Teaching Chooks to Breathe


A champion football team has admitted to using “alternative” methods to give them a competitive edge and manage pressure: apparently, they’ve been breathing!

In the interests of maintaining an open mind, Nanna read Sunday’s sports pages. She discovered the Sydney Roosters hired an “alternative” breath-work specialist to teach them deep breathing techniques for staying calm under fire. It worked. They won the 2018 rugby league premiership.

Call me crazy, but I think breathing is anything but “alternative”. In fact there is only one alternative to breathing. But we know what the newspaper meant. Paying close attention to your breath and the effect...Read More »

Nanna's a material girl

Even though it was the 80s when greed was good, Nanna was always a little uncomfortable about Madonna and the ‘material girl’ thing. She couldn’t see it as irony. She was Madonna’s age, but she was bringing up small children rather than swanning about in pink satin and stilettos. She felt the singer’s evening gloves and diamonds mocked her as she slobbed about in a sweatshirt with baby vomit on its padded shoulder. (It was the 80s.) The nonsensical premise of the video – that the girl who could have anything preferred a bunch of daisies to diamonds? –...Read More »

Wisdom traditions for the West Wing? What about a Winfrey Whitehouse . . .

Image from the Huffington Post.

One good speech, and the chattering/tweeting/pontificating classes have Oprah making a run for President.

Nanna is no expert on Ms Winfrey’s fitness for public office. By current standards, she’s more than qualified. She is a celebrity who enjoys massive traditional and social media followings. She gave a terrific speech at the Golden Globes. It had the personal story: Oprah as a little girl, sitting on the linoleum, watching Sidney Poitier receive his Oscar in 1964 as her mother walked in “bone tired from cleaning other...Read More »

The Cheese Curd Christmas Credo

When the yoga teacher told us she was pregnant, and she’d been miserable for weeks due to her expectations, I thought ‘deep fried cheese curds’.

Cheese curds, after last Christmas, will forever be Nanna’s personal symbol of the perils of expectation – but let’s start with that lovely, young, expectant yogini. When she said “I’m pregnant”, I anticipated a flood of gushing-coochy-coo. Sometimes yoga studios seem knee deep in rainbows and unicorns. But this was different. She’d been in a deep funk, it’s her second pregnancy and she was haunted by expectations of the discomforts to come: pain, sleeplessness, all...Read More »

The Yoga of Jane Austen

Ask the millions of Jane Austen fans commemorating the bicentenary of her death today and they’ll tell you: Jane has a way of taking you there.

Researchers at Michigan State University agree. Using MRI scans of readers’ brains as they enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, the neuroscientists thought they’d find activation in brain tissue associated with attention. Instead, they found Jane’s writing activated “areas of the brain more commonly associated with movement and touch”. In other words, Jane’s writing has a way of making the brain believe it’s experiencing rather than reading.

It confirms Nanna’s theory – and she’s sure there’s a...Read More »

Muscled into mindfulness by monastics


I arrived – late – to find the other participants of the weekend meditation retreat at the Buddhist monastery already robed and ready, waiting on the porch or near the pond, looking awkward. People are often awkward at the beginning of a retreat. The shy try to be inconspicuous, the extroverts introduce themselves, people make small talk about their travels, expectations and anticipations. We were told this retreat would be held ‘in Noble Silence’ – but I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. Whispering instead of talking? No one seemed to be...Read More »

Age Quod Agis

Nanna has discovered the translation of her high school motto – that beacon of right-living illuminating her life path – was wrong!

Like Tolstoy’s Ivan Illych, I’m confronted with the possibility that I was completely mistaken about the basic rules for a good life. Closer to the end of it than the beginning, I’m learning – like Ivan – that it’s never too late to question how you’ve been going about things in life.

For more than 40 years I thought age quod agis meant whatever you do, do it well. It echoed my father’s constant refrain: “if job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing...Read More »

Memory, learning and being not-so-strange at seventy

Will I go stark raving bonkers with no memory of who or what I am? It’s a pretty standard fear for people in my age bracket.

Like Simon and Garfunkel all those years ago, we once thought “how terribly strange to be seventy”. Now it’s getting close, we hope when we get there they’ll be calling it the new 50. Or at least the new 60.

‘Old friends,
Memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears…”

If you remember the tune, you’re in the right age group to fear a failing memory. Are those ‘seniors’ moments’ normal, or a sign...Read More »

Off your butt, Nanna. Almost ANY exercise will do!

Off your butt, Nanna!

What do a suburban beautician and fresh results from a health study of 6,500 Americans have in common? They both spruik a link between telomeres and aging.

When my beautician told me the new cream she was selling had won a Nobel Prize, I was a little skeptical. It was one of those examples of good science turned into bad marketing. The wording on the magic potion finessed the link between the serum and the science by saying it “includes a molecule discovered by (an) award winning Telomere Biologist ….....Read More »

What's in a 'namaste'?

Not, apparently, what Nanna thought. To an Indian child it’s a polite version of ‘yo, fossil’ – hello, with a dollop of deference for age.

According to an article on, writer Deepak Singh says namaste is not a special occasion greeting like it has become in western yoga classes. Not “a Hindu mantra, a divine chant, a yoga salutation”. Singh said he used it a LOT as a child because “in India, it is common to refer to neighbors who are your parents’ age as uncles and aunts. The entire neighborhood was filled with uncles and aunts. Thousands of...Read More »

Don't go with your song still inside you . . .

Yoga Nanna added her scratch to the targeted tally of three million viewers for Wayne Dyer’s movie The Shift yesterday.  I just had to.  He was my first.

My first pop psychologist, self-help guru that is. I had quite a string of them in the 80’s and 90’s.  Those were my hard-driven-political-staffer years when I was hunting for the ‘technologies’ (a Tony Robbins thing), the ‘goals’ (a Zig Ziglar thing) and the ‘fear-facing’ courage (a Susan Jeffers thing) to keep me on my game.  I bought Wayne’s Real Magic when it came out in ’92, but shelved it after reading the first few pages....Read More »

The thorny (horny) issue of disgraced gurus

Allegations of sex abuse by Bikram Choudhury of Bikram Yoga (who appears to have over-heated) and John Friend of Anusara Yoga (who perhaps got too friendly) featured in a recent Yoga Journal.

Bikram has been served his sixth civil law suit but continues to deny the allegations.  He is still teaching, and lends his name to a significant portfolio of yoga studios around the world, but many have broken away or changed their names and the brand has suffered. Anusara is being revived under new ownership, and Friend has moved on to set up a new style of yoga with a name meaning “Divine Destiny”. It’s...Read More »

Killer yoga - really?

A woman interrupted a recent conversation I was having with a friend to announce “you know there are more injuries from yoga than from any other sport?”

My urban myth alarm triggered but the woman in question is a lovely person, and a professional in the health care industry, so it would have been impolite (not to mention terribly un-yogic of me) to say “that’s bullshit” before doing a little research.  So I did a little research.

That’s bullshit.

First, the injury thing.

There is no evidence to suggest yoga injuries can even hope to rival those from ice hockey, for example, skateboarding, horseback riding or...Read More »

Self pity, so seductive

It’s the emotional equivalent of the rug you catch your foot on every time, even though you know the damn things is there and can’t believe you’ve done it again.

The diet is going soooo well until your boss yells at you, your train gets cancelled and it rains (you have half a dozen of those silly collapsible umbrellas at home, why don’t you just keep one handy?) The whole world is against you and the only solution is ice cream!

Your Abstemious April (Sober September/Dry July) is humming along until you have a minor car accident, the other driver abuses you...Read More »

Bhagavad Gita in the Boondocks

The motel was 20 miles from the university where the graduation was to be held. A small town like Mount Vernon, Ohio, isn’t big enough for the influx of relatives and friends that a graduation attracts, so all the spare rooms in all the tiny hamlets tucked amongst the cornfields in every direction fill up as well.

Our motel was near a freeway off-ramp with a gas station, McDonalds and Yoder’s Diner. Flight delays meant we missed the early graduation dinner. We pulled into the motel at 7.45 to discover Yoder’s closed at 8 so we high-tailed it as fast...Read More »

Forgetfulness loses its funny side

As Maggie the elderly mother walks in, her middle aged son leaps from the lounge, anxious:

“Mum! Are you OK? What happened?” “Nothing happened I had a nice quiet day at home today,” as she hangs up her coat.

“Tell me the truth.”“Well I, er…. I did a little bit of shopping.”

“You got arrested!”“Ah yes, yes, well …. I went out, did some shopping, got arrested, came home – a nice quiet day.”

“Arrested for stealing!” “Oh no, no Arthur, not stealing. Stealing’s a sin!”

“Shoplifting is stealing!” “Does this mean you’re...Read More »

'Tis the season for healthy shoulders

It’s cricket season Downunder.  The thwack of leather on willow and all that romance I just don’t get – even though I’m Australian and was brought up with it.  Fourteen years in Chicago and trips to the bleachers didn’t make me a Cubs fan either, however, so it’s no fault of the game.  It’s my inability to comprehend any activity requiring ball to make contact with bat.

I tend to agree with Bill Bryson who said “it’s not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavours look interesting and lively; that was...Read More »

XL Yoga fills an XL gap

One of the biggest lessons I learned teaching lunchtime yoga classes at my office came from my largest students.  We worked in a shabby old building just off the freeway in the north western Chicago suburbs.  It was probably a typical mid-western small-business office – pot luck lunches once a month, lots of talk about baseball and football, good people who cared about each other, and our fair share of obesity.

The largest people in the office were married to each other and wanted to join in because they’d heard yoga was good for you.  We tried it, but as a novice teacher I didn’t have...Read More »

The Slap

When a young yogi friend asked my opinion – as a grandmother – on whether it’s OK to slap a child I remembered how Lenore Skenazy got to be “America’s Worst Mum” in one short subway ride, I remembered the furore over Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, and I didn’t want to dip even one toe in the ‘crock’-infested waters of good parenting.  Far too perilous for this risk-averse Nanna.

My friend’s little boy, at three years old, is strong and fearless and a potential ball of danger rolling through the obstacle course of his home, his neighborhood, his overall environment....Read More »

The Mantra Made for Every-day Wear

My first cab ride back in Chicago fulfilled all expectations. The driver’s aggression crackled inside the stuffy car as he muttered under his breath about traffic, pedestrians, drivers and shoved his vehicle into tight spaces that looked impossible to me.  I sat in the back seat, sucking in my breath and belly as if to help the whole car to contract so it could slide through the gaps.

Jet lagged and wearing the clothes I had dressed in half a world away and 48 hours earlier, I was doing the last thing I wanted to do: go shopping for clothes to...Read More »

Boring as . . .

“Oh don’t go all yoga on me,” he said.  “I never thought of you as boring and I really don’t want to have to start now”.  I laughed.  And stopped myself from saying what I was about to say, which was something about yoga, which would have been breaking one of my own rules.

I learned early in my fascination with yoga that trying to discuss it with someone who does not share that fascination, in fact with anyone who has not asked a specific question about yoga, is a dumb idea.  My rule?  Only talk about it if they ask....Read More »

Relax: trends are no longer trendy!

It warmed Yoga Nanna’s unfashionable old heart to read’s announcement that trends are no longer trendy. The pressure is OFF!

And the reason trends are no longer trendy? To be trendy is, by definition, to be novel, exotic, ahead of the curve and that, it seems, is now almost everything. On-trend content is everywhere and constantly evolving. How can something be trendy when trends have become – like change itself – a constant of life?

Trendwatching’s definition of a consumer trend is “a new manifestation among consumers – in behavior, attitude, or expectation – of a fundamental human need,...Read More »

Still shedding more than a little Light On Life

Light on Life. The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace and Ultimate Freedom   B.K.S. Iyengar

B.K.S. Iyengar passed this week but, as he said in Light On Life (which I am re-reading, adding more underlinings and corner foldings to my already well-loved copy): “Death is certain. Let it come when it comes. Just keep working.  The Soul has no age. It doesn’t die. Only the body decays.  And yet, we must never forget the body, since it is the garden we must cherish and cultivate.”


I returned to Light on Life after a recent bout of poor health – caused by...Read More »

A quality century

Last night, at 100 years and 8 months old, my mother’s cousin – Aunty Edna – left her body.  Last November I went to her 100th birthday party knowing it may be the only 100th birthday I ever attend.  And it was such an event!

This picture shows my 87-year-old mother looking like she is listening intently to her cousin’s birthday speech. Maybe she is, but she suffers from dementia and so maybe she isn’t – only she knows.  What is amazing to me is that Aunty Edna not only delivers her own 100th birthday speech, but she holds that microphone...Read More »

My karma made me do it.....

It was not the multi-million-dollar fraud for which a former union boss was given seven and a half years by an Australian court this week that was shocking, it was his attempt to justify the fake invoices paid to his wife, the jobs to family members, the secret commissions and so much more on his working class upbringing.

According to newspaper reports, Michael Williamson said the fact that his mother stayed home to look after the family while his father worked a blue collar job meant the children did not have enough money to buy movie tickets.   He started...Read More »

"I must go down to the seas again....."

Walking along the boardwalk by the beach yesterday I saw a young man, reclining against the beach wall with a spiral bound notebook.  No white ear buds.  No smart phone.  Just a spiral bound notebook and a pen.  It was so unusual I wandered closer so I was standing just above him and a little off to the right, looking around casually, trying not to appear like I was doing what I was doing — which is trying to see what he was writing.  (I call it curious.  My husband suggests voyeuristic tendencies…….)

On the pad was what...Read More »

The power of a hand gesture

I read this weekend that one of the most successful advertising campaigns aimed at curbing young male drivers’ reckless speeding behavior was an Australian ad that said, in effect: if you speed, people will assume you are compensating for a very small penis.  It was called the Pinky campaign.

I saw the ads when I visited Australia around 2008 and thought they were fantastic – and hilarious.  Young boys speeding, young girls crooking their pinky fingers and laughing with the tag line: Speeding, No One Thinks Big of You. It worked.  Research showed 96% awareness of the key message...Read More »

I resolve to stop being an UMPA LUMPA

Each new year I craft fresh resolutions that are brilliantly successful at demonstrating the triumph of hope over experience.  As the months unfold and the power of the new year wears off, around February/March if I’m lucky, I switch to making resolutions at each new moon, as the yogis say you should always start major projects at the new moon.

This year it was a double whammy – a new moon exactly at the new year – and to celebrate, I gave up on new year’s resolutions.  They’re like chips, I just can’t stop at one.  Whether it’s new year’s resolutions or...Read More »

Does guilt-free consumption = contentment?

The new “holy grail”: Guilt Free Consumption

According to Trendwatching (an independent and opinionated trend firm”) we have become guilt-ridden consumers.  The implication for the suppliers of all the stuff we love is a new commercial holy grail: Guilt Free Consumption.

We want and we want and we continue to want (diligently supporting the economics of the consumer society we’ve built) but we have started to feel bad about the implications of satisfying those wants. Images of small children working in sweatshops, immobilized chickens bred for meat, workers jumping from factory infernos …. they have slowly increased our discomfort with exploitation,...Read More »

MY lesson from the universe??

On my walk this morning I saw this number plate and thought “I I I”, or number one, number one, number one – either way, it’s a version of what my teacher calls “the mantra of this world”: me me me, my my my, mine mine mine.   Say it over and over, “me me me, my my my, mine mine mine,” say it again and again, and your jaw gets tight and your mouth feels small and you actually feel mean. (Or is that just me?)  Me, my, mine – the attribution is as comfortable for us as breathing. ...Read More »

Putting the ass in assume.....again

Ah, that old familiar feeling – regret, the anger of having been a fool (apologies to Billy Joel), and it feels almost as bad whether its a small slip (like I made this morning) or one of those huge clangers that sets your heart thumping, your gut wrenching and your head imploding. Same emotion, different degree.

Today’s example: I am working with a company based in the US and was told there was a meeting at 2pm US Central time on Tuesday – 7am Sydney time on Wednesday.  I am ready. I am sitting at my computer.  Minutes tick past.  I...Read More »

Normal Dog

Struggling to gain control of her puppy, a young woman walking ahead of me by the beach this morning looked to be in danger of pulling her arm out of its socket as she snapped and yanked on the lead.

It was a BIG dog. Long legs, oversized paws, the hard muscular body covered in splotches of brown and black and white.  Spirited, might be the word.  The woman was compact and muscular too – but her two legs were clearly outmatched by his four.  The dog sniffed everyone who walked past – taking off after joggers who slipped by fast,...Read More »

Zen and the art of diaper changing

Word count: 527  Reading time: about two minutes

As my daughter lamented her eight-week-old cherub was out of his routine, I realized there is no one better than a baby to teach us flexibility.  The problem is, there may be no harder time to learn the lesson than when you are full of the anxieties and concerns of new parenthood.

A first time mother, daunted by the responsibility of caring for the miracle she’s delivered into the world, my daughter looks for patterns that prove the baby is in a routine and she, therefore, knows what she is doing. ...Read More »

Vajrasana (with noodles)!

The go-to pose for healthy knees

Word count: 575

Estimated Reading Time: around 3 minutes

Everyone needs a go-to take-out dish for those nights when you’re tired, when it’s all too much and cooking seems an impossible challenge. (Mine is Pad See Ew from the local Thai restaurant.  Fat rice noodles with tofu and broccoli in salty tangy sweetish sauce.  Delish.) This is the go-to pose for knees that are tired and feel it’s all too much and the staircase seems an impossible challenge.

If you have trouble with your knees, try it for a month.  A few minutes a day is...Read More »

The Tao of the Self-Storage Warehouse

Word count: 530

Estimated Reading Time: around 2 minutes

Greg – the guy who owns the storage warehouse – stands in the canyon created by towers of huge timber crates, all stuffed with stuff people are paying him to store for them, and tells his best story.

“A woman had me store three containers and a car for her for years,” he said. “Then, one week short of eight years, she paid me to take all her stuff to charity and sold the car to me for a dollar. Her marriage had broken up and she didn’t want to see...Read More »

Yoga’s OK … except for all that ‘om stuff’

Word count: 563

Estimated Reading Time: just under 2 minutes

Gordon was an ex-New York cop, now in semi-retirement as head of security for a corporate training center in Westchester County.

I met him the corridor one day looking bemused, with a Burberry coat over his arm.  “Last year I was looking for murderers in New York City,” he said, “now I’m hunting down the owner of this camel coat.”

We started a conversation on the benefits of a quieter life that drifted around to yoga.  “My wife took me to yoga one day,” he said, shaking his head, “and I...Read More »

Sometimes I can’t decide what to be indecisive about…

Word count: 530

Estimated Reading Time: around 2 minutes

“Clarity trumps indecision” the young yoga teacher said, and I had a LOL moment in downward facing dog.

Earlier that day I had washed the sheets and towels.  They were white, and I had soaked them first to lift some stains. I tossed them into the washing machine and hit the short wash button. Walking away I thought “but what if the stains don’t lift in spite of the soaking? Perhaps I’ll do the long wash”.  I went back, paused the machine, changed the cycle, re-started and walked away.  But the...Read More »