“Here I am, being an utter contradiction!” laughs Nadine Garner, on the phone from her home in Melbourne. She’s talking about the fact that she considers yoga to be a part of her life, but admits that she hasn’t done a yoga class in months. Why the “hiatus”, as the actress refers to it? As if on cue, the squeals of her 15-month old son Jem and 4-year old son Edan erupt in the background, and it becomes readily apparent that Garner’s life right now is full to the brim.
Garner, who’s in her late 30s, is currently filming the third series of the Channel 7 television drama City Homicide, which reappears in July. She plays Detective Jennifer Mapplethorpe, alongside a cast that includes Noni Hazlehurst and Aaron Pedersen. Between the weekly demands of her work and sharing childcare duties with husband Cameron, Garner says that fitting in a yoga class right now “is almost an impossibility”.
“I will come back to doing yoga. I talk about it constantly,” she says firmly. Garner has practised a number of styles since she started doing yoga at age 17, including hatha, Iyengar, Shadow yoga and Ashtanga. Over the years she has lived in Sydney, Melbourne and London, creating more flux in her practice. “I’m a ‘snatch and grab’ yogi,” she jokes. She fondly remembers learning at Yoga Synergy in Sydney in her 20s, and singles out the Ashtanga Yoga Studio in Melbourne’s Fitzroy as a recent favourite, noting its strong spiritual component as something she relishes.
In her 20s and early 30s, Garner would attend yoga classes once or twice a week. Understandably, that time is now considered a luxury. When I suggest the idea of doing a short home practice instead, Garner replies with a wry weariness that might be familiar to mothers of young kids. “It’s kind of the last thing I’d think of doing at home at the moment,” she says. “Once I’ve done the dinner and got the kids to bed, I don’t really think, ‘I must do some standing poses!’”
It’s interesting, then, that Garner was first exposed to yoga through her own mother’s home practice. Garner remembers being four years old, watching her own mother do yoga in front of the television. On screen was Swami Sarasvati, the red leotard-clad sensation of the 70s, who inspired thousands of suburban Aussie mums to try yoga. She clearly had an effect on the young Garner, because when I mention that Swami Sarasvati still lives in Australia, Garner sounds thrilled, and I promise to find out more (Swami Sarasvati now runs a yoga and meditation retreat in Kenthurst, NSW).
Garner remembers being four years old, watching her own mother do yoga in front of the television.
“I suspect that yoga gave mum immense sustenance,” Garner says with obvious admiration. “Bringing up three daughters…I don’t know how she came to find the time.”
Despite Garner’s recent break from the yoga mat, she still strives to live with mindfulness, which she credits yoga and meditation for teaching her. “Yoga gives you a great ability to be witness to your own wellbeing,” Garner says. “That’s the biggest benefit, that I can detach myself. You may feel like the world’s against you, but mindfulness helps you realise that the world is neutral.” Garner stresses how invaluable this is for her as a mother. “If you just parented through your ego, you couldn’t deal with it,” she says.
The sense of mindful detachment in meditation has helped her acting skills, too. “I can be aware of what emotions I’m feeding myself, and watch how thoughts can create emotion. If you don’t have time to observe yourself, you make mistakes [in acting]”. Garner made her acting debut on the kids’ television drama The Henderson Kids in 1985, and since then has worked fairly consistently in Australian television, film and theatre. Garner says this new series of City Homicide is more demanding for her, acting-wise. “There’ll be more humour, more humanity, my character falls in love… there’s really nice stuff to work with,” she says. Her comic talents are also on show in a new Australian film, Kin, which premieres at the Melbourne Film Festival in July.
Happily enough for Garner, her 25 years in the acting business has not made her public property, and she lives a fairly anonymous life with her husband and sons. Family downtime is often spent in their vegetable garden or exploring nature. “The garden, bush, by the sea, they’re all the things that make children really happy,” says Garner. “I strive to give my children as many of these authentic moments as I can.”