Hilaria Baldwin is doing a downward-facing dog.
New York’s most public yogi isn’t doing such things on rooftops anymore. Or on railroad tracks, bulldozers, or helipads. She’s on a mat next to me, inviting me to join her.
I’m trying to get some zen from the author of The Living Clearly Method ($18; amazon.com), which distills her wellness practices into a five-pronged program for a fitter, happier life.
I dread all yoga, but in particular the wrist-wrenching, shoulder-straining maneuver Baldwin moves through with the ease of a shrug. “Saying you’re too inflexible for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath,” she tells me. “That’s my favorite quote.”
Her credentials here are impeccable: Not only has she run the popular Yoga Vida studio for seven years, but she can also type on a computer with her knees behind her shoulders, as her 200,000-plus Instagram followers know well.
Baldwin sun-saluted her way into the limelight in 2014, when she was posting a yearlong series of daily yoga poses, many of them shot around her home turf of New York City, often with her baby daughter, Carmen, in tow.
That she was Alec Baldwin’s newish wife only added to the intrigue. How could a beaming exhibitionist and a notoriously press-averse cynic get along, let alone marry?
Two more years and two more children later—17-month-old Rafael and Leonardo, born in September—she has transformed her Instagram feed into a cozy jumble of perfectly imperfect family moments, rife with smoochy babies, sleepy eyes, and stolen moments for leg lifts. Noteworthy too are the glimpses of an Alec Baldwin you don’t see elsewhere: joyful, unburdened, and seemingly in love with it all.
Baldwin, 32, says her dogged social media upkeep is born of a desire to define herself rather than letting the paparazzi do it for her: “I think everybody wants to be seen. I want to be seen. I want people to know who I am.”
When she arrives at the studio she co-owns, she’s makeup-free and absurdly pretty, her coloring a soft wash of peach and ambers. She’s wearing Lululemon yoga pants—“I have, like, 500 pairs,” she says—along with a gray V-neck T-shirt and Prada zipper booties.
She hasn’t slept. “You’re my boss today,” she tells me wearily, and I’m tempted to order her back home to her month-old baby because I remember too well the milky, sleepless haze that swallows you up for weeks after giving birth.
Chief on her mind today is balance, one of her book’s core principles. With a trio of children under 3, she’s never needed it more. “I co-sleep with my kids until they learn to sleep in their beds. Because I’m breast-feeding, it’s a lot easier,” she says. “So I’m up with the baby all night and then all day long I’m running in between the other two. I’m trying to figure out how I can be the best mom to each one.”
Not to mention a spouse with needs of his own. “My husband is really someone who likes to have, as he calls it, ‘his girlfriend.’ He says, ‘You’re my wife, but you’re my girlfriend first, and I don’t want to lose my girlfriend,’ ” she says. “He just wants to have private time with me—but hopefully not have another baby right now!”
She describes Alec as her “polar opposite” but adds that anyone who perceives her as the lightweight here is dead wrong. “We’re both strong personalities,” she says. “People look at him like, ‘Oh, he married this girl who’s 26 years younger than him. Oh, she’s so tiny!’ But we both needed strong partners, and there are different forms of strength. Together, we have a loud strength. We talk a lot. We spend the majority of our time together. Have I helped him with his stress? Absolutely. Has he helped me with mine? Absolutely. I’m somebody who wants human touch. I want a hug.”
Alec must have doled out a lot of them while she was pulling together the book, a dense 250-page volume whose writing spanned two pregnancies. Living Clearly isn’t a rigid script for weight loss or fitness so much as a series of practices designed to make life calmer and more manageable, focusing on balance, perspective, breathing, grounding, and letting go. There are dozens of yoga poses and 17 recipes, several involving quinoa. The book, says Baldwin, took years to marinate. “There’s a difference in what goes on when I’m teaching 70 people in my classroom and when I’m teaching one-on-one,” she says. “I feel like I found a way to explain what happens in my classroom to a big group of people.”
In person, Baldwin comes across primarily as generous, which is refreshing for a selfie star. While other influencers in the exercise space traffic in narcissism and call it #fitspo, she seems genuinely concerned with the welfare of her fellow humans.
“We have people come in and maybe they can’t touch their toes, but it doesn’t make the person less special than you,” she tells instructors she trains. “They could be writers, doctors, incredible parents—they could’ve had the hardest day. You have all of these bodies in front of you that you’re in charge of for 65 minutes, and it’s your opportunity to take care of them, not to judge them.”
The harder part is not judging yourself in her presence. On a flexibility scale of zero to Hilaria, I’m somewhere between Mitch McConnell and a cinder block, which becomes painfully apparent as she leads me through three yoga poses that we film for training purposes. Baldwin, a dancer since age 2, moves fluidly, inhabiting her skin fully and easily. Trying to jerk my own form through the poses alongside her is like being on a bad double date with the world’s happiest couple.
Later, watching the video, I detect the unmistakable protrusion of a baby belly—and it’s not hers. The stark proof that I still have a rampant case of “mommy body” nearly six years after my last delivery is made no less devastating by Baldwin’s flat abs a mere four weeks after hers. But who am I kidding? Mine isn’t just mommy body anymore. It’s desk-job body. Bad-posture body. Not-enough-sleep body. Eating-my-kids’-leftovers body. “The important thing to realize is that your body is brilliant,” she tells me. “Your body works just as well as mine.”
If that were actually the case, there's someone at home (hi, honey!) who would be as happy as Alec, so I keep Hilaria in mind the next week while trying to Live Clearly. I eat quinoa for lunch, skip the nightly wine (a few times), and do yoga semi-diligently. At work, when it’s time for the hourly round of calisthenics her book prescribes, I get coffee instead. I’m too constrained for a standing desk, let alone in-office squats.
On the emo front, I do manage to pause for a grounding moment when complications arise on a work project. I defuse a potential road-rage blowup and make it into a polite exchange, a first not only for me but possibly for all of N.Y.C. I maintain perspective after yet another zinger from someone who ladles out critiques like matzo balls. And when one of my kids starts haranguing me while I’m deep into a concerning email, I reach into my toolbox and ... snap at him, just like before.
My downward dog is pretty killer, though.