by Rachel Meyer
There’s a long-running yoga teacher cliche that goes something like this: “The hardest yoga pose is savasana.”
I beg to differ.
The hardest yoga pose is Hillary Clinton sitting silently onstage while her former opponent (a man whom she beat by 3 million votes in the popular vote and who was possibly/probably elected via illegitimate Russian means) is inaugurated as President of the United States.
I mean, can you imagine?
I stood in my kitchen Friday morning and scanned Twitter for inauguration updates. Slate tweeted a video of the Clintons stepping out of their town car and preparing to walk into the ceremony, Hillary clad in peaceful winter white. That’s when it really hit me: My God, this poor human has the hardest job in the world today. She’s gotta stride in and smile gracefully and sit on that platform with all the other former Presidents and their wives and pretend that she’s not totally, wretchedly miserable.
No matter where you stand on the election, you’ve gotta have sympathy for the agony of that experience for any human being.
What pure torture to walk onto that stage and know the world’s eyes are upon you, just waiting for you to betray a glimpse of pain, and to have to stay calm and pleasant when your insides are screaming bloody murder.
This is also known as: yoga.
We walk into the yoga studio knowing, every single time, that at some point in the practice we’ll feel uncomfortable, awkward, frustrated, inadequate, angry. It comes with the territory. You hold a pose long enough, all your unresolved issues flare up. But you unroll the mat and stay, taking a deep breath, knowing it’s just a matter of time til everything complicated and ugly burbles to the surface and your mind screams, “Just give up and run outta here already!” But, no. Your job is to sit with the discomfort, watching it, noticing it, resisting the urge to run away or give up, and using the breath to remain tenderly with the pain until it passes.
It’s a practice of choosing how to react; of learning to watch the mind and not get caught up in it, realizing it’s not you; realizing you don’t have to get swept away in all your big feelings.
Which is EXACTLY what Hillary had to do last Friday.
Over the course of the campaign, much was made of her steely demeanor and untouchable poise, deliberately cultivated after years of living in the critical public eye. But this? This was a new high. A masterful performance. The ultimate yoga practice.
Hillary could’ve chosen differently. She could’ve—very understandably—bailed on attending the Inauguration. She could’ve bawled her eyes out mid-ceremony and run off the platform. (Which would, of course, have wrought a media shitstorm.) But to sit there onstage, listening, witnessing, the whole world watching, cameras trained on her face waiting for the slightest hint of a reaction, knowing she’s no doubt deeply in pain, and to manage to remain graceful and equanimous?
That, my friends, is yoga.
That is Buddha-level mastery.
(Okay, yes: maybe it was Xanax, too.)
She may not be the Commander In Chief. But she’s the yogi-in-chief, for sure.
Hillary: thanks for teaching me yoga. I am grateful. I hope you downed a cocktail the size of your head when that shit was finally over.
Rachel Meyer is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, On Being, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, Yoga International, HuffPost, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com, on FB at facebook.com/rachelmeyeryoga, and on Twitter and Instagram @rachelmeyeryoga.