Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, famed feminist and man with a very nice face, can seemingly do no wrong. He appears to have the world’s media in rapture daily, with the latest burst of Trudeaumania coming from his apparent prowess at yoga. A picture of Trudeau balancing on his wrists on a conference table (in what is known as a peacock pose) first tweeted in 2013 has resurfaced online this week. Although it’s not gone quite as viral as it might have had he been doing the downward-facing dog.
Trudeau isn’t the only politician aiming for modern-day guru status; yoga appears to have become quite the rage among global leaders. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, is not just an enthusiastic yoga practitioner, but also an advocate for the practice’s healing properties; he has even suggested that yoga might help tackle climate change. Modi also successfully pushed for the International Day of Yoga, which is now on 21 June. Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the UN,celebrated the day with a yoga lesson from his special adviser on Myanmar. He did a rather nice asana.
Where’s there’s a whiff of a PR-friendly trend, you can expect to see David Cameron attempting to get in on the action. And, indeed, the PM has beenphotographed at yoga retreats with his wife, although it is not clear whether he did any yoga poses, or whether it was more yoga posturing.
If you’re going to be a world leader, regular shows of strength are part of the job. They’re a sort of political peacocking that demonstrates to other world leaders that you could probably have them in a fight, should things get a bit dodgy in Davos. Vladimir Putin regularly scorches our collective eyeballs with unsolicited images of him doing various “manly” activities, sometimes sans shirt.
While yoga may be a far more subtle way of signalling strength than swimming in ice lakes or horse riding in Siberia, the current trend actually makes a lot of sense. Indeed, there are few sports more suited for politicians.
First, there’s the fact that yoga lets one project serenity, strength and wisdom simply by sitting on the floor with your legs crossed. You can also do yoga in a suit, and without any special equipment. This opens up a world of spontaneous PR opportunities. If things are going badly in parliament, you can simply stand on your head in the corridor as distraction.
Yoga also has the advantage of being ultra-democratic. It’s practised by the uber-rich, the not-very-rich and kids who have just got back from an enriching gap year in India. You can do yoga whatever your age, whatever your fitness levels. It doesn’t alienate people in the way that hunting, polo or hang-gliding might.
Then there are the holistic aspects of yoga – helpful in turbulent times. I am sound of body and mind, yoga says. I am flexible. I am calm. I am balanced. I will bend over backwards to help out my people.