I always shop in health food stores and farmers' markets, very rarely in supermarkets as I want to support independent producers and want to know the provenance of my food. I also avoid chemicals on my skin or hair and use natural products. I make my own deodorant with coconut oil! I eat fish occasionally now but my diet has been plant-based for all of my adult life.
My life is busy, I’m a boss of a big team and I teach classes, workshops and events so I end up talking to a lot of people in the course of my week — I counter it with rest and gentle activities that are peaceful.
The liberating thing about getting older is that I can now talk openly about my granny habits!
I am a big fan of active rest and teach and practise restorative yoga and yoga nidra (a guided meditation) and sleep. I also move a lot every day, be it a formal boxing or weights class at my studios or self-practice of yoga, Feldenkrais or pilates at home, all of which serve to keep me on an emotional even keel.
I haven’t had a TV for around 20 years so having a TV on all the time isn’t part of my routine. You need to be aware of your senses and what you allow in to pervade your nervous system on a daily basis. The injustice and human tragedies in the world have such an effect on me that I can’t watch the news at all. It is disempowering to be bombarded with 24-hour news and events that you have no direct control of or can’t really do anything about, so I read the papers at the weekend and search out different view points on podcasts to see where I can engage so that I can affect things in a positive way. My mindfulness teacher, Michael Stone, who has now sadly passed, said the most profound thing, which was that you don’t have to like your community, but you are part of your community. It seems so obvious once you hear it but I was quite politically involved when I was younger and there was always a sense of us and them, “they” are bad and we are good. Michael’s words really had a big impact on me. I can’t bear the shift towards the more inhumane, where we are treated as consumers rather than citizens to compassionately serve but, instead of railing against it, get engaged with your community and be part of something better, leading by example is all we can do.
I read or listen to the radio or audio books and find inspiring podcasts and I am often found in the woods and greenery, which is the way I catch up with my husband and the dog at the weekends.
I don’t drink alcohol on a regular basis, although I do enjoy a glass of wine and the fun that ensues – a little too much!
Top 3 Ayurveda tips that have worked for you?
Meditate every day, even if for 5 minutes.
Move every day.
Eat simply and to nourish.
Do your children/family eat Ayurvedically? And if they do, do they know it’s Ayurveda or do they just think of it as home cooking?
It is just part of our lifestyle — even the dog is on golden paste.
Do you have a favourite Ayurvedic recipe or go-to ingredient?
Dhal has always been my default comfort food. Some people crave potatoes or pasta but mine is dhal and brown rice or kitchari — it has to be pani-pani which is more soup-like like than the dry version.
How does Ayurveda fit into your day-to-day routines?
I meditate for 20 minutes every morning and do 5-10 minutes of mobilisation, and follow a few Kriyas, such as tongue scraping and flushing out my nasal passages using a neti pot. I used to practise oil pulling but I’m concerned about fatbergs in my home water pipes! I buy fresh food every few days and cook from scratch and according to the season. I try to have lunch as my main meal but that isn’t always easy when you want to enjoy a meal with your partner. I also sip warm water throughout the day and have golden paste in a little oat milk at night to help me sleep. I take brahmi and turmeric capsules to supplement my diet.
What do you wish was more accessible in our society to make an Ayurvedic lifestyle easier?
I think the characteristics of Doshas don’t fully translate to the West and good Ayurvedic doctors are not easy to find. It isn’t an approach that is easy to dip your toes into and I take elements of it and don’t follow what doesn’t easily work for me. My approach is to move in the direction of, rather than having hard and fast rules. The thing I love about the East by West approach is that you give the background to the philosophy and then create recipes that are easy to access. Being fluid and being able to dip in to access this stuff is really important to get people to engage, so well done on your work to bring a healthy lifestyle to the mainstream.
How does Ayurveda support your lifestyle?
I’m the person that people come to in times of crisis, as nothing freaks me out. I am one of life’s solution finders and super dependable, so I guess that yoga and Ayurveda keep me on an emotional even keel.
Do people around you/in your circle of friends know about it?
In the sense that they will ask what I can eat if they invite me round, but I don’t really want to be labelled by my lifestyle, as it's one aspect of me but doesn’t fully define me.
What’s the one thing you would encourage everyone to try or you think would benefit the majority of people’s health for the better?
Try to live as karmically as possible , which is an understanding that your actions have an effect. If we all lived with the consequences in mind perhaps there wouldn’t be such a disconnect in the world including in our relationship to ourselves.