I recently read an article in The Atlantic by James Hamblin that commented on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s practice of alternate-nostril breathing (nadi shodhana in Sanskrit). I was struck by the author’s obvious dismissiveness of this practice and HRC’s commitment to devoting space to explaining how-to in her new book. Was it sexism? Is he anti-yoga? Is he just always skeptical of non-western medicine?
Stressed? Well, duh…
In her book, HRC writes that she, “did yoga with my instructor, especially breath work.” For many women who, like HRC, are bombarded with ridiculous expectations at all levels all day, breath work is essential. Finding those few moments of quiet, of calm, of respite from the chaos of daily life is essential to continuing to be a high-powered woman. Yet, Hamblin dismisses this practice saying twice how HRC wrote this book while deeply stressed. I bet she was deeply stressed! Any person with any sense of moral righteousness has been deeply stressed since Donald the Douche “won” the election. This is not unique to HRC, nor does it discount her theories, as Hamblin so desperately wants it to.
Hamblin goes on to say that any studies of breath work have had few participants and only been published in yoga-centered texts. I also don’t doubt that! Can you imagine a control group that is not allowed to think about their breath? I feel it’s so obvious that there can’t be a scientific study of breath control. He also writes, “These sorts of rituals work because we believe they work.” So does placebo. Sometimes, in the fast-paced chaos of today’s world, that’s all we need… a little belief. A little break from someone telling us how to feel, how to dress, how to smile, and a moment to tell ourselves we have got this, we are calm, we are worthy. This is true of women. This is true of people of all genders. This is true of the modern world.
I think it’s pretty awesome that HRC does yoga and that she devotes space in her book to describing how to do pranayam. In teaching yoga to high school students, I have found alternate nostril breathing an incredibly easy and effective technique for teenagers to implement. In my own practice as a high-powered (in my own context) woman of the world, I find alternate breathing essential in helping me focus and tap into my full presence.
The Dalai Lama said a few years ago that the Western woman was destined to save the world. HRC does yoga. She changed the world. I bet if we all do a little nadi shodhana instead of lightning-quick, reactive judgements of people, especially women in power, the world would be a better place.
Over to you, yogis! Do you practice breath work to combat stress? Are you inspired to? Share with us in the comments!